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Nevada County Fair Elephant Rides Rile Animal-Rights Protesters

GRASS VALLEY (CBS13) — Elephant rides at the Nevada County Fair are attracting controversy and kids are caught in the middle.

Gary Johnson, the owner of Have Trunk Will Travel, says his animals are well cared for and their business is routinely inspected.

"They are almost like having kids that never grow up and move away, because they always need to be fed, they always need to be cleaned up after."

But protesters point to Internet videos they say show trainers beating and abusing the elephants.

"The public just doesn't see what goes on behind the scenes," said Catherin Doyle.

"It's putting them in trucks, it's chaining them at night, it's the techniques that are used to perform and let them do silly tricks," said JP Novic.

"Don't believe the animal-rights extremists," Johnson said. "Come and make up your own mind.

Have Trunk Will Travel brought two elephants with them—Becky and Rosie—and they've been giving elephant ride all across the country for the past 18 years.

Many families lined up to pet the elephants and take a $10 ride.

"They seem like they are happy, like they're feeding them, and they are all having breaks and eating and drinking, so yeah, I don't see a problem with it," said Jordana Addiego.

The exhibit is a first for the fair and organizers hope the close contact will encourage conservation.

"We're watching it right now," said fair spokesman Jim Simmons. "Today is to give people a chance to see and touch and smell these animals. It's really an extraordinary experience."

The fair runs through Sunday. The company says despite the protesters, they will consider coming back again next year.

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