A bill to prohibit the use of bullhooks on elephants, SB 716, heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee after passing the Senate Public Safety Committee 5-2. The Humane Society of the United States, Oakland Zoo and Performing Animal Welfare Society applaud the committee and Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), the bill’s sponsor, for this important first step.

Bullhooks, which resemble fireplace pokers, have a long handle, sharp metal hook and spiked tip. They are weapons with only one purpose: to cause pain, suffering and fear in elephants. No sanctuary or zoo in California accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums uses bullhooks on elephants.

Nicole Paquette, vice president of Wildlife Protection for The Humane Society of the United States stated: “For too long, elephants in traveling shows have suffered as a consequence of unceasing transport and frequent striking by handlers wielding the sharp end of a bullhook. Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco have already taken steps to right this wrong, and the entire state should follow suit. We commend Senator Lara and the Senate Public Safety Committee for taking steps to protect these highly intelligent and social animals from inhumane and outdated training methods.”

Dr. Joel Parrott, Director and CEO of the Oakland Zoo stated: “We would like to thank Senator Lara and Assemblymember Bonta for introducing SB 716, and we are proud to announce it passed the Senate Safety Public Committee today. Oakland Zoo successfully aided in prohibiting the use of the bullhook in the City of Oakland, and in partnership with The Humane Society of the United States and Performing Animal Welfare Society, we hope to do the same in all of California. No AZA accredited zoo in California uses a bullhook, while modern training techniques and positive reinforcement has existed for over twenty-five years.”

Ed Stewart, President of the Performing Animal Welfare Society stated: “PAWS thanks the members of the Senate Public Safety Committee who supported a ban on the use of the bullhook, an archaic and cruel weapon used to control elephants through pain and fear.  The time is right to ban this instrument of pain that has no place in modern society, and California can lead the way.”


  • The use of bullhooks results in trauma, suffering, and physical injury to elephants. A bullhook can inflict lacerations, puncture wounds and abscesses to an elephant’s sensitive skin, which is rich in nerve endings and susceptible to abrasions.
  • In March 2015, Ringling Bros. announced it will phase out the use of elephants in its traveling shows by 2018, citing in part a changing public attitude to the use and treatment of elephants in circuses, as well as the growing number of cities and counties across the country that have prohibited the display of elephants or use of bullhooks to train elephants.
  • California’s Oakland Zoo pioneered the use of protected contact on elephants more than 20 years ago and it is now a widely-used training method that relies solely on positive reinforcement.
  • California-based PAWS is the country’s first facility to provide sanctuary for rescued elephants and has never used bullhooks.

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