Campaigns - Tina, Jewel and Queenie News

Caught in the web of circus industry neglect and abuse

Tina and Jewel are two Asian elephants in their early forties who have lived most of their lives in the circus. For decades, they have been "owned" by the Cole Brothers Circus, trucked around the country to shows where they are forced to perform and give elephant rides. In 2006, amidst amassing Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations and after seven of its elephants died or became too disabled to work, Cole Brothers leased Tina and Jewel to Gigi's Exotics and its proprietress Gigi Davenport.

Both the Cole Brothers Circus and the Davenport family have an egregious history of elephant abuse and neglect, as the chronology below documents.

USDA inspection reports on both Tina and Jewel document the abusive and negligent treatment to which these elephants have been subjected over the past decade and a half. The reports document repeated beatings of both elephants and abusive use of the bullhook on them, producing wounds to their bodies; chronic lack of adequate veterinary care; foot and skin disorders resulting in severe weight loss; overgrown feet; scaling dead skin; urine scalds on legs; and lack of legally-required testing for tuberculosis, endangering both the health of the elephants and their human caretakers.

Life under these abusive conditions has taken its toll on the elephants. In autumn 2006, while traveling with the Cole Brothers circus, both elephants appeared gaunt, sick, and broken. In spring 2007, they reappeared in L.E. Barnes and Bailey Circus looking even worse. In March 2007, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) ordered that Jewel be taken off the road, noting that she had lost an appalling 2,000 pounds. A veterinary expert confirmed that both elephants had suffered "alarming weight loss."

After this, Jewel and Tina disappeared from public view. In July 2006, In Defense of Animals located them in rural Texas at an unapproved Davenport facility in Leggett. They had spent several months confined there to a 20' x 20' slab of concrete, surrounded by circus refuse, or locked inside an unventilated tin barn.

In August, the elephants were reportedly given access to a larger outdoor yard, in a space that is still well under an acre in size. They remain at the unapproved Leggett, Texas facility, and continue to be at the mercy of the circus industry with a long history of abusing elephants and violating federal animal welfare laws.


Chronology of Elephant Abuse and Neglect: History of the Cole Brothers Circus and the Davenport Circus Interests

1994-1997: King Royal Circus is cited repeatedly for Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations for failing to provide adequate veterinary care, failing to provide adequate space, and failing to handle animals humanely.

August 12, 1996: King Royal Circus is formally charged with AWA violations and handed an $8,000 fine in conjunction with the public beating of a young bull elephant named Mickey. King Royal trainer/exhibitor Bela Tabek's USDA license is revoked.

March 1997: A Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus elephant named Ola dies under suspicious circumstances at age 40. Cole receives a warning from the USDA as result of this death. The circus had tranquilized Ola to trim her feet (not a standard procedure), and for 28 - 29 hours leading up to her death, Ola was unable to stand. The other Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. elephants were only 30 miles away and could have been brought to the facility to help lift her to a standing position.

A circus employee claims that because Ola was no longer a performer due to hip problems, she was of no longer of use to the circus.

July 1997: USDA launches an investigation of Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus for alleged violations of the AWA and regulations.

August 6, 1997: King Royal Circus crams three elephants and eight llamas into a poorly ventilated trailer in Albuquerque, N.M., resulting in the death of a baby elephant named Heather. Police estimate the temperature inside the trailer to be approximately 120 degrees. State and local officials confiscate the remaining animals and charge King Royal employees with violating local animal cruelty laws.

August 27, 1997: King Royal Circus proprietor John ("Gopher") Davenport is formally charged with AWA violations relating to the death of Heather. Among the violations: failing to provide adequate veterinary care (including "urgently-needed" veterinary care to animals in need); handling animals in an inhumane and stressful manner; transporting animals in a cargo space improperly ventilated and unsafely constructed; transporting animals in obvious physical distress; and failing to provide elephants with food appropriate for that species.

Of the charges, Michael V. Dunn, USDA assistant secretary said, "It appears that the death of Davenport's elephant Heather is a direct result of gross neglect... Treating animals in a manner that ultimately threatens their safety will not be tolerated."

January 1998: Federal administrative court upholds the charges against John Davenport. His USDA exhibitor license is revoked, he is permanently barred from the exotic animal business, and he is charged a $200,000 fine, one of the largest ever assessed in the history of the AWA. Davenport allegedly continues to operate, however, under USDA exhibitor licenses held by his wife Gigi (Gigi's Exotics), son Juan, niece Billie, and another Davenport interest called "Maximus Tons of Fun."

February 2, 1998: The USDA cites Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus: "All elephants are in need of foot care. Elephants have cracked nails, overgrown soles and cuticles." The circus is also cited for failure to maintain records of foot care procedures, the cause and treatment for several observed abrasions/lesions, and the administration of medication.

June 3, 1998: The USDA cites Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus for noncompliance with the AWA. "Two of the six elephants had obvious hook mark wounds on their rear legs. Some hook marks were also observed under the jaw of one elephant." The inspector further notes that the circus had failed to provide the elephants with shade from the heat.

