Capitol Alert

Lawmakers send Jerry Brown bill to ban bullhooks on elephants

A handler carries a bull hook during a walk down Del Paso Blvd. in 2008.
A handler carries a bull hook during a walk down Del Paso Blvd. in 2008. Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

The Senate on Monday sent Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that would make California the first in the nation to ban elephant handlers from using bullhooks, a sharp-pointed implement activists say is inhumane.

Senate Bill 716, by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, cleared the upper house 28-8 to put the matter in Brown’s hands.

“Let’s call it what it is,” Lara said in a statement, “a bullhook is a weapon used to harm elephants and they have no place in California.”

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the bill would make it a misdemeanor for an elephant handler to use or brandish bullhooks, baseball bats, axe handles “or a similar device designed to inflict pain for the purpose of training or controlling the behavior of an elephant.”

The measure was pushed by the Humane Society of the United States, other animal rights organizations and the East Bay Zoological Society. They argued that bullhooks harm animals and put handlers at risk.

It was opposed by zoos in Monterey and Columbus, Ohio, and some circus organizations. They said the implement, when used correctly, does not harm animals.

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