A complaint has been filed against California Gubernatorial candidate John Cox to stop him from holding campaign events with a 1,000-pound bear named Tag, which the suit says is illegal.
The complaint, filed in San Diego County Superior Court of California by animal rights group the Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL), claims Cox and his team are violating animal cruelty and animal nuisance laws by using Tag the Bear as a prop during his campaign rallies.
Particularly in question throughout the lawsuit is a campaign event held in San Diego on May 11 on Shelter Island. According to the lawsuit, Cox also violated San Diego municipal code by bringing the Kodiak bear into the city.
The San Diego County Humane Society is also investigating Cox's campaign for potential violation of San Diego municipal code 44.03.05, which makes it illegal for anyone to bring wild animals like lions, tigers, bears, monkeys, wolves and more into the city. A violation could result in a misdemeanor charge.
The APRL says they are not seeking anything other than an injunction.
"APRL seeks public injunctive relief only, enjoining the use of a captive bear in violation
of local, state, and federal laws, and seeks no damages or greater or different relief for itself than for the general public by this action," the complaint read.
In a statement to NBC 7, the Cox campaign called the lawsuit a distraction.
“The establishment is running scared from the bear because they don’t like that we’re going to make the big beastly changes California needs. Gavin Newsom and his insider friends want to distract from the important issues like slashing taxes, fixing the homelessness epidemic, and reducing the cost of living, so families and businesses don’t have to flee the state," the statement read.
Tag, who has appeared on TV shows, comes from Working Wildlife in Frazier Park, a business that rents out wild animals for entertainment purposes. The bear first appeared with Cox at his campaign launch in Sacramento, and was quickly met with outrage from animal rights groups and at least one politician.
Cox is promoting his run for governor if a recall election against current Gov. Gavin Newsom is successful.
Cox campaign is centered around the theme a "beauty and the beast" theme, with Newsom being the beautiful out-of-touch politician and Cox being the "beast" who can make change in California. Tag has become a quasi-campaign mascot.
Newsom and Cox ran against each other once before, in 2018, and Newsom beat out Cox by nearly 3 million votes.