Elephant supporters fight to stop owner's license renewal in Florida

Elephant supporters fight to stop owner's license renewal in Florida

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - As thousands of supporters around the world wait for an Alabama judge's ruling on the future of a seized traveling circus elephant, a group dedicated to helping the animal is working to keep her owners from getting their license renewed.

A nonprofit organization, called Save Nosey Now, Inc., says it's time to stop the automatic renewals. The family owned-circus is based out of Florida.

The group submitted a four hundred page complaint, including a list of 50 exhibits, to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) advocating for the denial of the Exhibitor License of Hugo Liebel, the owner of Nosey, an African elephant that was temporarily seized in Moulton in November and transferred to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

The license is scheduled to automatically renew on January 30, 2018 through the USDA's administrative process.

After pressure by Save Nosey Now Inc. and other animal advocacy groups, the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) denied Liebel's state license in June 2017, based on false statements on his renewal application. Liebel has appealed this decision, and a hearing to decide the fate of his state license is scheduled on February 28, 2018 at FWC headquarters in Tallahassee, FL.

In Lawrence County, Alabama officials seized Nosey on November 9, 2017, after she was found chained, standing in her own feces with inadequate food and water available, authorities testified. Nosey was sent for safekeeping to The Elephant Sanctuary, a sanctuary for former circus and zoo elephants. A bench trial was held in December to determine if Nosey will remain at the sanctuary or be returned to the Liebels. The judge's decision has not yet been filed. The next day, Liebel and his wife were arrested on animal cruelty charges.

On a federal level, the USDA has systematically failed Nosey the elephant for years due to poorly written regulations coupled with lack of enforcement, according to Save Nosey Now.

The organization says 200 USDA issued citations were issued from 1993 to November 3, 2017 for abuse and neglect of Nosey, "including chaining her so tightly she couldn't take a step in any direction and couldn't even stand squarely, or lie down."

They also feel there's been a lack of follow up to thousands of citizen complaints since 1993, "including egregious complaints about no access to food and water, failure to provide veterinary care for a serious skin condition that had developed an antibiotic resistant bacterial infection that could become septic, and confining Nosey to her transport trailer for hours or overnight with no ability to raise her head or trunk or make normal postural adjustments or turn around."

"Without public pressure, even pending animal cruelty charges filed against Liebel in Alabama are not enough to legally stop the USDA from issuing Liebel his 2018 license," Save Nosey Now officials said in a press release. "The public deserves to know about the USDA's failure to act on its own regulations and about the suffering this has caused Nosey, as well as the public safety risks involved."

The Liebels are set to appear in Lawrence County court on February 8, 2017 on their animal cruelty charges.

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