CA Assembly Greenlights Nation’s First Statewide Bill to Ban the Use of Bullhooks Against Elephants

August 27, 2015

SACRAMENTO, CA — A bill by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) to update California’s criminal laws protecting elephants from abuse by prohibiting the use of a bullhook or similar devices passed the Assembly today by a bipartisan vote of 59-7. The bill, which now heads to the Senate for concurrence, would become the nation’s first statewide law to protect elephants against bullhooks. 

“Bullhooks are cruel, unnecessary devices that inflict lacerations on elephants and cause scars to their delicate skin,” said Senator Lara. “Sanctuaries and zoos across the state have voluntary ceased use of these devices opting for safer alternatives. Los Angeles and Oakland have taken a stand and now it’s time for the entire state to say ‘no’ to bullhooks!”

SB 716 proposes to amend California Penal Code Sec 596.5, which already protects elephants from being deprived of food, water, or rest and being subjected to physical punishment, among other abuses. SB 716 would add an explicit prohibition on the use of “bullhook, ankus, guide or pitchfork, including the use of those devices without making contact.” This provision would take effect January 1, 2018. 

"The California legislature is poised to be the first in the nation to protect elephants from bullhooks commonly used to handle and abuse elephants in circuses and other outdated facilities," says Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "This bill passed with bipartisan support and it builds in a dramatic way on the March announcement from Ringling Bros. that it would phase out the use of elephants in traveling acts."

SB 716 proposes to amend California Penal Code Sec 596.5, which already protects elephants from being deprived of food, water, or rest and being subjected to physical punishment, among other abuses. SB 718 would add an explicit prohibition on the use of “bullhook, ankus, guide or pitchfork, including the use of those devices without making contact.” This provision would become effective on January 1, 2018. 

Senator Lara is also the principal co-author of Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), Assembly Bill 96, aimed at closing a decades-old loophole in California’s ban on the sale of ivory which has impeded enforcement and allowed the illegal trade to flourish at the expense of elephant lives. 
The bill now heads to the Senate for concurrence.