Ned's Death Highlights USDA Failure To Protect Captive Elephants And Enforce Federal Law

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Originally Posted: 27 May 2009

Ned's Death Highlights USDA Failure To Protect Captive Elephants And Enforce Federal Law

From In Defense of Animals (IDA)

Tell Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, to enforce the Animal Welfare Act to protect elephants. The USDA must start by confiscating Jewel, Tina and Queenie and send them to an elephant sanctuary.


Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue S.W.
Washington, DC 20250


The tragic death of Ned, a 21-year old male elephant at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, may have been prevented had the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) not waited until the elephant was at death's door to confiscate him from an abusive trainer, the animal protection organization In Defense of Animals (IDA) charged today.

Near death, Ned was rescued...
here he is on his way to The Elephant Sanctuary

"Similar inaction by the USDA, charged with enforcing the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), is jeopardizing the lives of other captive elephants," said IDA President Elliot M. Katz, DVM. Currently at risk is an emaciated elephant named Jewel, who continues to travel and perform in circuses despite her debilitated condition, her handler's chronic violations of animal welfare law and her possible infection with the human form of tuberculosis.

"Ned had an absolutely tragic life and the USDA knew about his life-threatening situation almost a year before it acted to confiscate him," said Dr. Katz. "Despite The Elephant Sanctuary's heroic efforts, it was too late for Ned. How many more elephants have to die before the USDA starts fulfilling its legal responsibility to enforce our nation's animal welfare law?"

The USDA confiscated Ned in November 2008 after complaints by IDA and others about his emaciated appearance prompted the first agency inspection in ten months, despite prior findings that Ned was extremely underweight. Ned’s trainer, Lance Kollman, had been ordered to keep regular records of Ned’s weight, but nobody from the USDA ever followed up to note that he was failing to do so. This was despite investigations dating to 2000 into the care Kollman provided to animals, prompted by the sudden and unexplained death of his family’s previous elephant. At the time of his confiscation, Ned was noted to be at least a ton underweight.

Other elephants whom the USDA has jeopardized due to inaction include:

  • Tina, Jewel and Queenie, who remain in the hands of a trainer who has repeatedly abused and failed to properly care for them. Despite chronic AWA violations, the USDA has refused to revoke the trainer's license. All three elephants remain on the road and are losing weight, two for the second time in as many years. Jewel is shockingly emaciated, ill and frail in appearance.
  • Dehli was found by the USDA in 2002 to be "in a serious health emergency” after sustaining severe chemical burns to both front legs. (Her "owner" had used undiluted formaldehyde to soak her feet causing both of her front legs to be swollen to twice their normal size). It took a full 20 months after this finding for the USDA to take action to remove the critically injured elephant from her abuser and send her to The Elephant Sanctuary.
  • In 2001, the USDA found that Lota was losing weight. By the time she reached the Sanctuary in November of 2004, she was so ill from tuberculosis that she only lived another 2 months.

Just last week, IDA wrote to the Secretary of Agriculture demanding that the agency confiscate Tina, Jewel and Queenie. There has been no reply, and the elephants remain unprotected by the federal agency empowered to save them. Despite the fact that in 2006 IDA filed a citizen’s petition with the USDA to compel the agency to enforce the AWA at zoos and circuses, where elephants are suffering from inadequate care, the USDA’s negligent enforcement of the AWA continues.

Read Honoring Ned.

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