Leggett, Texas -- In Defense of Animals (IDA) the organization that has worked for two years to rescue three circus elephants named Tina, Jewel and Queenie, announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has filed formal charges against the elephants' handler, Wilbur Davenport (dba "Maximus tons of Fun") for multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
The charges state that "the gravity of the violations alleged...is great" and that Davenport has "not shown good faith" in his repeated unwillingness to comply with the AWA and its regulations and standards.
In August, the USDA, acting in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, confiscated Tina and Jewel and sent them to the San Diego Zoo, where they are receiving essential veterinary care. The agency left Queenie behind, however, where she remained chained to a tree on Davenport's property. Davenport surrendered his USDA exhibitor's license at that time.
"Charges against Davenport for his egregious abuse of elephants and violations of federal law are long overdue," said Suzanne Roy, IDA Program Director. "The USDA must now use the full force of the law to get Queenie out of Davenport's hands to the safety of a sanctuary and ensure that Davenport will not ever abuse another animal."
Many of the violations cited in the formal complaint against Davenport were brought to the USDA's attention by IDA, which monitored the treatment of the three elephants for over two years.
The violations include:
* Defying federal officials: Three counts of abusing and harassing USDA/APHIS officials, including refusal to give federal officers access to the animals and the facilities;
* Not providing veterinary care: Seven counts of failure to provide minimally adequate veterinary care to the elephants between March, 2008 and August, 2009, including failures to provide appropriate tests, vaccinations and to keep records of life-threatening weight loss that was documented, chronic and visible.
* Failing to handle elephants safely and humanely: Four counts, including an incident in Indianapolis when all three elephants were used to give rides and one elephant (Queenie) and 13 people, many of them children, were injured.
* Failing to abide by welfare standards: Five counts of violating the minimum operating standards of the AWA including failure to protect the elephants from extreme temperatures and failure to provide food of sufficient quantity and nutritive value.
Under the AWA penalties of up to $2500 for each day of each violation can be assessed against Davenport, and consideration is to be given to the gravity of these violations and to his good faith. Interfering with the duties of federal officials, as Davenport is alleged to have done, can result in up to three years of imprisonment.
Both the PAWS sanctuary in California and The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee stand ready to accept Queenie free of charge to Davenport or the government and provide her with high quality care and spacious natural conditions for the rest of her life.
A copy of the complaint is available on request. For more information, see www.helpelephants.com
A Message from Pat Derby:
PAWS has a long history with the Davenports and their violations of the Animal Welfare Act (see video links, left). We have been lodging complaints and petitioning the USDA to permanently revoke all Davenport permits since 1995.
Thank you to IDA and everyone who has written to USDA. We hope Queenie will soon be rescued and allowed to live her remaining years in peace and freedom.