RANCHO SANTA FE NEWS
MAY 17, 2013
ODD More controversy over elephant rides at SD fair FILES
by CHUCK SHEPHERD
By Bianca Kaplanek
Charming The beauty pageant each April at the Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater, Texas, requires traditional skills like interview poise, evening-gown fashion and talent, but also some ability and inclination to milk and skin rattlers. High school senior Kyndra Vaught won this year’s Miss Snake Charmer, wearing jeweled boots one night for her country-western ballad, then Kevlar boots and camouflage chaps the next as she took on dozens of rattlers in the wooden snake pit. Vaught expertly held up one serpent, offered its tail-end rattles for a baby to touch, then helped hold, measure, milk and skin a buzzing, slithery serpent. A Los Angeles Times dispatch noted that Vaught hoped to be on her way soon to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. [Los Angeles Times, 4-12-2013]
The Continuing Crisis That there are flea “circuses” is bizarre enough, but in March a cold spell in Germany wiped out an entire troupe of “performing” fleas, requiring the flea whisperer to secure replacements (because, of course, the show must go on).Trainer Robert Birk reached out to a university near MechernichKommern for 50 substitutes, which he apparently worked into the act over one weekend. (Fleas, with or without training, can pull up to 160,000 times their own weight and leap to 100 times their own height.) [The Independent (London), 3-312013] The owner of a restaurant in southern Sweden told authorities in March that the former owner had assured him that “everything had been approved,” apparently including the appliance the restaurant used for mixing salad dressings and sauces — which was a table-model cement mixer. When health officials told the owner that it certainly was not “approved,” he immediately bought another, “rust-free,” mixer. (Health authorities had come to the restaurant on a complaint that a screw had turned up in a customer’s kabob.) [The Local (Stockholm), 3-30-2013]
Modern Anglers Eliel Santos fishes the grates of New York City seven days a week, reeling in enough bounty to sustain him for the last eight years, he told the New York Post in April. The “fishing line” Santos, 38, uses is dental floss, with electrician’s tape and Blue-Touch mouse glue — equipment that “he controls with the precision of an archer,” the Post reported. His biggest catch ever was a $1,800 (pawned value) gold and diamond bracelet, but the most popular current items are iPhones, which texting-on-the-move pedestrians apparently have trouble hanging onto. [New York Post, 4-28-2013]
DEL MAR — The controversy over elephant rides at the San Diego County Fair continues after a member of the Del Mar Fairgrounds governing board of directors received what he deemed a credible threat during an April 19 lunch with fellow attorneys. Board Vice President Fred Schenk said during what he thought was going to be a casual discussion with Howard Finkelstein and Jeffrey Krinsk, both of whom he’s known for decades, Finkelstein made “some dark and disturbing comments.” After the May 7 meeting of the 22nd DAA, which oversees the fairgrounds, Schenk said he told Finkelstein the rides have been at the fair for 30 years without incident. “Howard said, ‘God forbid something should happen. Maybe this is the year,’” Schenk said. “He said you and the board and the governor will be held accountable.” Schenk said he asked Finkelstein more than once if that was a threat. “He wouldn’t deny it,” Schenk said. “That was very disturbing to me and it still is.” The fact that the comments were made four days after the Boston Marathon bombings “was very troubling,” Schenk said. “That juxtaposition didn’t sit well
with me.” Schenk said he told other fairgrounds officials about the conversation, but never mentioned Finkelstein by name. He said he and Director Lisa Barkett then called Sacramento to inform Gov. Jerry Brown’s office about the comments, again opting to let Finkelstein remain anonymous. Schenk identified Finkelstein at the May 7 meeting, after an email Finkelstein originated was sent “far and wide.” “I had a deep concern,” Schenk said. “I couldn’t take a chance.That’s why I went to the governor. I certainly wasn’t going to keep him in the dark.” Controversy about the elephant rides began in June 2011 when representatives from animal rights groups asked the 22nd DAA board of directors to cancel the fair attraction, claiming the company that provides the rides abuses its pachyderms. Matt Rossell from Animal Defenders International presented a DVD released by his organization that he alleges was videotaped at Have Trunk Will Travel in Riverside. He said it allegedly shows Have Trunk Will Travel owners and trainers using bull hooks — tools with a bronze or steel hook attached to a handle —
