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Los Angeles City Council Bans Abusive Elephant Training Devices

The Humane Society of the United States and Performing Animal Welfare Society Applaud the Los Angeles City Council for Protecting Elephants from Abuse

Performing Animal Welfare Society

Before a room packed with Los Angeles residents, the Los Angeles City Council passed, 14-0, a motion directing the city attorney to draft an ordinance to prohibit the use of bullhooks and “other implements and tools designed to inflict pain for the purpose of training and controlling the behavior of elephants” used in circuses and traveling shows to take effect in three years. The Humane Society of the United States and Performing Animal Welfare Society strongly supported this landmark ordinance, which makes Los Angeles the largest city in the country to ban such inhumane treatment of elephants.

Bullhooks resemble fireplace pokers and have a long handle, sharp metal hook and spiked tip. The tool has only one purpose—to cause pain, suffering and fear in elephants. In 2010 a judge called bullhooks “abusive elephant management tools” and ordered the Los Angeles Zoo to discontinue its use of bullhooks in response to a lawsuit filed by animal protection groups over the housing and handling of the zoo’s elephant. 

Jennifer Fearing, California senior state director for The HSUS, said: “Devices that cause pain and suffering have no place in the handling of captive elephants. We commend the Los Angeles City Council for taking steps to protect these highly intelligent and social animals from inhumane and outdated training methods. The HSUS wants to especially praise the humane leadership of Los Angeles City Council members Paul Koretz, Mitch O’Farrell, Bob Blumenfield and Council President Herb Wesson.”

Catherine Doyle, director of Science, Research and Advocacy for PAWS, said: “Sanctuaries like PAWS and progressive zoos housing elephants have rejected bullhooks because they are inhumane. To ensure more humane care for captive elephants, we hope more localities and states follow the lead of Los Angeles by passing similar laws.”


  • The use of bullhooks results in trauma, suffering, and physical injury, often including lacerations, puncture wounds and abscesses to an elephant’s sensitive skin, which is rich in nerve endings and susceptible to abrasions
  • California was the first state to pass a law that prohibits physical punishment of elephants resulting in damage, scarring or breakage of skin
  • California’s Oakland Zoo pioneered the use of protected contact on elephants more than 20 years ago. Protected contact is now widely-utilized training method that relies solely on positive reinforcement.
  • California-based PAWS is the first sanctuary to take in rescued elephants and has never used bullhooks on elephants


Media Contact:

The HSUS: Raul Arce-Contreras: 301-721-6440, cell 240-620-3263 rcontreras@humanesociety.org

PAWS: Catherine Doyle: cdoyle@pawsweb.org

About The HSUS: The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization, rated the most effective by its peers. Since 1954, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. We rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals each year, but our primary mission is to prevent cruelty before it occurs. We're there for all animals, across America and around the world. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty -- on the Web at humanesociety.org.

About PAWS: Founded in 1984, the Performing Animal Welfare Society operates three sanctuaries for captive wildlife in Northern California. The Galt, Herald, and San Andreas sanctuaries are home to more than 100 rescued and retired animals, including eight elephants, African lions, bears, tigers and other exotic animals. PAWS is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. It is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, and is rated a 4-star charity with Charity Navigator.