Area company faces PETA claim
Animal-welfare group PETA has filed a complaint against Huntington-based Hoosier Camel Encounter for alleged animal abuse during circus tours.
The complaint, which the group filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, asks the agency to investigate allegations that a camel was whipped on its feet until they bled and another was punched and kicked. It also alleges abuse of a llama and mistreatment of a buffalo calf.
Reached by phone, Evan Wall, co-owner of Hoosier Camel Encounter, denied the charges, saying he was blindsided by the allegations.
“To me it’s my passion, the animals are,” he said. “Anybody is welcome to come out to our farm to see how they’re taken care of and how they’re loved.”
The complaint targets Garden Bros. Circus and its animal exhibitors, including Hoosier Camel Encounter. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals notified media of the complaint in an email Wednesday.
PETA said a whistleblower : a former Garden Bros. employee : contacted it “to report routine abuse, neglect, and public endangerment by the circus’s manager and animal exhibitors.” Other exhibitors named in the complaint are Carson & Barnes Circus employees, Franzen Bros. Circus and Hugo Liebel.
Hoosier Camel Encounter, south of Huntington at 1359 W. 200 S., provides camel and pony rides and a petting zoo for festivals, company picnics and parties, according to its Facebook page. The PETA allegations refer to incidents in 2016 and early this year.
Richard Bell, a USDA spokesman, said the agency received the complaint and will determine whether there are Animal Welfare Act non-compliances that need correcting.
A message left for a Garden Bros. Circus representative was not immediately returned Wednesday.
PETA said the whistleblower reported Wall whipped camels’ feet, sometimes drawing blood, before performances and once “beat, punched and kicked” one of them for up to 15 minutes as it howled in pain.
It also accused a Hoosier Camel Encounter handler of leading a buffalo calf by a rope attached to a ring in his septum, “inflicting pain with each tug of the rope.”
Wall said he had “no clue” where allegations of whipping and beating came from. “You don’t gain respect from an animal or trust from an animal by beating it,” he said. “For them to say I beat an animal for 15 minutes really tears at me.”
He acknowledged the buffalo’s nose ring but said the animal was led by a halter, not the ring. The USDA inspected the pet buffalo, which is still on the farm, and didn’t find a problem, Wall said.
Wall acknowledged being cited in February by the USDA for a trick in which a llama is supposed to jump over a camel. The handler began hitting the llama with a whip, and the animal fell as it attempted the jump.
The handler was “eliminated from his position immediately,” Wall said. “It’s unacceptable. These animals are family. They are not there completely for us. We work together and we work on a one-on-one scale.”
PETA is out to close Garden Bros., which contracts with Hoosier Camel Encounter to travel on circus tours, Wall added.
“Their starting point is to get circuses completely shut down,” he said. “So that’s where all that is coming from.”