Nosey the elephant’s owners arrested on animal cruelty charges

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MOULTON, Ala. -- The Lawrence County Sheriff's Office has confirmed that the owners of Nosey the elephant, Hugo Liebel and his wife, were arrested Saturday morning on animal cruelty charges. They were both released on a $1,000 bond.

PETA Foundation Director of Animal Law Jared Goodman issued the following statement regarding their arrest.

"Cruelty charges are well-deserved for the notorious animal abusers who left Nosey tightly chained, confined in her own waste, and without proper shelter—the very neglect that she's endured in their custody for years, before she was finally confiscated last month by Alabama officials. Local authorities were correct to stand up to cruelty and seize Nosey, whose fate is still to be determined by the court. PETA will continue to fight for her until she's permanently retired to a spacious sanctuary home."

On Friday, Testimony went well into regarding the future of Nosey the elephant. Nosey was seized by animal control officers near Moulton earlier this year after a vehicle pulling the elephant's trailer broke down.

There have been years of complaints about Nosey and the manner in which she is treated. Many people watching the case are curious to see if Nosey will be returned to her owner.

Friday saw a full day and evening of testimony regarding the care and condition of the animal.

Nosey was seized on November 9th after spending several days standing in a small trailer on the side of the road near Moulton. She was sent to The Elephant Sanctuary of Tennessee pending the outcome of legal efforts to take her from her owner, Hugo Liebel, of Florida. Liebel has owned the elephant for some 34 years.

Animal rights activists maintain the elephant has a long history of abuse and neglect, and has otherwise led a very hard life.

“My concerns are that since 1994, if you look at the exhibits that were entered, the USDA has cited Liebel for the same violations, which are what we would call direct violations which directly affect her health and well being, and also the safety of the public,” according to Denise Gaug of the group Save Nosey Now. She added, “Insufficient barriers to contain an elephant puts the public at risk. Exposure to TB puts the public at risk, not to mention the inhumane conditions in which she's been kept for over 30 years." Gaug says Nosey has become the poster child for animal rights efforts regarding circus animals and other exotic animals hired out for show and display.

Liebel’s attorney, Billy Underwood, of Tuscumbia, says Lawrence County acted improperly when they seized the animal and refused to return her to her rightful owner. He said he is not overly optimistic of a favorable ruling in Lawrence County District Court. “I think we may lose it in District Court, but it's been a good pre-game trial. Coach Saban would be proud of the team's effort and we'll go through the process and win it in front of 12 jurors,” Underwood told reporters Friday night.

He also put Lawrence County on notice saying Nosey's care and feeding right now at the sanctuary is costing about $900 a day. He estimates the final bill could exceed several hundred thousand dollars before the case is settled. He cautioned the county may have to pick up the tab for that and hinted he may also file a lawsuit against the county for what he called the wrongful seizure of the animal.

Liebel was the last to testify and told the court if he gets his elephant back, he'll take it home and love on it, but admitted he may take it back on the road as a means of making a living.