Harrison County

Woman accuses Sir Camelot, Beauvoir’s camel, of vicious attack

A Florida woman claims in a lawsuit that Beauvoir’s camel, Sir Camelot, attacked and injured her.

Sylvia June Abbott filed the lawsuit this week against the United Sons of Confederate Veterans Inc., identified as the operator of Beauvoir, in Harrison County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit says Abbott visited Beauvoir in October 2015. The Biloxi tourist attraction was the last home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. She alleges Sir Camelot attacked her during the visit.

The lawsuit says she was injured mentally and physically, necessitating doctors’ visits and possibly future surgeries.

In the lawsuit, Abbott says Beauvoir knew, or should have known, the camel had “behaved dangerously” in the past. The suit does not specify any previous incidents.

Abbott’s attorney, Charles M. Thomas of New Orleans, said Abbott visited Beauvoir with her husband. They were strolling to the cemetery behind the Davis home when Sir Camelot appeared.

“June was basically just walking across the grounds and this camel charged at her, stampeded her, and ended up biting her,” Thomas said.

As a result of the attack, he said, Abbott suffered a fractured wrist and vertebrae.

“It’s kind of ridiculous to think there are aggressive animals walking around on the property where this sort of thing can happen,” he said.

The Sun Herald left a message for Beauvoir’s current executive director, Tom Payne. A previous director, Greg Stewart, had brought the camel and other animals to Beauvoir as a tourist draw.

The camel arrived at Beauvoir as a baby. Admirers feted him on his first birthday in May 2015 with a cake made of dates and carrots, and the stately name was bestowed by a 9-year-old who won the camel-naming contest.

Beauvoir programs and events coordinator Kitsaa Stevens said at the time: “He’s just an absolute asset when it comes to field trips. Kids love him and he loves the kids.”

By December 2015, the Beauvoir board had decided the camel and other animals needed to go. A motion the board passed 6-2 cited waste issues and aggressive behavior from the camel, plus goats that were butting car doors. After visitor numbers dropped, Sir Camelot and other animals returned to Beauvoir in June 2016.

To hear the lawsuit tell it, Sir Camelot is a real beast. The lawsuit accuses USCV of negligence for, among other things, “owning an animal with a propensity toward attacks and failing to confine the animal.” Sir Camelot, the lawsuit says, is “dangerous.”

Abbott wants to be compensated for medical expenses, mental anguish and other damages. She also is seeking punitive damages and court costs.

To hear Beauvoir employees tell it, the most dangerous thing about Sir Camelot is his propensity for caffeine. The camel loves Dr. Pepper and coffee and, yes, he is not above swiping a drink.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99