Trainer denies animal rights group’s claim Renaissance Festival elephant mistreated

An international animal welfare organization has accused a handler of having mistreated an elephant that gives children rides at the Colorado Renaissance Festival, which wraps up this weekend.

Matt Rossell of Animal Defenders International said the organization investigated Mike Swain, who worked for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 2004.

Rossell says a video shows him “viciously attacking an elephant named Krissy using a bull hook, golf club and stun gun.”

Mike Swain now works for his father, Bill Swain, the operator of the exotic animal attraction Trunks and Humps Inc., which provides the elephants at the Colorado Renaissance Festival, including Krissy.

Mike Swain could not be reached for comment, but his father denied that his son and Krissy are the handler and elephant in the video.

Claims of animal abuse have caused several fairs, including the Kansas City Renaissance Festival and the Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County Fairs to quit offering elephant rides.

Colorado Renaissance Festival officials could not be reached Friday for comment.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has no public record of inspection violations for Trunks and Humps. The USDA only keeps public records of serious and unresolved “non-compliance” violations under the Animal Welfare Act.

Minor, unresolved noncompliance violations or violations that were resolved by a date set by the inspector do not have to be kept in public record.

Documents provided by Animal Defenders International show that Trunks and Humps was cited for the mishandling of animals in 2010 and again in 2011. The citations were related to public safety, not animal abuse.

Bill Swain said his business has only been cited once, for inadequate fencing, which he said he resolved.

According to Swain, Animal Defenders International followed him and his elephants for a year, hiding cameras in trees close to where his elephants lived and hired a private detective to investigate his practices. Eventually, he…

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