The Georgia Department of Natural Resources said the Universoul Circus of Atlanta and the owner of the elephant, whose name was not released, are being investigated after Clayton County Commissioner Eldrin Bell recently rode the animal while serving as honorary ringmaster, WGCL-TV, Atlanta, reported Monday.
DNR representative Todd Holbrook said state law classifies elephants as inherently dangerous animals and a condition of the wild animal permit held by the circus stipulates humans may not ride the elephant.
Hank Ernest, spokesperson for Universoul Circus, said honorary ringmasters traditionally ride into the circus on an elephant in other states but Bell was the first to ride the animal in Georgia. He said the circus is also investigating the incident and no one will ride the animal in Georgia in the future.
"Eldrin Bell is an esteemed member of our community, and we wanted to show him a good time at the circus, but what we did is something we're taking a look at right now," Ernest said.
Holbrook said possible penalties include a fine and revoking the circus' wild animal permit.