Elephant Ride Shanty Town Inhabited By Discredited Liebling Circus

by | Nov 6, 2017 | Business, City News, Community, County News, Cullman, Cullman City, Cullman Tonight, Get Smart, People, Public Safety

image by Mahaley Yates

The small elephant and miniature horse ride shanty town that popped up Friday in the City of Cullman is linked to the long-discredited Liebling Circus.

At least one of their vehicles has Liebling signage; their elephant is positively identified as ‘Nosey The Elephant‘ (a national poster animal for circus animal abuse), and the address used to conduct business in Cullman tie back to a Florida P.O. Box associated with the Liebling Circus.

Personnel from this troupe as well as all animal participants resided in their vehicles and trailers in the parking lot and along 5th Street SW from Friday evening onward.

For background, see our original story:
http://cullmantoday.com/2017/11/06/protests-alleged-animal-rights-violations-on-main-avenue-sw-today/

The Liebel Family Circus regularly shifts their publicly billed name to avoid being recognized. Their frequent use of aliases to avoid detection appear to include:

• The American Circus (here in Cullman)
• Florida State Family Circus
Great American Family Circus
• Liebling Bros. Circus
• Liebling Bros. Family Circus
• Liebel Family Circus

This operation is run by Hugo Tomi Liebel (aka Tommy Liebel, Hugh Blum, or Hugo Bloom).

Liebel and his ever-shifting business practice charade have been in hot water with animal rights groups for allegedly violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) for years.

As recently as June of this year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission denied Liebel’s application for a license to Possess Class I and II Wildlife for Exhibitions or Public Sales.

The denial was based upon Liebel withholding ‘itinerary information’ from them and submitting ‘materially false information to our office.’

In simple English, Liebel is accused of lying and committing fraud in his dealings with the State of Florida.

You can see the documentation for yourself here: http://cullmantoday.com/permit-denial-letter/

It is telling that these animal exhibition promoters attempted to ply their trade in Cullman while being banned from similar activity in Florida.

According to a fact sheet provided by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA):

a. Liebel his has repeatedly failed to meet minimal federal standards for the care of animals used in exhibition as established in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) since at least 1993.

b. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited Liebel numerous times for failure to give veterinary care to an African elephant named Nosey (aka Tiny or Peanut).

c. They were also busted for failure to provide animals in their care with wholesome and uncontaminated food, shelter from the elements, and adequate space and structurally sound enclosures.

d. The USDA has also cited Liebel for allowing animal enclosures to become filthy, mishandling animals, and withholding food for training purposes.

e. The USDA has also fined Liebel for violations of the AWA. Liebel was assessed a civil penalty of $7,500 to settle formal charges brought against it by the USDA for repeated violations of the AWA, including failing to address concerns regarding Nosey’s visibly poor skin condition for more than four years.

f. Also, Liebel was forced to cancel engagements in two cities because it failed to comply with city codes that require a criminal background check on all circus employees. Contact PETA for documentation.

One of the groups who actively protested this impromptu animal ride acts that occurred over the weekend in the City of Cullman came forward.

This group descended upon the Rent-A-Center shopping center parking lot across from the US Post Office around 4 pm Sunday to publicly protest.

While this group absolves ANY involvement with PETA (whom they call ‘a shady corporation that absolutely does not protect animals’), here is their specific list of grievances and complaints against this particular elephant and miniature horse exhibition:

A. The conditions they keep Nosey in. Hugo Liebel has been cited almost 200 times by the USDA for neglect and abuse, and Nosey has been consistently denied proper veterinary care. He is not even permitted to have her as he was denied his captive wildlife permit for Florida in June of this year.

B. She needs to be retired to a sanctuary.

This citizen group is comprised of – Cayla Grace Murphy, Zachary Rice, and Matthew Burns. These area resident are not associated with any organization; they are just tired of the cruelty of the animal entertainment business.

image by Mahaley Yates

The elephant and equine participants in this animal ride sideshow came from the disbanded remnants of this weekend’s ill-fated ‘The American Circus’. That event (originally scheduled for performances at the Cullman Civic Center) was abruptly canceled Friday for logistic reasons.

Carl Freeman, the Circus promoter, moved his animal troupe, staff, and transportation equipment to the Rent-A-Center parking lot where they have remained throughout the weekend.

We learned late Sunday that Freeman lived most of the last week as a vagrant behind the Cullman Civic Center as he attempted to promote his ‘circus’ with posters and free children’s tickets.

Complaints were received by the Mayor’s Office in regards to possible violations of City vagrancy and animal control ordinances associated with these

Multiple squad cars from Cullman Police Department (CPD) were at the location early Sunday afternoon. All the while, small waves of residents turned out to monetarily supporting the animal rides with children blissfully onboard the elephant and miniature horses.

We spoke with the Mayor’s Office Sunday afternoon for guidance on this situation. The Circus remnants have informed CPD of their intentions to vacate the premises by 6 pm this evening.

The local animal rights group confirmed that these circus remnant shanty town dwellers with accompanying animal displays ‘were still on the lot when we passed by later in the evening (after 6 pm).’

Some Cullman residents have participated in this petition drive to ‘Save Nosey The Elephant‘:
https://www.thepetitionsite.com/765/646/549/retire-nosey-the-elephant-from-the-circus-industry/

We observed these individuals, their animals and apparatus still on the premises well past the 6 pm agreed to exit time.

Cullman residents were outspoken with wildly differing points of view Sunday.

Kayla Wright Pennington of Cullman is unsure whether or not this elephant is being abused. She did state:

“A few weeks ago we went to the pumpkin patch, and these exact people with the same elephant was there.

My grandmother was taking pictures of the elephant. And that man on the stand called her out in front of EVERYONE saying she was gross and must be into child pornography because she was taking pictures, accusing her of taking pictures of other people’s kids. He was incredibly rude.”

As of noon Monday, the circus remnant shanty town, and its dubious residents had dispersed. They were no longer visible in the Rent-A-Center parking lot or nearby. It seems likely the cobbled together enough funds to exist another week while en route to the next unsuspecting rural town or city.

The lead female member of the Liebling group in Cullman told us Sunday:

“This life ain’t easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it.”

We do not doubt that she is accurate in that portrayal of her lifestyle and career path.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest animal rights organization in the world, with more than 6.5 million members and supporters.

Main Avenue SW in the City of cullman

Elephant Ride Shanty Town Inhabited By Discredited Liebling Circus

Timothy Collins

Originally from Asheville, NC, Timothy brings an insightful holistic perspective as well as a mountain man tenacity to his various roles at Cullman Today. You can reach him at cullmantoday@gmail.com and/or (256) 615-8260.