Richmond City Council voted 8-1 Monday evening in favor of an ordinance to ban the use of bullhooks on elephants. Approval of the anti-cruelty measure earned praise from the Richmond SPCA and The Humane Society of the United States. Patrons of the paper to amend City Code concerning cruelty to animals were Charles Samuels, Chris Hilbert, Parker Agelasto, Ellen Robertson and Reva Trammell.
"We are delighted that Richmond has taken this courageous step to further establish our city as one of progressive thinking about and compassion for animals," said Robin Robertson Starr, chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. "By banning bullhooks in Richmond, we help ensure that our children learn about wild animals' in their real habitats and encourage true respect and caring for the magnificent animals that share our planet."
“Richmond has long been a leader in the animal welfare movement and this vote is another illustration of that,” said Matthew Gray, Virginia state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “For too long, elephants in traveling shows have suffered as a consequence frequent striking by handlers wielding the sharp end of a bullhook. The decision by city council to ban the bullhook illustrates the deep compassion this city has for animals of all kinds; we are so grateful to city leaders for their support.”
- 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.
- Safer and more humane alternatives do exist. Protected contact is an elephant management style based on positive reinforcement, utilizing food treats and praise. It was developed more than 25 years ago and is currently used by sanctuaries and most zoos that house elephants.
- The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) adopted a new policy in 2014 that prohibits keepers from sharing unrestricted space with elephants and avoids the need for implements like the bullhook.
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