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For Immediate Release: 08/02/06

Landmark Elephant Protection Bill Passes Massachusetts Senate

Prohibits Using Bullhooks or Chains on Elephants

Boston, MA — A landmark bill that would protect elephants from abusive use of cruel and inhumane devices, such as bullhooks and chains, passed the Massachusetts Senate yesterday.

Senate Bill 2457 is sponsored by Senator Robert Hedlund (R-Plymouth and Norfolk) and supported by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) and a coalition of groups including the Animal Protection Institute (API), a national animal advocacy organization based in Sacramento, CA.

The bill makes it illegal to use a bullhook or similar device on an elephant. A bullhook is an implement used to train, punish, and control elephants. It can be made of wood, metal, plastic, or fiberglass and has a sharp steel hook at one end that can puncture an elephant’s skin. The bill would also prohibit the use of chains to restrain an elephant, unless for medical treatment.

“I introduced this legislation because it is clear that the use of the bullhook and the practice of chaining elephants are cruel and unnecessary,” says Senator Hedlund. “Massachusetts cares about animal welfare and these are practices our society can no longer tolerate.”

“Elephants deserve to be treated humanely and this bill prohibits practices that are cruel and inhumane,” says Kara Holmquist, Director of Advocacy for the MSPCA. “It’s time to start focusing on the true needs of endangered elephants and stop forcing these majestic animals to perform under duress and fear of being beaten.”

Concerned citizens have repeatedly videotaped incidents in which circus employees subjected animals to cruel treatment including constant chaining and abusive use of the bullhook. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), has repeatedly cited circuses, such as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, for violations of the Act. In addition, the USDA has four open investigations into Ringling’s animal care, including an incident involving a Ringling elephant handler who was documented beating a chained elephant with a bullhook outside a performance.

“S. 2457 addresses the most egregious training methods employed by elephant handlers, as well as animal welfare concerns facing elephants,” says Nicole Paquette, Director of Legal and Government Affairs for API. “We need a solution to this problem and Massachusetts has stepped up to the plate for these animals. It is only the beginning for this type of legislation, and a great example for all states to follow.”

Ringling is also the subject of a federal lawsuit filed by API, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, and Fund for Animals for violations of the Endangered Species Act in its care and treatment of Asian elephants.

The bill will now be sent to the Massachusetts House of Representatives.


Brian Adams, Massachusetts Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals, 617-541-5120
Zibby Wilder, Animal Protection Institute, 916-447-3085 x205

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