Dist. 9 Atlanta City Councilwoman Felicia Moore introduced legislation on Monday, to specifically ban the use of bullhooks or other similar devices on elephants during shows and events within the City of Atlanta.
After Moore did not receive favorable approval from the Atlanta City Council on a similar amendment, she re-introduced it for continued debate.
Instead of completely outlawing the use of the bullhook, the Atlanta City Council approved 13-1 an amendment to the city's animal control ordinance by Dist. 8 Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean which makes it unlawful for any person to engage in abusive behavior toward an elephant. It also outlaws the use of any instrument to discipline the elephant by any of the following methods:
- Deprivation of food, water, or rest;
- Use of electricity;
- Physical punishment resulting in damage, scarring or breaking of skin; or
- Insertion of any instrument into any bodily orifice.
The final animal control ordinance was approved Monday by a vote of 13-1.
“I would be happier if we moved beyond the bullhook and talk about all forms of animal abuse,” said Adrean, whose amendment also calls for independent inspectors to be present on premises when circuses are in town to monitor the well-being of the elephants. “Any instrument can be used properly or improperly.”
A bullhook is a device or instrument containing a spike, hook, or any combination thereof. A bullhook is also known as an ankus, ankusha, elephant goad, or elephant hook.
“The words discipline and punishment are of particular concern,” Moore said. “Under Adrean’s amendment it will be difficult to prove before a judge that an elephant wasn’t being ‘humanely trained’. The amendment is too vague and is unenforceable. Her amendment does nothing to protect elephants from the abusive use of bullhooks.”
Fulton County recently banned the use of the bullhook. Currently, Atlanta has an agreement with Fulton County for animal control services. . However, animal control legislation codified Monday by the City Council did not specifically outlaw the use of bullhooks within the city limits.
Moore’s legislation would also ban the use of any device or instrument that inflicts pain on, or causes or is likely to cause injury to an elephant, except as necessary to administer legitimate medical treatment or in response to an immediate threat to public safety.
The legislation contends that the use of bullhooks on elephants causes pain, suffering and trauma, often leading to lacerations, open puncture wounds and abscesses. Bullhook supporters contend that the device is a necessary tool to train and guide elephants.
Moore’s legislation now goes before the Public Safety and Legal Administration Committee for discussion at its next meeting at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, June 26 in Committee Room No. 2, Atlanta City Hall, 55 Trinity Avenue S.W.
If approved, Atlanta would also join a growing list of cities nationally and internationally that have banned or are considering bans on the use of bullhooks on elephants.