June 12, 1998: Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus is cited by the USDA for failing to provide shelter for the elephants, and for the primary enclosure needing repairs. They are also cited for inappropriate handling; "On a previous inspection, two of the six elephants had obvious hook marks present. During the inspection today, four of the six elephants were observed with what appears to be hook marks."

August 14, 1998: In an article in the newspaper The Tennessean, the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus admits to puncturing an elephant's skin and stated, "We had a guy who put a couple of boils on an elephant, where you hook them too hard and puncture the skin."

September 10 and 11, 1998: The USDA cites Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. for failure to have an attending veterinarian or a program of adequate veterinary care. The inspector notes that three of the elephants (Conti, Helen, and Pete) are "intermittently demonstrating some abnormalities in gait and other movement that might be age related. Helen may also be exhibiting some of these partially due to previous injuries," and orders that "Performance behaviors and requirements and other circumstances that might cause pain, distress or strain on the individual animals should be addressed."

Nov. 17 and 18, 1998: The USDA cites Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers for failure to allow access to and inspection of the records. The circus refuses to provide the inspector with a report concerning the health of the elephants. The inspector also notes scabs on the backs and behind the ears of the elephants. Medical records indicate that these injuries were not examined or treated by a veterinarian. The circus is also cited for storage of food and bedding in a manner which could spread contamination: "The back of truck #61 which stores the grain is dirty. There are cups, an empty cigarette pack, a gas powered weed eater, and spilled grain on the floor…This area also serves as storage for a can of paint as well."

April 1999: The USDA charges Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus with AWA violations. According to a statement by Michael Dunn, Undersecretary for the USDA's marketing and regulatory programs, "We believe that on numerous occasions employees of the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus abusively used an elephant hook on several animals. Charges of abuse are always among the most serious. And, it both angers and saddens me when I hear allegations such as these."

August 1999: Petunia (Pete) and Conti die suddenly, within a two-week period after the circus took them off-tour following numerous complaints from the public about their health. A necropsy report on Pete indicates that she collapsed in a field and laid on the ground for 2½ days until they brought in a crane to help her up. "She stood for several minutes, ate hay, drank water, sprayed herself down and then urinated multiple liters of dark red/brown urine. She then laid down and died." The report further indicates hemorrhaging throughout her body. She also had significant degenerative joint disease and arthritis. The USDA had no medical record that Pete had ever been diagnosed or treated for this condition. Conti died under similar circumstances only two weeks later. There has been no published necropsy report on Conti.

August 27, 1999: The Monmouth County SPCA in New Jersey files animal cruelty charges against Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus for overworking and overloading an elephant named Helen who appeared to suffer from a crippling knee injury. A USDA inspector files the charges after observing the animal during an exhibit at the Freehold Raceway Mall on August 18-20. Criminal and civil charges are pending in the Freehold (N.J.) Township Municipal Court.

January 24, 2000: USDA and Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus settle the charges filed in April that they abusively bullhooked several elephants on more than one occasion. Cole agrees to hire a consultant approved by the USDA, and implement recommendations made to improve elephant handling and care. A civil penalty of $10,000 is also levied, but suspended providing that the circus spends this amount to retain the consultant and implement the recommendations. According to Michael Dunn, USDA Undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, "The training outlined in this agreement should ensure that, in the future, Cole Bros. will properly train and handle their elephants."

February 2 and 3, 2000: The USDA cites Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. with failure to handle the elephants "in a manner that prevents trauma of physical harm" when the inspector discovered several bullhook scars on both Helen and Bessie.

They are also cited for failure to "provide adequate veterinary care." Helen and Bessie had not received foot care in three months. At this time, Bessie was bleeding after and/or during urination and had not been diagnosed or treated for that condition. She also has fecal material protruding from under the base of her tail. According to her trainer, her tail was paralyzed by a truck accident. She had not been examined by a veterinarian for this condition. The USDA orders the circus to keep Bessie at winter quarters until she is diagnosed, treated, and cleared for travel by a veterinarian.

The attending veterinarian is not experienced in the care of elephants. Cole is ordered to employ a veterinarian with substantial prior experience with this species.

There are no records to document the tuberculosis status of the elephant handlers that had direct contact with the elephants in the past year.

The circus is cited for failure to properly construct and design the transport truck to ensure the safety and comfort of the elephants after Helen is slammed into a wall and injured during sudden braking.

The circus is again cited for failure to properly store food.

March 9, 2000: Three veterinarians testify under oath after reviewing a videotape of Cole's elephant Helen being forced to give rides and pull a caravan of heavy tiger cages. All three describe Helen's disability as a chronic, degenerative condition causing pain-related lameness and instability. They state that this would be aggravated by the work they observed her doing, and recommend that she be removed from service. (Helen continued to tour with the circus for at least six months following this.)

