[UPDATED with TV Star's Plea to End Santa Ana Zoo Rides:] OC Fair Begins and So Does Elephant Protest

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UPDATE, JULY 19, 7:29 A.M.: Constance Marie played Angie Lopez on ABC's George Lopez sitcom, and she's now Regina Vasquez on ABC Family's Switched at Birth.

She's using her celebrity to issue this plea to Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido: Fire Have Trunk Will Travel as the elephant ride contractor at the city-owned Santa Ana Zoo.

What follows is the letter Marie sent Pulido via People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which is also among the groups trying to stop Have Trunk Will Travel's elephant rides at the current Orange County Fair:

My friends at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have just shown me the shocking video footage recently released by Animal Defenders International showing trainers from Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT) repeatedly beating elephants. Every swing of the trainers' bullhooks and jab with the electric prods horrified me, and seeing a baby elephant scream in pain each time someone jabbed a sharp bullhook into his mouth was simply heartbreaking. I'm sure that compassionate people everywhere are having the same reaction as they realize what these intelligent, sensitive animals endure as workers intimidate them into giving rides or performing silly tricks. Yet the city of Santa Ana has yet to change its plans to allow HTWT to bring the elephants back next season. I urge to you do the right thing and stop the cruel elephant rides from returning to the Santa Ana Zoo in the fall.

I can't imagine any justification for allowing these rides to continue, particularly after the release of this video. The elephant rides hurt Santa Ana's reputation and send a terrible message to the children who are the main target of the rides. I have no doubt that as a parent yourself, you know firsthand how sensitive kids are to the plight of animals, and if they knew how these magnificent animals were beaten to force them into submission, their hearts would break.

I hope to hear that you will immediately make the compassionate decision to stop the rides at the zoo once and for all.

ORIGINAL POST, JULY 15, 11 A.M.: The Orange County Fair begins in Costa Mesa today and so do the protests against the fair's elephant rides.

More specifically, animal activists have a problem with the Perris contractor who provides the elephants, Have Trunk Will Travel, which has also drawn heat for its similar Santa Ana Zoo ride and alleged mistreatment of the elephant star of recent movie Water for Elephants.

A familiar site at the Orange County Fair. Is it abuse?
Members of Animal Defenders International (ADI), Animal Protection, Rescue League (APRL), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and other advocates plan to gather at the fairgrounds entrance at 6:30 this evening to peacefully protest and educate fair-goers about the alleged elephant abuse.

It was ADI that recently released an undercover video that features 42-year-old Asian elephant Tai and other Water for Elephants elephants being electric shocked with a stun gun and jabbed and hit will bull hooks during their training in 2005 at Have Trunk Will Travel's Perris ranch.

Based on that video and other evidence, members of ADI and other animal activists filed a federal lawsuit in Los Angeles last month against Have Trunk Will Travel's owners and elephant trainer, who have repeatedly denied ever inflicting any abuse on their elephants.

Animal activists recently showed the video to the president of a fair in San Diego. He agreed to look into the abuse allegations, but the Have Trunk Will Travel elephant ride continued there, according to activists.

They received a similar reception from Orange County Fair CEO Steve Beazley, according to a City News Service report. Beazley apparently met with ADI reps and came away saying that while he respects the organization's opinion about not wanting animals kept in captivity, the fair has not had a problem with Have Trunk Will Travel in the 27 years the company has run the fair ride.

"To break that relationship would take more than what the elephant protesters are running out there,'' Beazley is reported have said, before adding there's no record of Have Trunk Will Travel being investigated by any agency regarding its training.

Nonetheless, Change.org animals blogger Laura Goldman, who recently posted petitions online aimed at ending the elephant ride at Santa Ana Zoo, tells the Weekly she has more than 6,000 signatures on a Change.org petition that aims to stop the rides at the San Diego and Orange County fairs.

Here is the controversial video posted by ADI:

Movie star electric shocked from Animal Defenders on Vimeo.

Here's shaky video of a family enjoying the OC Fair ride:

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