An animal lover's bid to help an elephant escape its truck and say goodbye to the circus almost ended in disaster.

Jenny Wilkins, 45, was in Dieppe celebrating her best friend's birthday over the Easter weekend, staying in a hotel opposite a circus.

On Good Friday she noticed a lot of the animals were tied up in trucks and cages and were not able to move very far.

Mrs Wilkins, of Reading Road, Brighton, said: "The weather was so bad and the animals were locked up and I could see the trunk of the elephant coming out through a small window.

"It was in the back of a lorry and it was tied up with a metal chain which was no longer than 2ft so it could not move, sit or lie down to sleep. It just stood there and swayed."

Scared Mrs Wilkins arrived at the Europa Hotel in Dieppe on Friday morning with her 15-yearold son Jack.

She and her friend, who also brought her 15-year-old son, had decided to go away for a long weekend.

On Saturday they spent the day at the market and on their return to the hotel Mrs Wilkins could see the elephant had not been let out and the door of the truck had not been opened.

She went to the hotel reception to complain and was told by the receptionist that the elephant had been incarcerated for at least four days.

She said: "By Sunday I was absolutely determined to complain or do something about it.

"I went over to the circus very early in the morning, about 5.30am, and I unbolted the catch on the door and the elephant was right there in the doorway.

"He grabbed me round the waist with his trunk and pulled me against the truck. It was quite tight and I was scared.

"I stroked its trunk and asked it to let me go and it hit me with its trunk in my back, quite hard, and I thought the poor elephant needs to be out."

The circus owners turned up and asked Mrs Wilkins what she was doing and she told them they needed to let the elephant out.

She said: "My friend, her son and my son were at the hotel window asking me to get away.

"In the end the circus staff sedated the elephant and let it out but I just knew as soon as I left they would put it back inside the truck.

"The tigers were in an even worse state. They were so big and the cage was the size of their bodies.

"I made a complaint to the hotel manager and the circus but they just played dumb. I felt there just needed to be a voice to say these animals should be let out at least once a day."

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