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Animal Abuse Charged in Circus Incident

September 19, 1994

LEBANON, Ore. (AP) _ A circus trainer accused of bloodying an obstinate young elephant with a sharpened metal hook during a performance was arrested on an animal abuse complaint.

Police arrested Bela Tabak, 50, on Sunday on a misdemeanor animal abuse accusation after police and game officials investigated the incident. He was released on $500 bail, said Nancy Bitterman, Lebanon police dispatcher.

Tabak said he had to discipline the 15-month-old Asian elephant named Mickey to keep it from stampeding and endangering the audience at Saturday’s show. His efforts were videotaped by people in the audience and broadcast on some television stations.

″What is best, to restrain the elephant or to let him run over the many children and babies who were around?″ said Tabak. ″If you don’t correct them right away, these animals can become killers.″

Lebanon resident Cathy Beemer, 41, shot the videotape.

″All the baby elephant did was turn around, and that guy started gouging him in the neck with this wooden tool that had an awful metal hook on the end,″ Ms. Beemer said. ″We definitely saw blood gushing out the front of his leg, where a puncture wound was.″

Sharon Harmon, director of the Oregon Humane Society, said the accusations against Tabak centered on use of an implement called an ankus. She said it should not have been sharpened because it is not supposed to be used to penetrate the skin.

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