Fair gala includes salute and concert DEL MAR — The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation invites the community to get tickets now for its annual dinner and concert gala June 15 at the San Diego County Fairgrounds benefiting the foundation’s educational programs. In addition to hosted cocktails, dinner at the Fair’s Turf Club and other activities receive VIP seating at the Steve Miller Band concert. Individual tickets purchased by June 1, are $200 each; after June 1, $250. Ticket packages offering sponsorship recognition are also available at several levels. Obtain information and tickets at dondiegoscholarship.org or dondiegoscholarship@sdfair. com. Pre-concert festivities begin at 4:30 p.m. June 15 with cocktails and a silent auction that includes guitars autographed by past and current Fair Grandstand performers, memorabilia signed by celebrities and local sports heroes, fun getaway packages and more. There will be a tribute to Bob Spanjian and the Spanjian Family Scholarship, followed by introduction of the four 2013 Don Diego scholarship recipients. Spanjian continues to serve as secretary/treasurer and is also a past president and member of the 22nd District Agricultural Association Board, which
oversees the fair and Del Mar Fairgrounds. Don Diego Chairman Paul Ecke II, also a founding board member, said “We are establishing the Spanjian Family Scholarship in Bob’s honor. Typically, we award scholarships of $5,000 each to an outstanding, collegebound San Diego County high school senior in each of the four following categories: 1) 4-H member; 2) Future Farmers of America member; 3) employee at the fair, racetrack or fairgrounds; and 4) exhibitor at the fair. This new endowment scholarship will enable us to augment one scholarship each year, providing the most outstanding student with an added $5,000 Spanjian Family Scholarship, for a total of $10,000.” For decades, and his brother Richard developed Spandex, which DuPont named in the Spanjian family’s honor. Based on Spandex, Spanjian Sportswear became a leader in its field, producing uniforms for hundreds of sports teams. The brothers eventually moved Spanjian Sportswear to San Marcos. Bob Spanjian and his wife, Betty, raised a family in Rancho Santa Fe. The brothers sold the company in 1985. For more information, v i s i t dondiegoscholarship.org.
and electric prods to train the animals. Kari Johnson, who owns Have Trunk Will Travel with her husband, Gary, said people who are not with “legitimate animal welfare organizations” are not qualified to comment on the footage because they “would not know what they are looking at.” She said the recording was not in context. Five months later, at the November meeting with several new governor-appointed directors, including Schenk, the board voted 4-3, after more than two hours of testimony by people on both sides of the issue, to allow the rides to continue until 2014. That’s when the Association of Zoos and Aquariums will require facilities to limit training to protected contact rather than free contact if they want to retain the association’s accreditation. In free contact, elephants and handlers interact directly, while in protected contact there is a barrier between the two. The issue was resurrected during the March 2013 meeting when the board was approving contracts for this year’s fair. Directors decided unanimously to stand by their 2011 decision. When Finkelstein noted to Schenk that Los Angeles and Orange counties both
canceled the rides during their fairs, Schenk said Del Mar is different because it also hosts thoroughbred races. “People have complained about that,” he said. “There are people who are advocating against horse racing. I didn’t want to create the first step along the way when in two years we’re probably not going to have the rides. They’ll just go away. There won’t be a vote because we’ll be complying with the AZA.” Finkelstein said Schenk’s description of his comments isn’t entirely accurate. “Placing a child on the back of a 2-ton animal is obviously a dangerous situation,” he said. “It shouldn’t be allowed, including this year, because God forbid if something should happen. “It would be horrible this year or any year and the community would be held accountable for allowing such an arcane and dangerous activity,” Finkelstein said. “I said, ‘I’m not threatening you. That’s ridiculous.’ If he mistook my concern for putting kids on the back of a potentially dangerous animal, I apologize.” Schenk said he doesn’t believe Finkelstein would do anything criminal but he wasn’t sure about others. Finkelstein said Schenk is trying to “cover up the big-
ger picture of what he described as abuse with the jockeys and horses during the races.” As a result of the comments between the two men, two 22nd DAA security guards were posted at the May 7 meeting and the fairgrounds plans to add extra security and surveillance around the elephant rides during this year’s fair, June 8-July 4. Finkelstein said it wouldn’t be necessary. “I’m not that stupid,” he said. “I have no knowledge of anyone planning to cause damage to anyone or anything at the county fair, nor do I have any intention of doing something that stupid or that horrible.” At press time, Finkelstein’s law partner, Krinsk, did not return a phone call seeking his comments on what transpired at the lunch. Finkelstein is chairman of The Foundation for Animal Care and Education, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to enhance and preserve the quality of life of animals by providing access to necessary medical care and education. “This not as nefarious as it’s been made out to be,” he said of the lunch between the three men. “But I’m still shocked Fred is supporting this.”
The edition of The Rancho Santa Fe News for the week of May 17, 2013.