Sen. Lara Continues Effort to Protect Elephants from Abusive Bullhooks

February 16, 2016

Sen. Lara Continues Effort to Protect Elephants from Abusive Bullhooks
Effort builds off of the progress made with last year’s SB716


SACRAMENTO, CA — Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) today announced legislation to protect elephants from abuse by prohibiting the use of a bullhook or similar devices. Senate Bill 1062 follows from last year’s Senate Bill 716 which passed the Senate by a vote of 28-8 and the Assembly 69-8, but which was vetoed by Governor Brown.

SB 1062 mirrors the policy of similar prohibitions enacted in the cities of Los Angeles and Oakland and Feld Entertainment’s recent announcement of an end to traveling elephants in the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circuses by May of this year.

“I remain committed to protecting elephants from abusive management practices. It is a privilege to possess elephants in California and we should not tolerate mistreating elephants for any reason,” said Senator Lara. “These gentle and intelligent creatures, whose species survival is being threatened by poaching from the pernicious ivory trade, deserve our care and respect. California’s accredited zoos long ago moved away from use of bullhooks and similar devices and it’s time to take them off the table.”

While SB 716 sought to amend existing an existing Penal Code statute aimed at preventing abuse of elephants, SB 1062 proposes to create a new Fish and Game Code section to explicitly prohibit 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. 

Six California zoos accredited by the American Zoological Association have elephants, but have not used bullhooks for more than a decade, including the Oakland Zoo, whose lead elephant keeper Gina Kinzley said, “Through our progressive program, Oakland Zoo cares for our four African Elephants with positive reinforcement through operant conditioning, paired with food and praise as reward. The bullhook, or ankus, is an outdated tool and barbaric tactic used to punish and abuse elephants.”

“Captive elephants have suffered long enough as a consequence of unceasing travel and frequent striking by handlers wielding the sharp end of a bullhook like a weapon. Bullhooks, by causing pain and suffering, have no place in modern-day handling of captive elephants,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “Los Angeles and Oakland did the right thing on this issue, and the entire state should follow suit. We thank Senator Lara for taking this proactive approach.”

One of the six non-zoo entities licensed by California Department of Fish and Wildlife to possess elephants in California, the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) cares for nine Asian and African elephants at its San Andreas sanctuary. PAWS president Ed Stewart said, “The inhumane treatment of elephants with bullhooks is unacceptable, whether it's in circuses, fairs, or for any type of entertainment. PAWS has trained and managed elephants for more than 30 years without using a bullhook, and we are proud that California is taking the lead to end the abuse of elephants with this archaic and cruel weapon."

SB 1062 is supported by PAWS, The Humane Society of the United States, the Oakland Zoo and the California Association of Zoos and Aquariums.