June 13, 2000: Former Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus elephant trainer Tom Rider testifies before the U.S. Congress: that "in White Plains, N.Y., when Pete did not perform her act properly, she was taken to the tent and laid down, and five trainers beat her with bullhooks. Pete is now dead."

September 20, 2000: In a letter to the USDA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) writes, "PETA has written several times with concerns about Helen, an elephant with a serious knee disability. Helen's crippling condition has deteriorated, and she should be immediately taken off the road. …Helen's persistent use has apparently caused her injuries to worsen."

October 18, 2000: In response to a letter from PETA, the USDA states, "With regard to your additional concerns about Helen's knee condition, it does appear that this condition may be worsening. …Helen is now retired at a private facility in Missouri."

Helen is forced to work for more than two years after her disability was first documented. When the circus is no longer able to use her, they give her to a poorly-funded facility owned by Murray Hill, father of Cole Bros. trainer Adam Hill. Murray Hill is known in the elephant community for, among other things, publicly threatening to euthanize his elephants if he does not obtain sufficient donations for their upkeep.

February 12, 2001: The USDA reports a complaint about "inadequate control…and use of physical force" of Tina. A report indicates that the "matter is still under investigation."

April 2001: Circus officials confirm that Helen - sent to a private facility in Missouri in September 2000 - has been euthanized. Helen had been touring with the circus for two years despite documentation of a painful and dangerous disability. She was only 42 when she died.

June 14, 2001: A USDA inspection report on Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus notes multiple complaints involving Bessie, "regarding excessive vocalizations during performances, when on or off loading from her trailer and an inability to walk." The report also notes that she has been diagnosed with arthritis and that she is notably short-strided in both legs.

July 22, 2002: Knoxville Zoo veterinarian Ed Ramsay reviews videotape of Bessie and comments, "The video segments clearly show this elephant to have restricted range of movement of the front left leg. …(I)n my professional opinion there is little to no question this animal suffers from arthritis. ...(T)his condition is painful... Extended periods of exercise and forced performance of unusual leg motions may very well cause this animal to suffer."

November 18, 2002: After repeated complaints from concerned citizens and animal activists and a statement from a prominent elephant veterinarian, the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus retires Bessie the elephant to the Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Ga. She had been forced to work for at least a year and a half since her arthritis and difficulty walking was first documented.

May 1, 2003: reports: "Gopher Davenport has revived the venerable old Bailey Bros Circus title for two units touring in the Dakotas and elsewhere this season. Initial reports stated that the Davenport family's Starr Bros Circus would be making the High Plains tour, but advance publicity for the show reveals the Bailey Bros title. While one section of the Bailey show plays dates in the Dakotas, another section under the direction of Chewy Davenport will tour in Texas. While early American circuses included the Geo F Bailey show, and the later Molly Bailey Circus, it was showman James A Bailey who made the name famous as owner of the Barnum & Bailey show. Later Bailey titles benefited from the well known name."

September 16, 2003: The Spartanburg County Environmental Enforcement Department (South Carolina) receives a complaint from a man who saw two elephants, Tina and Jewel, being beaten. According to his sworn statement, the witness saw "a guy come out of a motor home with a feeding bucket and a black pool stick with a silver point on it and with 2 hands like holding a baseball bat, proceeded to beat 2 elephants …about the backs, sides, head, and trunks. The guy had no reason!" The night watchman acknowledges hitting the elephants with the bullhook "to make them be quiet." The officer taking the complaint orders trainer Adam Hill to remove the night watchman from any contact with the elephants.

December 2003: The USDA cites and fines Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus $2,750 for "improper handling of an elephant" after receiving video footage taken March 27, 2003 of a handler hitting an elephant with a broom. The handler was fired.

May 6, 2004: Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus announces that they have changed their name to the New Cole Brothers Circus and will discontinue using elephants in their shows. However, they state that they will continue to rent out their two remaining elephants, Tina and Jewel, for television commercials and other performances, including Republican Party events.

In fact, Tina and Jewel and their trainer were almost immediately sent on tour with the Walker Brothers Circus. Just over a month prior, Walker Brothers' owner John Caudill, Jr. and elephant trainer John Caudill III pled guilty in a federal administrative court to 18 violations of the minimal standards of care in the federal AWA. The Caudills were ordered to pay a $25,000 fine, and their circus exhibitor's license was suspended for five years. The USDA had charged Walker Bros. and its employees with causing physical harm and discomfort; failing to provide veterinary care to an emaciated elephant, an elephant suffering from severe chemical burns and a bacterial infection, and several elephants with potentially deadly foot problems; unsafe public contact; and operating without a USDA exhibitor's license.

