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Owner guilty of elephant cruelty
A circus owner has been found guilty of three counts of causing unnecessary suffering to Anne the Asian elephant.
Bobby Roberts was also convicted of failing to prevent an employee from repeatedly beating the animal, which was filmed chained to the ground and being hit with a pitchfork.
Roberts, 69, who ran Super Circus in Polebrook, Cambridgeshire, also failed to ensure the elephant's needs were met, by not giving her medication for her arthritis. He was given a three-year conditional discharge at Northampton Crown Court but was not ordered to pay costs and was not banned from owning animals. His wife Moira, 75, was cleared of all three charges by District Judge David Chinnery following a five-day trial.
Sentencing, Mr Chinnery said he recognised that Bobby had not directly inflicted the suffering, adding that he had cared for animals "for the greater part of your 70 years without criticism from any quarter".
He added: "As you know only too well there are vast swathes of the public who have publicly voiced their views on what should happen to you. No cruelty was administered by your own hand. The chaining I regard as serious but the real cruelty it seems to me was inflicted by your groom, a man whom you had entrusted with the care of Anne, behind your back and without your knowledge."
He added that Bobby had "suffered enough punishment over the last 18 months" and said given his "exemplary" past record was not imposing a ban on owning or caring for animals.
The court was shown footage filmed secretly by animal welfare group Animal Defenders International (ADI) of the elephant being kicked and struck with a pitchfork several times by the groom at the circus's winter quarters last year. The footage, filmed between January 21 and February 15 2011, also showed Anne constantly chained to the ground.
Roberts claimed he was unaware that Anne had been constantly chained and that the groom, who is believed to have returned home to Romania, had not followed his instructions. He admitted that the elephant would be chained up at times but said his instructions were that she be let loose behind an electric fence in a cordoned-off area.
The RSPCA's Jody Gordon said: "Anyone looking at this shocking footage can see how this poor elephant suffered, and this clearly spells out how completely unacceptable this is. It is only a pity those physically beating Anne in the film footage could not be prosecuted also."
Jan Creamer, chief executive of ADI, criticised the sentence. She said: "Despite the considerable suffering caused to Anne the elephant, the sentencing meted out to Mr Roberts is derisory and provides no faith that the Animal Welfare Act can protect animals in circuses."