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County Fair Approves Elephant Rides Despite Public Outcry

While the OC and LA County fairs banned elephant rides, the 22nd District Agricultural Association Board of Directors of the Del Mar Fairgrounds maintained it's 2011 decision to renew a contract with an elephant ride company.

The 22nd Agricultural Association Board of Directors opted to keep a controversial elephant ride attraction at the Del Mar Fairgrounds despite a public outcry at its March 12 meeting.

The San Diego County Fair ride—which is hosted at the Del Mar Fairgrounds overseen by the 22nd Agricultural Association—is contracted by the Have Trunk Will Travel company.

Outside of the board meeting, North County resident Britta Wilson told Patch that the fair could "do so much better" and choose an attraction that doesn't harm elephants.

“Elephant rides are cruel barbaric and outdated and pose a threat to the public," she said. 

The board previously voted 4-3 in November 2011 to keep the rides but agreed to revisit the issue after 2014. Both the Orange County and Los Angeles County Fairs no longer offer elephant rides.

Another opponent, Melissa McDonald, said the board should "have some compassion" while Carlsbad resident Larry Day said the board needed to consider the dangers and liabiliies surrounding the rides.

Board member Russ Penniman said he thought the rides were educational for children whose families may not be able to afford trips to the zoo," according to a U-T report.

A spokesperson for Have Trunk Will Travel said in an email that the company has a "perfect safety record."

"The documented history with all of the animal care and regulatory agencies that license and inspect us, including USDA/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is evidence of outstanding care and treatment of our elephants," stated the email. "We are happy to give people the opportunity to have an up-close personal experience with such an amazing animal when they visit us at the fair."

The fair comes to Del Mar June 8 to July 4.

How do you feel about elephant rides? Did the 22nd Agricultural Association board of directors make the right decision?

M Clark March 18, 2013 at 01:57 PM
Good grief! More fear, more control. Seems more trouble comes from stupid people than something like elephant rides. Get a life!
glenn bernard March 18, 2013 at 02:37 PM
not much difference between an elephant in a zoo or at a county fair. I have more concern with the creatures trying to survive within their own habitats, and would therefore be happy to see the prohibition of gill nets in the ocean.
Van March 18, 2013 at 10:58 PM
Interesting Patch refers to this as "controversial". 6 people spoke at the board meeting and over 20,000 people rode the elephants last year. I fail to see where the controversy is... And, shouldn't these 6 people be more focused on Africa where 30,000 elephants are killed each year? Just asking.
Jessica March 18, 2013 at 11:35 PM
Watch the video and see for yourself. Even if 100,000 people rode an elephant, it does not make it morally correct. And asking concerned citizens to focus on the slaughter of elephants in Africa instead of the abuse of elephants here in California is really apples and oranges. One is slaughter for ivory and one is abuse for entertainment. And Glenn, there is a difference between a zoo elephant and a circus elephant- if zoos want to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums they must convert from handling their elephants free contact like the Have Trunk Will Travel bunch to protected contact by 2014 or lose their accreditation. And M.Clark, the elephants live fear, pain, control and physical punishment nearly everyday of their lives. Your argument makes no sense.
Andrea Bearden-Kuhns March 18, 2013 at 11:47 PM
Watch this video from about abuses at Have Trunk Will Travel. Then decide.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50wBdPhBQGo
Deborah Hansen March 18, 2013 at 11:53 PM
How degrading for such a majestic animal... Lets hook you up and make you go round and round and round with unruly children pounding a screaming on your back, day after day... Only to be transported by a moving vehicle from place to place. This makes my heart hurt to think humanity still sees this as entertainment. Shame on people.
Jane Cartmill March 20, 2013 at 06:57 PM
Even if you care nothing about the elephant's well-being, there are dozens and dozens of documented incidents where captive elephants have rebelled or been frightened during performances at circuses and rides, resulting in serious injuries to people. Just because HTWT has been lucky so far does not mean that there is no danger to the public. Some experts say that the more docile an elephant appears, the more dangerous she is because she has most likely been very harshly disciplined. If the commissioners are interested only in liability they should discontinue elephant rides.
R.J. Ryan March 21, 2013 at 06:52 PM
As a former elephant keeper/trainer at the former Wild Animal Park and who did the elephant rides, I can attest, without hesitation that the elephants were abused on a routine basis. All elephants in captivity doing rides or shows have been severely beaten when they were very young to get them to follow direction and if and when they stepped out of line when they matured into adulthood. With the advent of cell phones and small video cameras, the trainers and their training methods are finally getting caught. It's a time bomb waiting to happen. I know how they're trained because I did it. Just wish I still lived in San Diego to give my testimony.

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