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LA Zoo Can Keep Elephant Exhibit, Has To Treat Billy Better

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It's a sad life for the elephants of the LA Zoo, according to a ruling by Superior Court Judge John L. Segal, but one, it seems, that will continue. According to the Daily News, Segal yesterday released a ruling on a 2007 lawsuit brought by real estate agent Aaron Leider and late actor Robert Culp that alleged animal abuse. However, the judge stopped short of closing down the controversial Elephants of Asia exhibit, even while describing a "particularly poor" standard of living for the zoo's three elephant inhabitants: Billy, Tina, and Jewel. The elephants live in a recently completed 3.8-acre, $42 million exhibit that finished construction despite the lawsuit. The lawsuit could have led to a shutdown, but Monday's ruling instead forces the zoo to exercise the animals more, till their soil, and not use bullhooks or electric prods.

The judge's ruling also describes the case for the funding and construction of the exhibit as dishonest at best: "Contrary to what the zoo's representatives may have told the Los Angeles City Council in order to get construction of the $42 million exhibit approved and funded, the elephants are not healthy, happy, and thriving," writes Segal. Moreover, "the Elephants of Asia exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo is not a happy place for elephants, nor is it for members of the public who go to the zoo and recognize that the elephants are neither thriving, happy, nor content. Captivity is a terrible existence for any intelligent, self-aware species, which the undisputed evidence shows elephants are...To believe otherwise, as some high-ranking zoo employees appear to believe, is delusional. And the quality of life that Billy, Tina, and Jewel endure in their captivity is particularly poor."

In Defense of Animals, the organization spearheading the political pressure to close the exhibit, seems intent on continuing that crusade, announcing in a statement following the ruling: "Today's decision sends the clear message that the L.A. Zoo's $42 million exhibit has not improved the elephant's health or well-being as promised," and, "It's time to shut down the exhibit at the L.A. Zoo."
· Judge orders keepers at L.A. Zoo to exercise elephants, till soil; prohibits bullhooks, electric prods [Daily News]
· Amid Lawsuit, LA Zoo Elephant Habitat Goes Forward [Curbed LA]

Los Angeles Zoo

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