Friday, August 21, 2009

....Leggett Man Allowed to keep 1 elephant....

Updated: Friday, 21 Aug 2009, 8:55 AM CDT
Published : Friday, 21 Aug 2009, 8:55 AM CDT

LEGGETT, Texas - A Texas man accused of mistreating his elephants can keep one of the animals after agreeing to give up two and pay a federal fine.

Willie Davenport, 24, of Leggett, who comes from a family involved in circuses, has denied mistreating the elephants named Boo, Jewel and Tina.

But on Thursday, Davenport gave up 40-year-old Jewel and 39-year-old Tina, both Asian elephants, to end his fight with regulators. He will keep Boo, who has been with his family since the 1960s.

Davenport also agreed to pay a $3,000 fine in exchange for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropping complaints against him for failing to have proper purchasing permits for Jewel and Tina. Davenport said he bought the animals for $150,000 from a retiring elephant trainer in Florida in 2006.

Both elephants were deemed to be dangerously underweight, and U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors had filed documents to seize Jewel because of chronic weight loss and alleged inadequate veterinary care.

USDA spokesman Dave Sacks said Jewel and Tina would be taken to a zoo.

"I am sad. This is not just my loss, but East Texas is losing their elephants. They have touched a lot of people," Davenport said. "This is their home."

An animal rescue group, In Defense of Animals, had complained to federal authorities about Davenport and sought to have all three elephants removed from his barn.

Leggett is a town of about 500, located 75 miles northeast of Houston.