By Michelle Sherrow
When the Liebel Family Circus planned on doing a series of shows at National Guard armories in Arkansas, it didn't plan on PETA. We wrote to Major General William D. Wofford of the Arkansas National Guard and let him know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently formally charged the circus's owner, Hugo Liebel, with almost three dozen violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The National Guard wisely decided not to associate itself withcruelty to animals and canceled scheduled performances in four cities.
Hugo Liebel has a long history of animal abuse. His most recent USDA charges include repeated failure to provide adequate veterinary care to Nosey, the poor old elephant he uses in his shows, who has been suffering from a chronic skin condition and unexplained rapid weight loss, among other ailments. The USDA complaint against Liebel also includes multiple charges for illegally chaining Nosey by two legs so tightly that she could neither lie down nor take more than a single step in any direction. Liebel also faces charges for allowing a spider monkey to escape and not recapturing him for nearly six weeks and for chaining a spider monkey to a pony for more than an hour.
An affidavit from a circus employee recounts Liebel's affinity for bullhooks and electric prods and details one incident in which Nosey was staked by all four legs and beaten with a bullhook by Liebel. Liebel also instructed other workers to beat her with objects such as shovel handles and sledge hammers.
Ideally, all circus performances using captive animals would become a history-book horror story. But in the meantime, Congress is considering the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act, which would require vast improvements for animals used in circuses. Please take a moment to urge your representatives to pass this historic piece of legislation. Then get everyone you know to do the same, for sake of elephants and tigers.