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Elephant Legislation Stampedes State Capitol

Sacramento, CA — One protective wildlife bill has passed one hurdle and another could be voted on next week.

SB716, which prohibits the use of bull hooks on elephants, passed the California Senate this week by a 29 to 7 vote.  The bill seeks to ban the use in the state of bull hooks, which resemble a fireplace poker, with a sharpened steel tip and hook at the end.

Local elephant sanctuary, San Andreas-based Performing Animal Welfare Society or PAWS, is one of the key sponsors of the bill. PAWS contends the use of bull hooks for training is inhumane and passage of the measure is critical to protecting captive elephants from harm. They say  bull hooks, commonly used in circuses, for rides and other “entertainment” on sensitive parts of an elephant’s body sometimes cause wounds and cuts.

Nearly a dozen cities and counties in the state have restricted the use of elephants; some of them, have also limited the use of bull hooks on pachyderms, including Los Angeles and Oakland. San Francisco has gone farther and banned exotic animal performances, all together. Only the Kern County Fair continues to offer elephant rides, but will end them in 2017, according to PAWS. SB 716 now moves to the Assembly for a vote.

Additionally, the California Assembly could vote next week on AB 96, which would altogether ban the sale of rhino horns and ivory. Though the state has prohibited the sale of ivory since 1977, a loophole to make exceptions for antique ivory, rendered the law unenforceable. The bill will close that loophole, allowing state wildlife officials to enforce the law. As reported in March, the legislation passed the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee moving to the assembly floor. California is the second largest market for the sale of illegal ivory in the United States, and these sales are estimated to have doubled over the past eight years, according to PAWS.