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Saturday, February 26, 2011

State Investigating Commissioner's Elephant Ride
Elephant Rides Are Illegal In Georgia

By Katie Brace, CBS Atlanta Reporter
February 25, 2011
ATLANTA -- The Department of Natural Resources is investigating Clayton County Commissioner Eldrin Bell's ride on an elephant.
In Georgia, riding an elephant is illegal. The DNR is investigating Universoul Circus, as well as the elephant's owner.
Todd Holbrook, of the DNR, explained that elephants are legally classed as inherently dangerous animals. A condition of having a wild animal permit is not allowing people to ride the animal.
Universoul Circus is based in Atlanta.
CBS Atlanta asked a spokesman if steps should be in place to know if someone can ride an elephant in Georgia?
Hank Ernest, spokesperson for Universoul Circus, said, "I think you're right, and that's why we're going to look at what happened and why it happened."
Ernest said the circus is cooperating with the DNR, and the company started its own internal investigation.
CBS Atlanta asked how Bell was allowed to ride the elephant.
Ernest said, "Eldrin Bell is an esteemed member of our community, and we wanted to show him a good time at the circus, but what we did is something we're taking a look at right now.
Ernest said the commissioner was safe.
"In other states, it is perfectly fine and natural to ride the elephant around the ring," said Ernest.
According to Ernest, Bell was serving as honorary ringmaster, and in other states, that honor usually comes with an entrance on an elephant.
He went on to say Bell was the first person to ride an elephant at Universoul Circus in Georgia, and he will be the last.
Holbrook said it is early in the DNR investigation. Possible penalties include a fine or revoking the Georgia permit regarding elephants, and the possible penalties also depend on the circus and elephant owner's history

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