Owner of escaped circus elephant facing more than 10 alleged USDA violations
By Kasey Fowler, Staff Writer
Published: November 06, 2009 11:26 pm
The owner of an escaped circus elephant that collided with an SUV Wednesday night faces more than 10 alleged violations outlined in a complaint filed by U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The complaint alleges Douglas Keith Terranova, of Kaufman, Texas, and others violated the Animal Welfare Act from 2005 through 2008 in several instances, including failure “to handle animals as carefully as possible in a manner that does not cause behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort.”
In addition, the animal rights group In Defense of Animals, based in California, on Friday filed a complaint with USDA urging the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confiscate two elephants from Terranova, including Kamba, the elephant involved in Wednesday’s accident.
In her letter, Deborah Robinson, captive elephant specialist with In Defense of Animals, said the elephants are suffering because of Terranova’s handling.
“The elephants are in grave danger: they are clearly suffering from stress, which is known to have immunological consequences and to increase the risk of infectious disease,” Robinson said in her letter. “Further, they are at great risk of being killed or injured by a variety of dangers (automobiles, public safety officers, topography) every time they escape.”
Terranova did not return a phone message left Friday.
USDA spokesman David Sacks said all complaints are taken seriously and the agency will look into the situation.
“If it holds some weight, we’ll address that,” he said.
Among the violations alleged in the USDA complaint filed in July were:
• In June 2006 in Wisconsin, a rope dividing the camel and elephant enclosures was loose and a camel became entangled.
• In June 2007 in Maryland, a mountain lion’s enclosure was cleaned with a hose while the animal still was in it. The animal also was exposed to chemical detergents that could cause skin irritation or damage.
• In May 2008, an adult female tiger was pregnant with her first litter but was kept on the road with the circus. The tiger gave birth to three cubs and would not nurse the cubs and a veterinarian in Missouri provided kitten milk replacements and administered antibiotics. One cub died three days after birth, and a second cub died 10 days after birth.
• Between April and August 2008, Terranova did not trim or have trimmed the pads of an elephant’s feet. By August, the pads were overgrown, with uneven surfaces and flaps of tissue embedded with dirt, fecal matter and other material. The elephants also did not have adequate skin care, resulting in an accumulation of dead skin on their heads, backs and ears.
• In June 2008, two elephants at a circus in Kansas were spooked during a storm and walked through neighborhoods before they were recaptured.
• In August 2008, Terranova and others attempted to hide a tiger cub from APHIS inspectors. The tiger cub was in a small dog carrier in a trash-strewn transport truck, with insufficient ventilation and cooling. The interior temperature was measured at 89 degrees with 48 percent humidity. The tiger was in a harness that was too small, causing chafing. The tiger had insufficient food and water. It was thin, with a protruding backbone and hips. The tiger also was not treated for an abrasion on its face and a wound near its eye.
Kamba, the elephant in-jured in Wednesday’s accident, was taken to the veterinary school at Oklahoma State University after being looked at by Enid veterinarian Dr. Dwight Olson.
“She has been treated and released to her owner. She was treated for minor injuries and the USDA is investigating it,” said Alanna Bradley, communications specialist for OSU.
Bradley refused to release any more information on the injuries the elephant had.
According to Olson, Kamba suffered a broken left tusk, a leg injury and some scrapes.
The 4,500-pound elephant escaped from Family Fun Circus Wednesday night at the Garfield County Fairg-rounds and collided with an SUV driven by Bill Carpenter on U.S. 81. Neither Carpenter nor his wife, Deena, were injured.
Family Fun Circus issued a statement on its Web site Friday stating Kamba would not be returning to the circus for the rest of the season. The circus contracted with Terra-nova for the elephant’s services.