June 23, 2004: The USDA cites Cole (in an inspection of its animals on tour with Walker Brothers Circus) for failing to handle animals "in a manner that does not cause trauma, overheating, excessive cooling, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort" and for violating the regulation which states that "Physical abuse shall not be used to train, work or otherwise handle animals." The Massachusetts Environmental Police had received a report that three witnesses had observed a circus employee hitting an elephant about the head and face. The elephant gave a grunt and then a high pitched sound. The USDA sent three inspector-veterinarians to investigate this complaint. An elephant handler, questioned by USDA officials, admitted that he had hit Jewel several times with a piece of 1" plastic pipe. "He said that he did not hit the elephant hard enough to hurt it because the plastic/PVC pipe did not break." The inspectors noted an area of abnormal looking skin over the bony areas of Jewel's forehead and an area of red tissue over her left eye.

Cole is also cited for failing to employ an attending veterinarian, for not having a signed Program of Veterinary Care, for not adequately describing its method of euthanasia, and for the absence of TB tests on two new employees who worked around the elephants.

In addition, Cole is also criticized for not promptly notifying the regional USDA office of its name change. According to the USDA report, Cole is now known as the American Circus.

July 30, 2004: Gigi's Exotics pays an $1,100 fine in a settlement agreement with the USDA for violations of the AWA in 2002, 2003, and 2004, at least some of which are related to the care of an elephant named Boo. Violations include "failure to provide adequate veterinary care, failure to maintain proper records on animals… failure to handle animals in a manner that does not cause trauma, overheating, excessive cooling, behavior stress, physical harm or unnecessary discomfort… failure to provide appropriate methods to prevent, control, diagnose and treat diseases and injuries for the elephant named Boo (and) failure to maintain transport enclosure free from any protrusions that could be injurious to the animals."

March 2005: The USDA inspects Carson and Barnes Circus' winter quarters in Hugo, Okla., where Boo was being kept for the winter. The report stated: "No one from Gigi's Exotics present."

April 1, 2005: Springfield (Ill.) Journal-Register reports on consumer complaints against Bailey Brothers Circus, which also has appeared as Great Circus of China, in Alaska and Illinois. Paperwork in Alaska was filed for Bailey Brothers Circus under the name "Juan Davenport," and in Illinois, paperwork for Great Circus of China was filed under the name "Charles Davenport." Both circuses included the Davenport elephant Queenie in their act.

August 27, 2005: Tina and Jewel, still owned by Cole (American) tour the country with Florida-based Wambold's Circus Menagerie. While in Mt. Pleasant Township, Pa. and made available for petting and feeding by the public, Jewel grabbed a woman's wrist and sprained it badly.

January 13, 2006: The USDA cites Gigi's Exotics for AWA violation related to the structural soundness of a trailer used to transport Boo and a horse (in separate compartments).

January 17, 2006: Gigi's Exotics signs a five-year lease for Tina and Jewel, stating, "We plan to incorporate the elephants into our breeding program, performance and rides. Gigi's Exotics accepts responsibility for the health, welfare and mortality of said elephants."

January 27, 2006: Texas Attorney General files consumer fraud/deceptive business practices charges against Juan Davenport, Bailey Brothers Circus, and several other defendants who "collectively operate a circus show under the names of "Kings Royal Circus," "The Great Circus of China," "Bailey/ Wallace and Bros. Circus, Inc.," "Barnes and Bailey Bros. Circus, Inc.," "Bailey Bros. Circus," "Barnes & Bailey Circus," and "Barnes and Bailey Bros. Circus."

February 2006: Gigi's Exotics (a.k.a. American All-Star Circus) is investigated for consumer fraud and AWA violations, according to a memo from Sgt. Keith Bond of Jackson County, Miss.

February 22, 2006: Gigi's Exotics is on the road with Boo, Tina, Jewel, and two camels.

Summer 2006: Tina and Jewel travel with Cole Brothers Circus, accompanied by trainer Will Jacobs Davenport. During this time, this review appears on the blog of circus fan Crash Moreau:

COLE BROTHERS CIRCUS  W. Hartford, N.Y.  June 11
"This is a nice looking show with a large red and yellow tent and painted trucks. This year the show had a much better line up of acts compared to the past few years. This year at selected performances the elephants has (sic) returned now owned by Gopher Davenport and handled by his son. The only thing I can say is young Davenport needs to put away the bull-hook on these two elephants as Adam Hill never used the hook on these two in previous years. All the animal rights people need is to see how he is handling these two elephants, Tina and Jewel and there will be a lot more flax (sic) about not having animals in circuses."

October 24, 2006: The USDA inspects Gigi's Exotics and cites them for inadequate veterinary care: "I observed two Asian elephants, Tina (40 yrs.) and Jewell (42 yrs.). Jewel appears to be underweight. The muscling along both sides of her spine appears sunken or hollowed out. Her spine is very prominent. The handler states that he has "not noted any weight loss and that she had an injury several years ago. In addition, there appears to be very little muscling over the eyes. Although the handler stated that this is her 'normal‘ conformation there are no records other than the health certificate and TB results available for me to review documenting her past or current health status."

Winter 2007: Tina and Jewel travel with the L.E. Barnes and Bailey Circus; their names are given to the public and the media as Margaret and Lilley. L.E. Barnes and Bailey circus performs 640 shows per year.

