Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Los Angeles County Fair ends elephant rides

Posted: 26 April 2012. Updated: 26 April 2012

Los Angeles—Animal Defenders International (ADI) applauds James Henwood, President of the Los Angeles County Fair Association (LACFA) and their Board for their decision to end the elephant rides at the Los Angeles County Fair. ADI congratulates the LACFA for their leadership in showing compassion for animals and concern for public safety.

The board was sent evidence of brutal training including the use of electric prods and bullhooks—a heavy bar with a sharpened point and hook—that trainers use to hit, ‘hook’ and jab elephants in order to dominate and control them. Public safety can never be assured when wild animals are used for entertainment, such as for elephant rides and in circuses, and members of the public, including children, have been killed and maimed.

“ADI applauds The Los Angeles County Fair Board for ending the elephant rides and joining the worldwide trend of progressive fairs, cities and nations which have decided to shun entertainment that involves animal cruelty,” said Jan Creamer, ADI’s president. “Trainers use brutal methods, bullhooks and electric shocking devices, to control these elephants for rides, and as the largest county fair in the nation this decision will go far to set a positive example to other fairs across the country which we hope will soon follow their lead. ADI will be seeking assurances that this will be a permanent policy and we will never see elephants at the fair again.”

The elephants were being provided by Have Trunk Will Travel, a Perris, California company which was exposed in a video released by ADI showing trainers and owners shocking their elephants with handheld electric prods and violently hitting and ‘hooking’ them with bullhooks. Within the past year, other SoCal municipalities and venues have severed ties with Have Trunk Will Travel amid protests and public outcry, including the Orange County Fair and the Santa Ana Zoo both ending a twenty-five year run of elephant rides and last summer’s cancellation of an elephant in the Fourth of July Parade in the city of Sierra Madre.

Since the release of the video last May, a coalition of groups including Animal Defenders International (ADI), Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL), In Defense of Animals (IDA), Last Chance for Animals (LCA), and PETA have worked to end elephant rides at the LA County Fair.

For more information please contact:
Matt Rossell
Animal Defenders International

Water for Elephants was released in 2011.
Female Asian elephant Tai (45 years) starred as abused elephant ‘Rosie’ in the romance, set in the 1920s. For the release, the studio, stars, owners Have Trunk Will Travel and American Humane all insisted that Tai had been trained with kindness (see below).

Animal Defenders International (ADI) therefore released footage of the elephants at Have Trunk Will Travel being beaten with bullhooks and shocked with stun guns to make them perform the tricks seen on the movie. The footage, amounting to nearly 10 hours, had been recorded over a period of about 8 weeks during an undercover investigation during August and September 2005. It had not been released previously as it was part of a wider investigation. Due to the fraudulent claims being made that no harm had come to Tai, ADI decided that the footage must be released:

Claims made about the protection of animals during the making of ‘Water for Elephants’:

Have Trunk Will Travel has never issued a written endorsement, nor does it condone using electrical devices to discipline and control elephants except in situations where elephant or human safety is at risk.”
Kari Johnson, Have Trunk Will Travel

“Tai was never hit in any way at all,”
Gary Johnson, Have Trunk Will Travel

Have Trunk Will Travel is owned by Gary and Kari Johnson and is based in Perris, California, USA. Their group of performing Asian elephants (with approximate ages) includes: Tai (45), Rosie (30), Dixie (46), Kitty (45), Becky (26), Tess (30, and her baby, seen at the time of the investigation, is Tucker; now on loan to Houston Zoo).

As the leader of the Break the Chain campaign, ADI works with animal rights and welfare organizations across the U.S. , and is currently working to gain grassroots support for the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (H.R. 3359), which currently has 18 co-sponsors and is awaiting a hearing in the House Committee on Agriculture subcommittee of Livestock, Dairy and Poultry. ADI has conducted investigations of circuses all over the world and has produced comprehensive reports, including one in the U.S. called Science on Suffering which details and provides evidence of the inherent suffering of animals forced to travel and perform.

To find out more information on ADI’s Break the Chain campaign, visit

For more information about the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (H.R. 3359) visit

Animal Defenders International
With offices in Los Angeles, London and Bogota, ADI campaigns across the globe on animals in entertainment, providing technical advice to governments, securing progressive animal protection legislation, drafting regulations and rescuing animals in distress. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing the behind-the-scenes suffering in industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport. ADI rescues animals all over the world, educates the public on animals and environmental issues.

More information is available on ADI’s U.S. website:


© Animal Defenders International 2019