HOPE — Federal workplace safety regulators will not cite the owners of a Maine elephant sanctuary where a caretaker died.

In a March 4 letter to Hope Elephants, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends that workers not be in the same unrestricted space as elephants except in rare circumstances. The letter was provided to The Associated Press on Friday.

Hope Elephants refuge founder James Laurita died in an enclosure in September when one of the elephants apparently stepped on him. The death was ruled accidental.

OSHA issued a “hazard alert” after Laurita’s death. An OSHA spokesman says the alert is a cautionary warning for all businesses that work with large animals.

Laurita’s brother, co-founder Tom Laurita, said the now-closed refuge’s future is uncertain. Tom Laurita said he has not seen OSHA’s recommendation, but he was aware that the agency was working on it. He declined to comment on the recommendation or the hazard alert.

Two elephants that lived at the refuge were returned to their former home in Oklahoma after James Laurita’s death. Tom Laurita said he has received reports that the elephants are thriving there.


“They are doing extremely well,” he said. “That’s important to us.”

Laurita founded Hope Elephants with his brother in 2011. The elephants — named Rosie and Opal — arrived in 2012.

Jim Laurita was a veterinarian who also worked with circus animals. Tending to the animals was part of his daily routine at the facility.

The Hope Elephants facility is about seven miles northwest of Camden.

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