PETA has asked for an investigation into a Florida elephant handler whose animal was rented for a woman’s 60th birthday party in Redington Beach.
The elephant, Judy, gave rides and posed for pictures Saturday at the party. Images of the elephant wading into the surf went viral, catching the eye of PETA.
The animal rights group has filed complaints with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggesting the animal's apparent proximity to the public violated sections of the Animal Welfare Act.
“Many captive elephants are accidents waiting to happen, and you never know which ones will attack, even if they’ve exhibited a docile personality for years,” said PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders in a statement. “Allowing a 6,200-pound, fiercely strong animal to roam the beach unsupervised could easily have ended in tragedy.”
Both agencies that received PETA's letter confirmed Thursday they are looking into the complaint.
PETA asked the USDA to investigate the elephant's handler, Bones Craig. When reached by phone Thursday, Craig declined to comment.
Xtreme Entertainment president Brian Baird, whose Sorrento company rented out the elephant, said Craig was present at all times during the event.
After working the party, Bones allowed Judy to walk into the water, Baird said. According to Baird, in the images that spread across the Internet, Craig is just out of frame.
Baird acknowledged he did not attend the party, but said he has spoken to Craig about what occurred.
“It’s just absurd, this whole thing,” Baird said. “It was a really neat experience to let her get in the ocean. To say he’s misusing the elephant, it’s ludicrous in my opinion.”
Claudia McCorkle, whose party the elephant entertained, could not be immediately reached for comment.