The California Supreme Court voted on Thursday to overrule 2012 trial and appellate court orders that required improved conditions for elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo.
The lower courts prohibited the future use of bullhooks and electric shock as disciplinary and training tools and required that the elephants be exercised for two hours a day on soil that had been rototilled to protect their feet and legs.
As per Courthouse News Service, the issue was originally addressed in August 2007 when Los Angeles taxpayers Robert Culp and Aaron Leider sued the Director of the Zoo as well as the City of Los Angeles to block a $42 million expansion of the elephant exhibit.
Leider’s complaint asserted that L.A. Zoo elephants had long been subjected to bullhooking and electrical shocks and were suffering and dying prematurely due to being held captive in small pens and on hard ground.
In Defense of Animals
To the dismay of animal advocates, Justice Carol Corrigan reversed the order which Leider’s attorney, David Casselman, after working nine years on the case pro bono, called “extremely disappointing.”
“If it’s possible, I intend to pursue this through the Legislature or anywhere else to protect these animals who are suffering and dying prematurely,” said Casselman.
In an interview with WAN Casselman added that “The evidence presented at trial unearthed the serious health problems for the elephants at this Zoo. It was undisputed that the Asian elephants at the L.A. Zoo die, on average, ten years younger than all other North American zoos. This is a shocking and unacceptable fact, which we cannot allow the City to ignore any longer. The suffering is caused by a series of problems which cannot be fixed in tiny urban zoo environments.
This Supreme Court decision is supposedly based on the Court’s interpretation of what the California legislature intended. We need to speak with one voice to the legislature and confirm their true intent when enacting the statutes in question. In this way, we can reverse the huge step backward in time which this decision represents.”
The unanimous decision was made on technical grounds which declared that the statutes upon which Leider’s lawsuit was based could no longer be used to protect animals in California.
As previously reported by WAN, Billy and the “Free Billy” campaign made news again this past April when Los Angeles City Councilmember, Paul Kortez, a longtime advocate for animal rights and welfare, announced legislation to move 32-year-old Billy out of the zoo and into “a more suitable habitat;” reportedly at either The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee or Forever Wild Sanctuary in Phelan, CA.
“We cannot and must not treat animals in this manner,” Koretz said in a statement.
Zoo director John Lewis continues to maintain that the head-bobbing is merely Billy’s “anticipation of his keepers” feeding him. This is one of the claims rejected by the trial court as “delusional.”
Once again, WAN joins animal advocates everywhere, especially in Los Angeles, in calling for a boycott of zoos.
People are also encouraged to sign the “Free Billy” petition here.