Redington Beach, Florida -- An animal rights group is criticizing the somewhat surreal scene that unfolded last weekend on a Pinellas County beach, where a full-grown elephant was seen wading in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
A spokesperson for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says a complaint has been sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine if any federal laws were broken by the elephant's handler, Bones Craig. PETA also filed a complaint with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
PETA says in their complaint with the USDA that according to the Animal Welfare Act, elephants must be handled so that there is "sufficient distance and/or barriers between the animal and the general viewing public so as to assure the safety of animals and the public."
A beachgoer captured video last weekend of the elephant wading in the waters along Redington Beach, apparently as part of a birthday party. PETA identifies the animal as Judy, a 58-year-old, 6,200 pound elephant that was left seemingly unattended.
PETA says both the elephant and beachgoers were at risk, as the pachyderm could have easily gone on the attack.
"Many captive elephants are accidents waiting to happen, and you never know which ones will attack, even if they've exhibited a docile personality for years," PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders said in a press release. "Allowing a 6,200-pound, fiercely strong animal to roam the beach unsupervised could easily have ended in tragedy."