Lucy the Elephant CEO Denies Offer from PETA | NBC 10 Philadelphia

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Lucy the Elephant CEO Denies Offer from PETA

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    Lucy the Elephant, a six-story oddity that was built by a real estate developer in 1881 in the hopes that it somehow would attract property buyers to this Atlantic City suburb, stands near the beach in Margate, N.J., July 10, 2001. Filling most of a block of property on the beachfront, Lucy gets the ocean view. Soon others will, too: A Web camera is being set up to provide visitors to Lucy's Web site a 24-hour vista of the sea through Lucy's eyes. Another camera will be trained on the 65-foot-high elephant, to give fans a glimpse of the pachyderm anytime they want.

    Here's one offer that Lucy, the Jersey shore's giant elephant, will forget.

    The folks who care for the six-story wood and tin tourist attraction just outside Atlantic City have rejected an offer from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to fund part of Lucy's restoration in return for using the attraction for anti-circus messaging.

    PETA wanted to decorate Lucy "in a way that would educate visitors about the grim lives facing elephants in circuses." That would have included shackling one of her feet and affixing a teardrop below one eye.

    But Richard Helfant, CEO of Lucy's board of trustees, said that would risk scaring or upsetting children who visit.

    "Lucy is a happy place," he said. "We must always ensure that children who visit Lucy have a happy experience and leave with smiles on their faces. Anything that could sadden a child is not acceptable here at Lucy."

    Helfant said Lucy is a National Historic Landmark whose mission is historic preservation, something he is reluctant to jeopardize.

    He said PETA offered $2,000 toward the $58,000 cost of renovations.

    "While every donation is important to an almost completely self-funded nonprofit organization, this one comes with too many conditions," he said.

    The 134-year-old tourist attraction near the beach in Margate needs to have some crumbling wood replaced, along with a new coat of paint from head to multicolored toenails. Lucy's board is selling T-shirts to raise money for the work.

    The 90-ton elephant was built in 1881 by a land speculator trying to lure people to what was then known as South Atlantic City. Since then, it has functioned as a restaurant, a tavern, someone's house, and recently, a tourist attraction.

    Lucy's board agreed that mistreatment of animals "is abhorrent." The board to decided to donate a portion of any funds collected above and beyond the cost of the renovation work to elephant sanctuaries in Florida and Tennessee.

    PETA President Ingrid Newkirk released a response to the rejection:

    PETA's offer would have gone a little way toward helping fund much-needed renovations of this historic tourist attraction while educating visitors about the plight of Lucy's sisters in circuses, where elephants are chained and beaten into performing. PETA's Ella the Elephant statue in Washington, D.C., is hugely popular with passersby, including children, who see Ella's tearful face and understand that circuses like Ringling Bros. are no fun for animals.