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Trial Date Set for UniverSoul Circus Alleged Elephant Abuse

New York native Tyrone Taylor, elephant trainer for the UniverSoul Circus, puts his animals through their paces during a show in Oklahoma City, Friday, Oct. 24, 2003. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
New York native Tyrone Taylor, elephant trainer for the UniverSoul Circus, puts his animals through their paces during a show in Oklahoma City, Friday, Oct. 24, 2003. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Credit Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press
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The case of alleged elephant abuse by UniverSoul circus during a performance in Atlanta will go to trial in April.

The trainer and marketing director have pleaded not guilty to charges of animal abuse. 

According to an incident report, witnesses told Atlanta Police they saw one of the trainers insert a bullhook into Bo the elephant’s mouth during a performance.

Historically a training tool for elephants, a bullhook looks like a sharpened fireplace poker. Inserting it into the elephant’s mouth is where the circus may have run afoul of city code.

Video footage of UniverSoul’s Feb. 14 performance shows several unsuccessful tries to get the elephant to exit the stage. Trainer Larry Dean Carden eventually led Bo off with a bullhook and was later arrested.

If found guilty, he and marketing director Benjamin Johnson could face fines and would have difficulty obtaining licensing for future circuses.

A trial date has been set for April 24.