February 16, 2007: The USDA inspects Gigi's Exotics at Heritage Park in Watkinsville, Ga. in conjunction with L.E. Barnes and Bailey Circus. Tina, Jewel, and Boo are present.

The inspectors note numerous violations, including:

  • Inadequate veterinary care - According to the report, Jewell is "noticeably thin." Comparison of photographs taken by the USDA between October 2006 and February 2007 indicated that she was "chronically thin." Although handler was instructed in November 2006 by the USDA to weigh Jewel, no weight is available until February 2007. "The animal's weight most be monitored at least monthly to assess her progress"
  • TB records outdated- The most recent trunk wash results are dated November 29, 2005. "Because TB can be a cause of chronic weight loss, it is imperative that the elephants are tested in timely manner."
  • Failure to handle animals properly to insure minimal risk of harm to animals and people - Boo is placed in a corral and the public is allowed to walk up to the edge and toss in carrots. Small children are noted in the open area of the corral while the handler is distracted.

March 2, 2007: Gigi's Exotics objects to the February 16 USDA inspection report. In a letter, Gigi's Exotics claims that Jewel was examined and tested by Dr. Ted Eudy (flown in from Oklahoma). The circus claims health reports, including trunk wash results, were given to the USDA, and cites an inspection from November 2006 that found no non-compliance.

March 14, 2007: The USDA upholds findings of the February 16 inspection, noting the trunk wash samples for TB testing were unacceptable and that the only TB test results are from 2005. The USDA's letter also stated, "considering Jewel's unthrifty condition and chronic weight loss, the failure to obtain a weight in a timely manner jeopardized her health and indicated a clear failure to provide adequate veterinary care and monitoring of her condition."

March 17, 2007: The USDA inspection notes Gigi's Exotics continued violation for inadequate veterinary care. Jewel remains "noticeably thin." Her weight was taken only twice (she weighed between 6,600 and 6,800 pounds). The weight loss remains undiagnosed. Current TB trunk wash results are still unavailable. "Travel restrictions and prohibiting public contact with these elephants is necessary to ensure the health of both the elephants and the public by minimizing the potential spread of tuberculosis. In the absence of a clear diagnosis of Jewel's weight loss, and the potential for tuberculosis or some other unknown disease being present, it would be inappropriate for her to travel."

March 30, 2007: Gigi's Exotics receives a damning USDA inspection in Pueblo, Colo. Numerous violations are noted, including inadequate veterinary care (e.g., no program for appropriate skin and foot care); inadequate training of elephant handler; failure to handle elephant in manner that does not cause excessive trauma, stress, physical harm, and unnecessary discomfort; inadequate record keeping; and failure to maintain appropriate primary enclosures for transport. The elephant described in this report is not identified.

The USDA finds an elephant with "excessive dead skin over most of her body and doesn't show evidence of proper bathing for quite some time. She has urine staining and what appears to be urine scalds on her back legs. The pads on this elephant had excessive growth and there were numerous flaps of skin that had trapped debris in them. The cuticles were also excessively long."

The elephant also has "multiple wounds draining yellowish exudates inside the left ear" that handlers had not reported. Wounds would be "consistent with the improper use of an ankus in the ear."

The handler is found to be "not properly trained or experienced." He was trained in November/December 2006 by a handler who had "worked with horses a little but had no animal handling, husbandry experience or training. Back-up handler had no elephant experience. Previously did construction work. He feeds, waters, handles the elephants and is the loader for rides."

The handler "had trouble getting [the elephant] to consistently do basic things like pick her feet up for exam. He had to prod her excessively with the ankus (bullhook) to get the desired behavior and sometimes could not get the behavior completed. The handler was not able to demonstrate adequate control of elephant."

The USDA also documents physical abuse. "The handler had to continuously rely on excessive and inappropriate use of the ankus to get the elephant to perform the behaviors he was asking for during the rides and performances. . . during the rides and performances, the handler was observed repeatedly jabbing and hitting the elephant with the ankus. Several times during the elephant ride, the handler used the ankus to hit the elephant and she reacted by throwing her head and changing her gait demonstrating irritation at the action of the handler. . . This is inappropriate and abusive use of the ankus and such use is likely to cause trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm or unnecessary discomfort . . . This type of inappropriate use can cause the elephants to become more aggressive."

The USDA also reports reported public endangerment through abusive bullhook use, lack of control over elephant, and allowing children to sit on the floor in front of an elephant who was confined behind an inadequate barrier with a handler who was distracted. At one point, a child was actually let into the elephant's enclosure to retrieve a balloon. No handler was present at that time.

Other transgressions included: No one on staff being able tell the USDA inspector where the licensee (Gigi Davenport) was at time of inspection; no health records were on hand; immobilization drugs for emergency restraint of elephants were labeled for "yellow cats," and handler had no idea how to use the dart gun to administer the drugs.

