$10,000 Reward Offered For Information Leading to Arrest of Hollywood Elephant Abusers

Posted on June 23, 2011

Animal Legal Defense Fund Seeks Information, Eyewitnesses to Abuse of “Trained” Elephants During Film and Television Productions

For immediate release:

Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund

ElephantsCotati, Calif.-The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) is offering an unprecedented $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person for abusing elephants in any film or television production and is putting out an all-points bulletin to the Los Angeles entertainment industry, seeking witnesses who have seen an elephant being neglected, harmed, or mistreated in any way on set in the past year. The reward offer comes on the heels of the release of disturbing footage from the animal protection group Animal Defenders International, showing shocking abuse to the elephant Tai during a training session with “Have Trunk Will Travel,” a Southern California elephant rental company. Tai appeared in the recent movie Water for Elephants and, according to reports, will also be in Zookeeper with Kevin James, slated for a July 8 release.

Footage from a “Have Trunk Will Travel” training session recorded in 2005 shows Tai, who played Rosie in Water for Elephants alongside Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson, being beaten and shocked–conduct that California’s anti-cruelty law specifically addressing the treatment of elephants. Because the statute of limitations for this type of animal cruelty (i.e., Cal. Pen. Code § 596.5) is only one year (Cal. Pen. Code § 802(a)), no one can be held criminally liable for the conduct recorded in this video. However, according to research by In Defense of Animals, the use of bullhooks, electrical shocks and other painful training techniques appear to be standard practice in elephant training–and ALDF wants to be sure abusers are punished to the fullest extent of the law for any illegally cruel treatment of elephants. For this reason, ALDF is launching an online ad campaign targeting entertainment industry workers and taking out ads in select trade publications to publicize the $10,000 reward, noting that whistleblowers may choose to remain anonymous.

“The glamour of the big screen and television productions belies the suffering of elephants forced to perform on Hollywood sets,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Elephants are wild animals, not actors, and the barbaric techniques routinely used to force elephants to learn tricks can qualify as abuse under California law. That’s why ALDF is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone–including actors, camera operators, make-up artists, and editors–who has witnessed mistreatment of elephants on set first-hand or can otherwise provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of elephant abusers.”

Note that what might look like standard training techniques can qualify as abuse–if you have witnessed any mistreatment of an elephant on set that you suspect might be abusive, please contact ALDF at 707-795-2533, x1035, or at ElephantAbuse@aldf.org. You may remain anonymous.

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