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Tina, Queenie (Boo) & Jewel-- Pawns in A Shell Game With USDA

From 1994 until 1998, PAWS investigated and followed a circus family, John (Gopher) Davenport, his wife, Gigi, and their children, as they dragged juvenile elephants across the country in poorly ventilated vehicles with an assortment of untrained handlers who abused and neglected the elephants in his King Royal Circus.

PAWS’ first encounter with the Davenports occurred in Oregon when Bela Tabek, a trainer with the King Royal Circus stabbed a three year old bull elephant, Mickey, with a bullhook during a performance.  Mickey, Lisa & Heather (2 juvenile African elephants) and Boo & Jewel (2 older Asian elephants) were performing with the circus at that time.

For the next four years, PAWS and several television programs monitored the elephants
and registered numerous complaints with the US Department of Agriculture and US Fish & Wildlife Service about the callous treatment of the animals with that circus. PAWS’ director, Pat Derby; actress, Kim Basinger, and Congressman, Sam Farr, petitioned USDA to enforce the Animal Welfare Act and provide relief to the elephants.

In August, 1997, Ben Davenport, one of Gopher’s sons, was discovered in a hotel parking lot with a hot, filthy trailer crammed full of dehydrated and exhausted llamas, two Asian elephants, Donna and Irene, and a dead baby elephant, Heather. The elephants and the llamas were confiscated by the city and taken to the Albuquerque Zoo. Kim Basinger eloquently stated on a television report by Entertainment Tonight: “Nothing with a heart should have been inside that trailer.”

After that tragic event, Davenport was prosecuted, fined and his license was permanently revoked. PAWS has a copy of the original Decision and Order which clearly prohibits Davenport and others associated with him from exhibiting animals.

USDA is responding to letters about Tina, Queenie (Boo) & Jewel saying: “Our Agency has closely followed the situation with regard to Tina, Jewel and Queenie (Boo) for some time. We understand that Mr. Davenport is currently back at his home facility in Texas, and we expect that veterinarians with elephant expertise will examine the elephants soon and develop a plan for their care.”

Although USDA acknowledges that they have “taken enforcement action against Davenport in the past”, they seem to have overlooked or forgotten that Davenport under the Federal Order is prohibited from “leasing, renting or otherwise providing animals to any person or entity or undertaking engaged as an exhibitor or dealer.”

Davenport is the most recent example of USDA’s continuing inability to properly enforce the Animal Welfare Act, and the resultant waste of literally millions of tax dollars that Congress appropriates to provide sufficient enforcement.

Operators like Davenport, Carson & Barnes, Ramos and the Swains play the shell game with elephants, hiding them in obscure places and creating a nightmare of inspections, investigations, fines which are seldom paid, and sick and dying elephants that pay the price for an archaic system which does not protect them.


  1. Don’t patronize traveling shows that exhibit animals. Educate your friends about
    the issue.

  2. Contact sponsors of the circus and explain why the use of live animals in traveling
    shows is not acceptable. Suggest humane alternatives for fundraising.

  3. Write to USDA

  4. Sign our petition to the USDA and ask others to join you. We delivered over 400,000
    petitions to Secretary of Agriculture Glickman in 1997 which stimulated the Agency
    to prosecute Davenport.

Performing Animal Welfare Society
PO Box 849, Galt, CA 95632

(209) 745-2606 office/shelter
(209) 745-1809 fax

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