A 25-year tradition of elephant rides at the Orange County Fair ended Thursday when fair officials canceled their contract with the company that provided the pachyderms.
On a 7-1 vote, with board member David Ellis dissenting, the Orange Fair and Event Center board ended its contract with Have Trunk Will Travel.
Board member Nick Berardino proposed the change because the Association of Zoos and Aquariums issued new industry standards for elephant care providers last year.
The new standards say elephant care providers "shall not share the same unrestricted space with elephants, except in certain, well-defined circumstances,'' according to a staff report.
That raised issues of liability for elephant rides at the fair, although no previous problems have occurred.
People for the Ethnical Treatment of Animals, which claimed the company used electric prods and hooks on its elephants, applauded the board's decision.
Kari Johnson of Have Trunk Will Travel naturally had a different take. "Of course we were disappointed, and I think a lot of people who go to the fair this year will be disappointed too,'' Johnson said.
Last summer, when animal rights activists protested the elephant rides, fair CEO Steve Beazley defended Have Trunk Will Travel, saying the company had never had any record of incidents.
Berardino said he was inspired to propose ending the contract after he saw a television show about elephants several months ago.
"I remembered last year at the fair we had elephant rides and I remember the protesters there,'' Berardino said. "It makes no sense to put a 5-year-old on an elephant given the new information.''
Berardino acknowledged the fair has not had any problems with the company's elephants over the years. "And now we're assured there will never be a problem,'' he said.
-- City News Service