Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Victory! Abused elephant rides are pulled from Californian fair

Posted: 22 July 2015

Kern County, CA - Controversial elephant entertainment supplier Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT) has pulled out of further appearances at the Kern County Fair, reportedly the last California fair that had a contract with the company. Animal Defenders International (ADI) and local animal advocates are “delighted” at the announcement. ADI’s undercover investigation and films reveal HTWT repeatedly beat and shocked the animals with stun guns during training.

Jan Creamer, ADI President said: “We are delighted that these abusive rides will no longer be a feature of the Kern County Fair and urge the board to replace them with an attraction which is safe, humane and can be enjoyed by all. Communities across the US are speaking out against these cruel rides and we urge them to remain vigilant to protect both animals and the public.”

At a meeting this past April, the Kern County Fair Board decided to enact a “sunset provision” to end the HTWT contract after two more years, noting its concern to help HTWT transition to a new business model. Though providing a 2-year delay, the Board cited public safety concerns as its main reason for ending the rides.

ADI appeared before the Board and presented video evidence of HTWT obtained at various southern California venues, including the Kern County Fairgrounds, of elephants left unattended without direct supervision by a trainer. ADI also photographed the elephant brought to the Board meeting as similarly unattended. The incidents were documented after HTWT was previously cited in 2012 by the USDA for the same issue of inadequate supervision.

ADI also presented to the Kern Board disturbing video evidence of cruelty contrary to existing California law, including HTWT owners and trainers beating and shocking elephants 168 times:

  • Owners and trainers using stun guns and beating animals
  • HTWT boss Kari Johnson viciously striking an elephant
  • A baby elephant being hit over the head and dragged by its trunk
  • Elephants chained by the legs, barely able to take one step back and forward (chained from 6.30pm to 6.30am, 12 hours a day)

HTWT confirmed the ADI video depicts their staff and their elephants, but stated publicly that they stand by their training methods. HTWT is no longer certified under the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), whose new guidelines advise limited contact between humans and elephants in line with modern elephant husbandry. The AZA also discourages public elephant rides. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) condemns the use of bullhooks to strike an elephant and California law prohibits the use of stun guns.

Emmy award winning TV host Bob Barker narrates the ADI ‘No Fun For Elephants’ video which features distressing scenes of cruelty by HTWT, as well as abuse of an elephant on tour with Texas-owned company Trunks & Humps.

Several venues have abandoned elephant rides after responsible board members viewed ADI evidence, including the Orange County, Los Angeles County, and 2014 San Diego County Fairs, the city of Fountain Valley, CA, and Santa Ana Zoo.

Lori De Waal: 818-817-4444
ADI Media Desk: 323-804-9920

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