- Associated Press - Monday, October 12, 2015

MARGATE, N.J. (AP) - 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.

Wayne Parry can be reached at https://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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