Treatment of Elephants
An Act Relating to the Treatment of Elephants
Senate Bill 1626
Sponsor: Senator Hedlund
CoSponsors: Representatives: Andrews, Brady, Cantwell, Ehrlich, Harrington, Hecht, Lewis, Madden, Mannal, Provost, Rushing, Sannicandro
Senators: Brownsberger, James E. Timilty
MSPCA position: Support.
This bill would prohibit any person who houses, possesses or travels with elephants utilized in traveling shows from using any implement that would result in physical harm or from keeping the elephants constantly restrained by chain or similar device.
Information about this bill
- This bill seeks only to eliminate cruel and inhumane training practices that are utilized against elephants. For example, the bullhook or ankus which is a club made of wood, metal, or other substantial material, with both a sharp steel hook and metal poker at one end is commonly used to train an elephant. Both ends of the device are capable of puncturing and tearing skin. The handler uses the hook end to hit, jab, and poke the elephant in order to dominate over the animal to force it to engage in a desired behavior, such as performing tricks. A handler can also hold the hooked end, and swing the handle like a baseball bat, inducing substantial pain.
- The circus industry claims the bullhook is used “like a leash for a dog” but if an owner were to use the bullhook to control a dog it would be considered animal abuse in every state. This bill will prohibit this painful and cruel device and similar implements that can injure an elephant.
- The bullhook is the most common implement or device used to train, punish, and control elephants. Both ends of the bullhook are used to inflict pain. Forceful use of the bullhook in training sessions is common practice in order to render elephants submissive and to train elephants to perform tricks.
- Chaining is one of the most common methods used to confine elephants in captivity. It severely restricts an elephant’s movements, eliminating her ability to lie down, walk, or socialize with other elephants. The severity of these restrictions can result in neurotic psychological behavior, physical injury, and even the death of captive elephants.
- We should not allow bullhooks and other implements designed to cause pain and harm to be used on elephants. If this weapon were used on a dog, it would be a felony offense.
- As a matter of corporate responsibility and consumers’ right to know, circuses must be held accountable to their repeated claims that they do not harm or punish elephants with negative reinforcement. Circuses claim that bullhooks are used only for direction. If the bullhook is used only for direction, then a safe and harmless tool can be used instead - elephant sanctuaries and many zoos use harmless tools, such as soft wands, to direct elephants.
- Born Free USA united with the Animal Protection Institute, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, and Fund for Animals filed a federal lawsuit against Ringling Bros. for its mistreatment of endangered Asian elephants. The lawsuit asserted that a number of Ringling Bros.’ routine practices violate the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), including: the forceful use of bullhooks and the chaining of elephants for most of the day and night. Evidence gathered throughout the process supports these claims. Read about the judge's ruling in the lawsuit against Ringling.