The California State Director at the Humane Society of the United States released a statement Thursday criticizing recall election candidate John Cox for his use of a 1,000-pound bear on the campaign trail.
Mr. Cox, a republican running for governor in the recall election, has been calling himself the “beast” to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “beauty.” Further impressing the schtick, he includes the Hollywood-trained bear named Tag in everything from photoshoots to slogans.
California State Director Sabrina Ashjian, a Ventura resident, sent the following statement to members of the media:
“By parading around with a captive bear, candidate John Cox demonstrates that he is profoundly out of touch with Californians and their love for all things wild. Citizens are rightfully outraged and disgusted by a dangerous captive brown bear, weighing hundreds of pounds, being carted around in a bus as a mere campaign prop. Mr. Cox is putting the public and Tag in severe danger. He must remove Tag from the campaign trail and to ask his owner to retire Tag from show business. Tag needs to go to a legitimate sanctuary where he can spend his remaining days in a natural, safe and healthy environment that allows him to engage in normal bear behaviors such as foraging, digging, climbing and swimming.”
She told the News-Press she has been “flooded with complaints” about the bear.
Mr. Cox told the News-Press Thursday that the bear is “very well treated.” Tag starred in commercials and even made it to the Super Bowl before getting into politics. Mr. Cox also clarified that he loves animals and has dogs himself.
Mr. Cox believes that organizations are using his furry companion as “an opportunity to get attention” and doesn’t think it’ll have a negative effect on his campaign.
“It’s certainly people who feel strongly about animal rights, but we have a lot of problems in the state that need to be addressed,” he said. “There’s a whole lot of other issues that we should focus on instead of a bear that is really well treated.”
Part of his platform is that he doesn’t bend to special interests organizations.
“The public increasingly recognizes that bears and other wild animals belong in forests and have an innate need to express natural behaviors,” Ms. Asijian said. “Caged in transport trailers and used for entertainment, Tag and other animals living in such cruel conditions, can likely do little besides lie down. It is common for bears in these situations to develop neurotic behaviors.”
It is legal in California for USDA-licensed exhibitors to transport and show large animals at fairs, circuses and the like.
Tag is one of hundreds of animal actors owned by Steve Martin’s Working Wildlife. He was born in captivity and sent to Working Wildlife as a cub.
Tag has visited six cities in three days on Mr. Cox’s “Meet the Beast” tour. Tag, an obviously well-trained animal, sits sequestered by a short wire fence behind the podium and snacks on treats from his trainer.
Ms. Ashjian calls it a public safety risk, referencing a 2008 incident where a bear (who was featured in “Semi-Pro”) attacked and killed one of three trainers.
In response to public safety concerns, Mr. Cox said, “The bear is very docile. It’s not very dangerous at all. Trust me, I kissed it.”
Working Wildlife did not respond to the News-Press’ request for comment.