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Animal activists protest elephant rides at San Diego County Fair

Two high-profile animal-rights groups are asking the governing board of the San Diego County Fair to cut ties with a company that brings elephants to the fair for children to ride.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Animal Defenders International want the fair to stop hiring Have Trunk Will Travel, which has brought elephants to the annual fair in Del Mar for 27 years.

The groups claim Have Trunk Will Travel of Perris regularly abuses its animals, an accusation the company denies.

The fair -- formerly known as the Del Mar Fair -- "has no business being complicit in cruelty to animals or encouraging unsuspecting members of the public to patronize an abusive enterprise," said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman.

Have Trunk Will Travel also has provided elephant rides at the Orange County and Los Angeles County fairs, and the Santa Ana Zoo.

The issue of whether to hire it for the 2012 fair is to be discussed at Tuesday's meeting in Del Mar of the 22nd District Agricultural Assn. board of directors, whose members are gubernatorial appointees.

"We take these allegations very seriously," said fair spokeswoman Linda Zweig. "We've worked very closely with Have Trunk Will Travel. They have a stellar record in treating their animals."


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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Asian elephants Becky and Trixie arrive at Orange County Fair last summer. Credit: Allen Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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