Lawrence County officials are now in possession of three miniature horses and an African elephant after District Judge Angela Terry ordered Thursday night that they be seized from a traveling circus until authorities can investigate allegations that the animals are neglected.
The small family circus stopped on Alabama 157 near Lawrence County Recycling to repair their vehicle. The trailer it towed carried three miniature horses and Nosey, a 35-year-old female African elephant that has become the center of an animal welfare campaign.
Lawrence County animal control Kimberly Carpenter told the court she had received multiple calls from people concerned that the animals were sick, neglected, and possibly living in their own feces.
Two animal experts were called as witness by the state to evaluate photos of Nosey and give their opinions on her condition. Both an animal behaviorist from Texas and a zoological veterinarian from Colorado said the pictures suggest the elephant is unhealthy and possibly stressed. The veterinarian said he has been asked to evaluate the health of Nosey three other times.
The husband and wife circus owners claim the animal is part of their family and that any allegations of abuse or neglect are false. The family says their entire livelihood is based on the animals.
Their attorney, Allen Stoner, believes it is a battle of ideologies.
“Let's face it, some people are fundamentally opposed to animals to bring in captivity,” Stoner said. “Their long terms goal is to have the animal put into a sanctuary.”
Representing the state, attorney Callie Waldrep said the judge's ruling will buy enough time to get the animals medically evaluated.
“My prime concern is the welfare of the elephant,” said attorney Callie Waldrep. “The outcome will give us time to see what kind of shape the animal is in.”
The full version of this story will be in next week's issue.