April 10, 2007: USDA inspects Gigi's Exotics at New Bern, N.C. and again cites the operation for inadequate veterinary care. Jewel is still thin, weighing 220 lbs. less on April 8 than when her last weight was taken on March 11. "TB cultures were taken and were negative. Jewel is not gaining weight despite an apparently adequate diet. The cause of her being underweight is still undiagnosed. She was last seen by the attending vet at the end of Jan. 2007. Because of the stress of traveling, a second opinion from another veterinarian who specialized in elephants is needed at this time. . ."

April 12, 2007: -- USDA orders Jewel off the road, warning, "continued travel by Jewel for exhibition, including travel with the circus, even if not performing, would constitute a violation of Sec. 2.40 until such time as her condition has been adequately evaluated and/or there is measurable improvement in her weight and overall health. Travel to a facility appropriate for long-term holding, or to a facility suited to evaluation and diagnosis of her health issues would be appropriate."

April 16, 2007: USDA inspects Gigi's Exotics at New Ulm, Minn. One elephant (Boo) and two camels are present. The circus is cited again for failure to handle animals in a manner that would minimize potential harm to animals and the public. No elephant handler "with appropriate training and experience traveling with this group. . . Safe public exhibition and handling cannot take place without a knowledgeable individual or individuals present."

May 15, 2007: USDA again cites Gigi's for inadequate veterinary care, and reports findings of specialist in elephant health called in by Cole Brothers to examine Tina and Jewel in Greenville, N.C. on April 23, 2007. "The expert determined that both elephants showed an alarming amount of weight loss and that Jewel was not fit to continue traveling with the circus. The expert felt that both elephants should be kept together and should be moved to the winter quarters for Cole Brothers in Deland, Fla. where they could be closely monitored and have access to veterinarians experienced in elephant health. Expert recommended switch in diet to gain weight and advised that feeding amounts provided and eaten should be recorded."

In early May the elephants were moved to Leggett, Texas instead of Florida - "Not an approved site location," according to the USDA. Inspection of the Leggett site reveals that no daily logs of feed are being maintained. The health of the elephants is further jeopardized because the facility does not meet minimum standards for long-term housing due to its incompletion of the primary enclosure and shelter. Animals must be housed in a trailer during inclement weather. Moving to Texas instead of Florida "added additional stress due to the longer transit time." Weights taken on May 14: Jewel 6,880 lbs. and Tina 7,620 lbs.. These are slight weight gains, but it is too early to tell if they are significant. Management states that the attending veterinarian had visited, but no records were available to document this claim. Immobilization drugs are stored in a lock box filled with water from a leak. The USDA states that "At this time there is no valid home site for this license."

June 5, 2007: USDA again cites Gigi's for inadequate veterinary care and facilities violations. "The lack of a permanent long term housing facility that provides adequate shelter and enclosures jeopardizes the health of the animals and hinders their ability to gain weight. Lack of sufficient ventilation in the barn housing the elephants can contribute to heat related stress that would also adversely affect their health."

Elephants are restrained through hotwires and chaining. Facility lacks "adequate permanent enclosures for elephants." It also lacks adequate shade, and the barn lacks sufficient ventilation.

Gigi's Exotics is given until July 5, 2007 to correct the violations.

July 17, 2007: Gigi Davenport sends email to circus list entitled, "My Wonderfull (sic) Son "Will" which reads: "He is an amazing person, his love for these animals is nothing less than a gift from God. He has suffered from people making ugly judgments to his qualifications. Being born and raised in the circus and around animals all his life. Common sense, book smart and animal sense, he has it all. God Bless him. He is an amazing young man and hasn't done anything wrong. I pray everyday that God will let the USDA see the truth and tell us (what it is) and take that ugly cloud off my son's head and just let him do what comes so very natural to him, taking care and loving these incredible animals."

July 25, 2007: IDA obtains photographic evidence of elephants living in squalid conditions at the Davenport facility in Leggett, Tex. There is no indication that the violations cited by USDA have been corrected, despite the fact that the corrections deadline has passed 20 days before. The eyewitness report provided to IDA states,

"We located Jewel and Tina at a circus approved 'holding area'...and they were far worse than we'd anticipated...Tina and Jewel are living every day on a concrete slab surrounded by building debris and half-burned garbage. Their hard slab-estimated at a mere 12' x 24' is surrounded by electrified wire—and they know this, evident by their fear of standing anywhere close to the perimeter. The cramped girls seemed to huddle together as not to accidentally hit the hot-wire, staying at least 3' from the shock...Their condition? Emaciated. The photographic images reveal Tina and Jewel's sunken faces and sad eyes. Facts:

  • Both elephants were underweight.
  • There was no access to water.
  • There was no evidence of other food-types such as fresh browse or produce, only a bit of hay.
  • Their 'walking'/living area is approximately 12' X 24' which upon observation is reduced to approximately 9' X 21' given the 3' 'fear-zone' of the electrified wire.
  • There was no structural shade from the sun with the exception of some trees.
  • They both exhibited stereotypical neurotic behavior of rocking, and one of the girls' back left foot is being treated for thrush—she was lifting it and looking at her foot.
  • If there was a structure provided for night-housing or protection from harsh weather, it may have been the old shed located next to the hot-wire corral. This shed is dilapidated and very small with no evidence of proper ventilation.
  • As one drives from the county road onto the driveway, Tina and Jewel are immediately to the left, approximately 20 yards from the access to the public. Left entirely unprotected and electrically penned like fish in a barrel, there are no measures to ensure their safety—or that of the public."

