The 42 million dollar elephant exhibit at the LA Zoo can remain open provided that certain conditions are met. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John L. Segal, in his 56-page opinion issued Tuesday, ordered the Los Angeles Zoo to improve the welfare of the elephants in its “Elephants of Asia” by doing the following:
"cease using bull hooks and electric shock in the management, care, and discipline of the elephants, exercise the elephants at least 2 hours a day, and rototill the soil and substrate of the elephant exhibit" consistent with specific recommendations of named outside experts.
The judge further found that "this exhibit is not a happy place for elephants" and that the belief to the contrary by high ranking zoo officials is "delusional". It was further determined at trial that representations of the size and its state of the art design by zoo officials to city council to obtain approval for the exhibit were sorely lacking in accuracy. First, half of the acreage is really for spectators and not the elephants, and second the surface upon which the elephants stand is actually detrimental to their health and well-being as it creates a "risk of injury to the elephants' joints, feet, and nails". He was further horrified by the lack of knowledge and "gaps in education" of the keeper in charge of the elephants.
spcaLA, along with other animal welfare advocates, have opposed this exhibit, pressured the zoo for years to close any elephant exhibit and requested USDA intervention on behalf of the elephants, as their treatment, though awful, and as Judge Segal confirmed, did not, legally, rise to the level of criminal animal cruelty or abuse.
This verdict is a game changer. All eyes must be on the zoo to ensure that the orders of the court are followed as failing to so do could be seen as intentionally harming the elephants, which might be viewed as criminal.
Better still - would be for the zoo to return the two female elephants, Tina and Jewel, to San Diego from where they are on loan, send Billy, the bull to sanctuary, and apologize to all of us for this fiasco.
Maybe this verdict will wake up other zoos still keeping elephants.
Congratulations to David Casselman, the attorney who sued the zoo on behalf of us taxpayers.
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