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For Immediate Release: 07/18/06

Investigations into elephant care and deaths at L.A. Zoo and Ringling Bros. circus hasten call to form CA animal welfare committee

Circus’s arrival in L.A. spotlights fight for state animal welfare reform

Los Angeles, CA — Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus opens July 19 in Los Angeles, despite four active federal investigations into its treatment of animals, including the death of a baby elephant and the repeated striking of a chained elephant with a bullhook outside a 2004 Ringling performance in Oakland, CA. The USDA has also recently announced an investigation into the death of Gita, also an Asian elephant, at the Los Angeles Zoo. 2006 has been a banner year for California activists and legislators fighting to shed light on the ethical and moral debate surrounding captive elephants, yet their continued mistreatment and deaths prove action must be taken to protect them.

California seized the spotlight earlier this year when the Sacramento-based Animal Protection Institute (API) took the debate public by introducing legislation to protect captive elephants. The Elephant Protection Act (AB 3027), authored by Van Nuys Assemblymember Lloyd Levine, was the first of its kind to be debated in the nation at the state level. The bill would have prohibited the use of the cruel and antiquated bullhook, chaining, and set minimum space requirements for elephants housed at stationary facilities or kept or maintained on traveling display.

API, along with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Welfare Institute, and Fund for Animals, is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit challenging Ringling’s treatment of elephants under the Endangered Species Act.

“It is impossible to chain elephants in train boxcars or arena parking lots for 11 months of the year and say you’re providing the best possible treatment for them,” says Michelle Thew, chief executive officer of API. “The elephants used in Ringling’s California shows will perform an approximate total of less than ten hours in our state. For this they will travel more than 3,200 miles over 11 weeks. It’s ridiculous to claim this meets any of the physical or psychological needs of these giants.”

“Gita’s tragic death, and the issues of proper care surrounding it, should serve as a bellwether for all to focus attention on the issue of animal welfare, especially when it comes to endangered, special needs animals, such as elephants,” says Assemblymember Levine. “If a zoo or circus can not meet their basic needs for a healthy captive existence then we have no business keeping them captive.”

Levine has called on state officials to create a Select Committee on Animal Welfare, which would have subpoena power and ability to actively investigate animal welfare complaints. First on the agenda is the treatment of elephants within California.

The Animal Protection Institute (API) is a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization working to end animal cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation, and public education. API is a nationally recognized leader on elephant issues and the sponsor of AB 3027 in California, a similar bill, LB 1000, in Nebraska and S 2457 in Massachusetts, which would ban wild and exotic animals from circuses and traveling shows. For more information, visit www.api4animals.org.


Zibby Wilder, Animal Protection Institute, 916-447-3085 x205
Alex Traverso, Office of Assemblymember Lloyd Levine, 916-319-2647

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