August 2007: Tina and Jewel are still at the Leggett facility. They have reportedly been given access to a larger outdoor area, still well under an acre in size, and windows for ventilation have been cut into the tiny tin barn in which they are frequently confined. The USDA continues to allow Tina and Jewel's care to be directed by the same individuals who, as the agency has repeatedly documented, have failed to provide these ailing elephants with necessary veterinary care; have handled the elephants in an unsafe and inhumane manner; and left them in the care of an inexperienced and unskilled trainer. In addition, USDA is reportedly in possession of evidence documenting the illegal involvement of John Davenport (who lost his USDA exhibitor license in 1998), with Tina, Jewel and the third elephant, Queenie. The agency continues to do nothing to stop this alleged illegal activity.

October 2007: USDA lifts travel restrictions on Tina and Jewel despite apparent fact that their "alarming" weight loss has never been diagnosed.

November 13-17 2007: Tina, Jewel and Queenie appear with "Kingford Circus" at the Old Winn Dixie parking lot in downtown New Orleans. A report by the Humane Society of Louisiana indicates that the elephants were being held in a small pen on concrete, surrounded by a hotwire. At times all three elephants were chained. Other times, only Queenie was chained to the wheel of the truck (under conditions that violate the Animal Welfare Act. Tina and Jewel were separated from Queenie (who was chained to the wheel of a truck) because they "sometimes fight over food," according to handler "Will" (Davenport. There was no food, water or shade during the times when the elephants were observed, save one time when the elephants were giving rides and being fed loaves of white bread. According to HSL, "one of the elephants had sunken eye sockets and little flesh on her face. She appeared to weigh less than the other two elephants by several hundred pounds "

November 26, 2007: Attorneys for IDA from the law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein and Crystal file complaint with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over illegal sale of Tina and Jewel by Cole Brothers Circus to the Davenports in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service subsequently notified IDA that an official investigation has been opened in response to the complaint.

January 2008: IDA receives word that Will Davenport has signed a 44-week contract with Circus Vasquez for his elephant "act."

January 9, 2008: IDA complains to USDA about lack of action in case, especially with regard to the illegal involvement of John Davenport in violation of a ten-year old court order barring him from the exotic animal business. Dr. Robert Gibbens, director of USDA Animal Care's western region replies that " . . . under the AWA, the revocation of a person's AWA license does not prohibit him or her from being employed by another USDA licensee. In order to proceed with and/or prevail in an administrative enforcement proceeding (concerning the activities of a person whose license has been revoked), USDA must be able to show a preponderance of evidence that said person is conducting AWA regulated activities on his/her own, or holds a substantial interest in a licensed partnership, firm or corporation. If you have information substantiating the above about Mr. Davenport, please forward it to our office." IDA responds by providing USDA with two additional pieces of evidence relating to Davenport's operation of the circus as well as an attorney letter stating that the agency's overly narrow interpretation of the Act prevents meaningful enforcement. IDA likens USDA's position to creating a legal justification to allow a convicted child molester to work in a day care center.

February 22, 2008: Circus Vasquez arrives in El Paso, TX with Will Davenport and the three elephants - Tina, Jewel and Queenie. After a citizen complains, Sunland Park Mall prohibits Circus Vasquez from bringing the animals onto its property; only the non-animal parts of the circus are allowed to perform. The animals, including three elephants, tigers, zebras, camels and two horses are stashed across the street on a small patch of desert next to a motel parking lot under deplorable conditions. Eye witness observations indicate that the three elephants spend long periods crammed inside the truck, when outside they are confined to a tiny area that barely allows movement. One elephant is observed leaning her head against the trailer and lifting her right front foot.

February 27, 2008: Circus Vasquez animal contingent, including Will Davenport, Tina, Jewel and Queenie depart El Paso for Phoenix, AZ.

A citizen passing by the site where the elephants are held observes two of the three elephants charging at each other, vocalizing loudly and nearly pulling over the semi-trailer to which they were chained. (The trailer was swaying dangerously back and forth). The citizen contacts IDA, which informs her to file a complaint with the USDA. She does, but the USDA takes no action.

