USDA puts Hawthorn Corp. out of the elephant business–Clyde-Beatty Cole Bros. quits, too
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2004:
RICHMOND, Illinois–Hawthorn Corporation owner John F. Cuneo
Jr., 73, on March 7, 2004 agreed to a 19-point consent decree in
settlement of 47 Animal Welfare Act charges that requires him to
divest of his remaining 16 elephants and have them removed from his
property near Richmond, Illinois by August 15. Cuneo is also to pay
a civil penalty of $200,000.
The consent decree, finalized on March 15, marks the first
time that the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service has
ordered a circus to cease exhibiting elephants.
Hawthorn Corporation will be allowed to keep 60 white tigers,
27 conventionally colored tigers, and an African lion.
None of the elephants’ destinations have been determined.
Dehi, 57, whom the USDA removed from the Hawthorn premises in
November 2003, was sent to the Elephant Sanctuary at Hohenwald,
Tennessee. A 200-acre facility with seven Asian elephants and three
African elephants at present, the Elephant Sanctuary plans to expand
up to 2,700 acres soon, divided between Asian and African elephant
The most recent arrival, in March 2004, is Flora, the
17-year star performer of the single-elephant Circus Flora, for whom
circus owner David Balding tried unsuccessfully to found the Ahali
Sanctuary in South Carolina.
Cuneo started the Hawthorn Corporation as a traveling circus
in 1957, but discovered a more profitable business niche in leasing
animals to other circuses and boarding exotic animals.
The Milwaukee County Zoo in 1990 transferred a 35-year-old
elephant named Lota to the Hawthorn Corporation. A television camera
caught Lota collapsing as she was loaded into a Hawthorn trailer.
Removing Lota from Hawthorn became an activist cause celebre. The
Milwaukee County Zoo eventually tried unsuccessfully to retrieve her.
Cuneo declined an offer of $230,000 for Lota from actor Kevin Nealon,
who wanted to send her to the Elephant Sanctuary.
Lota is among the elephants who are now to be relocated.
More trouble followed. “On August 20, 1994, Cuneo exhibited
an elephant named Tyke in a circus show in Honolulu, Hawaii. While
waiting to perform, Tyke attacked one handler and fatally wounded
his trainer [Allen Campbell, 37]. As Tyke ran out of the building
where the performance was to have occurred, Honolulu police killed
Tyke. Cuneo neither admitted nor denied violating Animal Welfare Act
regulations, but agreed to pay a civil penalty of $12,500,” the
USDA summarized in announcing the 1997 fine.
Two years later, in August 1996, a Hawthorn elephant named
Joyce collapsed and died from tuberculosis during dental treatment,
shortly after performing for the Circus Vargas in Los Angeles, 10
weeks after the USDA rejected a Performing Animal Welfare Society
request that she be taken out of performances due to apparent
illness. A week later, Joyce’s companion elephant Hattie also died
of tuberculosis, en route from Los Angeles to the Hawthorn
headquarters. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration fined
Hawthorn $37,000 afterward, for failing to properly protect workers
from the risk of infection.
Cole drops elephants
Cuneo and the Hawthorn Corporation agreed to get out of the
elephant business on the same day that the Clyde-Beatty Cole Bros.
Circus announced that it is retiring Tina, 38, and Jewel, 40,
from big top performances, and is renaming itself The New Cole Bros.
Circus. Tina and Jewel were the last elephants belonging to the
circus, formed by mergers of circuses whose first acts began touring
in 1884. The component circuses once had 80 elephants, wrote
Daytona Beach News-Sentinel staff writer Christine Girardin.
“Tina and Jewel will be working at smaller fairs, special
events, and will be available as rental mascots for Republican Party
events during this year’s election season,” Clyde-Beatty Cole Bros.
Circus senior marketing director Chuck Werner told Girardin.
“In 2003 the USDA fined the circus $2,750 after a handler hit
an elephant twice with a broom handle. The handler was fired,”
Girardin wrote, adding that the USDA is still investigating a PETA
allegation that an elephant was struck in the face with an ankus
later in 2003.