A n appearance of an elephant at a northern Michigan festival has drawn concerns from people throughout the online community.
7&4 News received multiple calls, emails, and Facebook posts asking us to investigate claims of neglect.
O ver the last two weeks , animal rights activists , many from outside northern Michigan, have posted various claims about the elephant Nosey and its owner Hugo "Tommy" Liebel.
"Nosey is an abused meal ticket for her inconsiderate negligent owner," Animal activist Kate Bates posted.
"N osey has been abused for decades , even standing is painful physically for her," Animal activist Laura Hasslin said. "She is always chained, except when forced to perform."
7&4 News decided to look into these allegations and went to the Wolverine Lumberjack Festival to talk with organizers.
" We are responsible as the Lumberjack Festival to not let any animals be mistreated, that is on our property and in our possession," Festival Chairman Ed Rau said.
F estival leaders led us right to the elephant's tent and introduced us to Nosey and her owner of 30 years Hugo "Tommy" Liebel.
" We love our animals ," Liebel said. " I live here , this is my camping trailer we watch her all day long I get up in the morning and I clean and take care of my family and take care of my animals ."
T he elephant was in an enclosed area resting before an upcoming long weekend of performing. A nd to the naked eye , there were no obvious signs of neglect.
" I've witnessed them feeding them, bathing them the elephant has been fed bathed I myself have seem nothing wrong with what's going on ," Rau explained.
T he concerns on Facebook stemmed from dozens of federal complaints filed against Liebel over the last decade.
" They come out and investigate they don't find nothing ," Liebel said. " It's just complaints , I haven't been convicted of anything. "
B ut according to the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, liebel did pay a fine to the USDA in March of this year for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
L i e bel has to have Nosey checked routinely by a veterinarian, which he did do here in Michigan. 7&4 News saw the documentation and talked with the veterinarian who said the animal was in good health and cleared for performance.
" Any of those people who don't believe in riding an elephant please don't come over here and spend money to do that ," Liebel said.
7&4 News made numerous phone calls to the USDA to learn more about Liebel and the complaints filed against him, but they have not returned our calls.
O rganizers from the Wolverine Lumberjack Festival tell 7&4 News that all events including elephant rides will continue as scheduled.