LAS VEGAS – After threats of legislation by Nevada's senators, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has abandoned attempts to get footage of the Roy Horn (search) tiger attack.
The USDA had sought the video as part of its investigation into last year's incident but reluctantly agreed instead to just view the footage, a USDA official said Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
"The USDA is no longer seeking possession of the tape," the USDA official said.
Sen. Harry Reid drafted an amendment that would have prohibited USDA investigators from forcing Feld Entertainment Inc., (search) the producer of the Siegfried & Roy show, to turn over the video.
Reid, D-Nev., said he might attach the amendment to an end-of-session spending bill.
"None of the funds made available by this or any other act may be used by the federal government to compel the temporary or permanent production or other government possession or custody, through subpoena ... or any other means, of the videotape of the Siegfried and Row show," according to a copy of the amendment obtained by The Associated Press.
Reid drafted the amendment to protect Horn's privacy after a friend of the illusionist contacted him. Reid said the USDA was being unreasonable and decided to help settle the simmering legal dispute.
Horn was mauled by a 380-pound tiger during a live performance last Oct. 3. He recovered but remains partially paralyzed.
The USDA subpoenaed Feld Entertainment in April, but the company refused to hand over the footage. It offered to show investigators the tape. The USDA refused, not wanting the Vienna, Va.-based company dictating how the agency should run its probe.
Feld Entertainment said it didn't want the footage to fall into the hands of the media. Horn and his partner, Siegfried Fischbacher (search), also said they didn't want the images of the attack being replayed repeatedly on television.
Reid's spokeswoman Tessa Hafen confirmed Tuesday that the USDA had agreed to only view the video.
USDA spokesman Jim Rogers declined to talk about the case but did say the USDA will "pursue every piece of evidence we can."
Campaign finance records show the two performers, along with their longtime manager, Bernie Yuman, and Kenneth Feld, president and CEO of Feld Entertainment, have given more than $30,000 since 1982 to the campaigns and political action committees of Reid and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev.
Larry Noble, head of the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C., said the proposed amendment crosses the line of appropriate conduct.
Noble called the move egregious, saying "it was an attempt to interfere with a law enforcement and regulatory effort by a federal agency. The USDA is the expert in the field. You'd hope they'd be allowed to conduct this investigation without interference from Congress."
"Sen. Reid has not interfered with the investigation," she said. "He has in fact helped it go forward while respecting laws that protect an individual's privacy."