March 17, 2008: USDA inspects the elephants, now traveling under the license of Will Davenport, aka "Maximus Tons of Fun). USDA cites Davenport for failing to provide adequate veterinary care to the elephants, notes concern about Jewel's weight loss and orders regular weighing of the elephants. USDA also cites Davenport for failing to handle the elephants safely. The inspector writes;

"Three female Asian Elephants (Tina, Jewel, Boo) were housed in the parking lot of a shopping center with a large volume of car traffic and public stopping to observe the animals. The only barriers present are temporary, moveable metal barriers (ranging from -2.5-4 feet high and ~8 feet long) and a single-strand electric wire surrounding the three elephants at -4-5 feet from the ground, with a distance between the metal fence and the electric fence of -10 feet. Upon arrival at this location for inspection on 3/16 at 12:00 PM, no attendant was visible and numerous public spectators were observing the animals from the metal fence (up to 21 spectators at the time we were present with 13 of those being children estimated to be under the age of 10). . . . Sufficient distance and/or barriers must be between the animals and the viewing public so as to assure the safety of the animals and the public. The barriers and distance between the barriers would not be sufficient to limit access to these elephants by the public and no responsible trained handler was present or responsive to prevent such access."

April 9, 2008: USDA inspects elephants in Panorama City, Caif. and cites Will Davenport again for failing to provide adequate veterinary care to the elephants.

April 10, 2008: City of Los Angeles shuts Davenport elephant act down and escorts Davenport and the three elephants out of the city limits, revoking his license to perform after learning of the long history of Animal Welfare Act violations by this exhibitor.

September 17, 2008: Elephants inspected by USDA but no non-compliances cited, despite the fact that elephants are observed in exactly the same conditions as reported in March 17 inspection, i.e. unattended and being watched by the public, including at least three young children, who were separated from the elephants by a single wire and a moveable, temporary metal barrier.

October 6, 2008: IDA writes to Dr. Chester Gipson, Deputy Administrator of USDA/APHIS/Animal Care expressing concern over the lack of enforcement action against Will Davenport despite chronic Animal Welfare Act violations. Concern also expressed over the series of suspicious TB test results on Jewel. IDA requests information as to the results of the USDA’s supposed investigation into the test results and as to the results of further testing, if any, and APHIS’s plans with regard to the situation. Dr. Gipson responds with a phone call, stating in essence that the case is under investigation and he can not say anything further on the matter.

November 19, 2008: IDA files complaint with USDA regarding the elephants’ exposure to cold weather in New York City.

November 22, 2008: USDA Inspection in New York City finds problems with food storage, housekeeping, failure to insure ambient temperature was compatible with the health and comfort of the animals (below 30 degrees not including wind chill) and failure to provide adequate veterinary care.

March 9, 2009: In Indianapolis, IN, Davenport and the three elephants are with the Murat Shrine Circus. One of the elephants knocked over a scaffolding while giving rides to the public before a performance.. All three elephants were being used to give rides and, according to eyewitness reports at the time, one elephant pushed another one into the scaffolding, causing injuries to 12 children. The accident follows repeated USDA citations for unsafe and inhumane elephant handling and housing.

April 2, 2009: IDA files complaint with USDA based on the March 9 incident. “All of this considered, this incident is yet another clear demonstration that Will Davenport’s license to exhibit elephants should be terminated and the elephants confiscated for their safety and for the safety of the public.”

April 4, 2009: Elephants inspected at Shrine Circus in Greenville, S.C. and Davenport again cited for failure to provide adequate veterinary care. According to the report, all three elephants have lost significant amounts of weight. Tina looks thin and has lost over 500 pounds, while Jewel has lost 860 pounds and appears “in poor body condition and very underweight such that her hip bones and dorsal vertebrae were prominent and the area around her temples and facial bones appeared sunken.” Even Queenie has lost weight this time, dropping over 500 pounds.

Jewel, at well under 7,000 pounds now weighs less than when the USDA ordered her off the road in May 2007 due to severe weight loss. Both Tina and Jewel are below the weights recommended for traveling by the veterinarian on whose expertise the USDA relied when re-authorizing travel for the elephants in xx.

Despite the requirement for obtaining more frequent weights on the elephants, Davenport has not weighed them for two months, a violation cited on the USDA inspection report.

May 1, 2009: A shockingly emaciated Jewel appears at the Mehla Shrine Circus in Springfield, Massachusetts. Along with Tina and Jewel, she was trucked 1,700 miles from Leggett, Texas to Massachusetts, a journey that exacted untold stress and suffering on this obviously ailing elephant. When she arrived, Jewel was so sickly looking that the Massachusetts SPCA advised the Shriners to bar her from performing. As a result, she spent the weekend chained inside the tent.

June 5, 2009: After returning to their home base in Texas, the three elephants are again trucked 1,000 miles to Loves Park, IL where they continue to appear debilitated, and Jewel looks emaciated, has wounds on her head and is favoring her left front foot. All three elephants are photographed chained to the truck, a situation that has previously nearly capsized the vehicle onto the elephants when the animals were fighting and pulling at their chains. Despite the obviously deteriorated condition of the elephants, the USDA still refuses to confiscate them.