Call on City of Seattle to Send Elephants to a Sanctuary

Photo by Artg
Photo by Artg
Update: The Woodland Park Zoo euthanized Watoto on August 22, 2014, saying she was not able to get up and was in increasing discomfort. Watoto was only 45 years old. Captivity took its toll. Her life span in the wild would likely have been 70 years. Not to mention in the wild she would have been free to have a family, establish the close bonds so critical to an elephant’s well being. She would have been free to roam as elephants do for miles each day. Instead, she was confined to an indoor stall 16-17 hours a day during inclement weather, a given in Seattle for much of the year and to a small paddock on dry days. All 3 of the zoo’s elephants have less than an acre and that includes the indoor facility.

It is more critical than ever to move the remaining two elephants, Chai and Bamboo, to a sanctuary where they can roam for acres and form rewarding relationships with other elephants. Call Mayor Ed Murray at 206-684-4000 or write him or comment on his Facebook page. For more information including how to contact City Council members about moving the elephants to a sanctuary, read Animal Law Coalition’s original report below. Don’t wait. Act now.

Original report: According to a recent survey, nearly two thirds of Seattle residents support retiring the elephants, Chai, Bamboo and Watoto, to a sanctuary. Less than 10% support keeping the elephants at the zoo. Two thirds of city residents want the zoo to stop breeding Chai.

27 zoos have closed or plan to close their elephant exhibits. The Journal, Scientific American, recently called for an end to all elephant exhibits. “[I]f the zoos really have the animals’ best interests at heart, they would close their elephant exhibits.” Scientific American (Feb. 2014). “Confined elephants often spend their time standing around in cramped quarters….These tortuous conditions inflict serious physical and psychological damage on such smart and sensitive animals.” Scientific American Board of Editors (March, 2014).

At Woodland Park Zoo, because of the weather, the elephants are confined over half the year for 16-17 hours each day in small indoor stalls. When outside, they are confined to small paddocks. The entire elephant exhibit including the barn with the indoor stalls, occupies only about an acre. The elephants display neurotic behaviors that are signs of distress and boredom. A former zoo veterinarian has confirmed the elephants suffer from chronic, painful skin conditions as a result of the climate and foot infections and arthritis from standing on hard surfaces.

These intelligent, sensitive animals are provided with no exercise, let alone the ability to roam and forage for miles each day as they do in the wild. A zoo environment deprives them of strong family and social bonds of the matriarchal herds in which they live normally. A zoo is nothing more than a cruel prison for these animals. Go here for more information.

Recently, the zoo announced a five year plan that includes transferring Watoto to another zoo and bringing in one or two other elephants for breeding. Chai has already suffered thru 112 artificial inseminations and had numerous miscarriages; there have been no live births. Breeding elephants in captivity is problematic and with the zoo’s lack of infection control and suitable habitat, irresponsible and cruel. The zoo claims it will spend $1.5-3 million over 5 years to improve the exhibit in some undefined way including adding new elephants for breeding; these funds will also be used in some undefined way for elephant conservation. Contrast this with the $42 million spent by San Diego and Los Angeles each only to upgrade their elephant exhibits.

The zoo plans to move Watoto to another zoo by the end of this year.

In 2010 taxpayers brought a lawsuit against the City for subsidizing the zoo’s elephant exhibit which violates federal, state and local animal cruelty laws. The case was dismissed for lack of standing. Since then, residents have called on the City of Seattle to intervene and close the elephant exhibit. Residents attended a city council meeting on July 14, 2014 to urge council members to tell the zoo to send Watoto to a sanctuary rather than another zoo. But the council refused to allow residents to speak.

The City’s Authority to Transfer the Elephants to Sanctuary

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has said that he “personally believes that elephants should not be kept in captivity. The scientific evidence strongly supports that extensive open space and opportunities for rich social interaction are necessary for elephants to flourish. Unfortunately, the Woodland Park Zoo’s current elephant exhibit does not sufficiently provide for these needs“.

But the mayor and the city council have taken the position that they have “no authority over the Zoo’s operations or its policies regarding its elephant exhibit.” The mayor explains, “In 2002, the City of Seattle transferred management and financial responsibility of the Zoo to the Woodland Park Zoological Society.”

It is true that pursuant to Ordinance 120697, the the zoo is managed by the Society under an operations and management contract with the City. But the contract contains these provisions:

15.2 Care of Animals. WPZS shall care for all Zoo Animals in accordance
with all federal, state and local laws and regulations, and in accordance with the Long-Range Plan and policies and guidelines adopted by the AZA.
15.3 Sale and Purchase of Animals. WPZS shall have the authority to acquire or sell or otherwise dispose of Zoo Animals in the course of WPZS’s operation of the Zoo. The acquisition, sale or other disposition of Zoo Animals shall be made in strict accordance with (a) all applicable federal, state or local laws, regulations and policies, (b) the guidelines and policies of the AZA, and (c) existing and any adopted acquisition and disposition policies approved by the City.

In effect, the zoo must comply with city ordinances passed to protect zoo animals. The city has the authority specifically to adopt ordinances regarding the acquisition and disposition of animals by the zoo. The city can, then, pass legislation directing transfer of Watoto, for example, to a sanctuary.

Also, taxpayers provide about a third of the funding for the zoo. In 2012 the zoo received $10.3 million from the city and county. Taxpayers should not pay for an antiquated elephant exhibit that inflicts cruel suffering on Chai, Bamboo, and Watoto every single day.


If you live in Seattle, contact Mayor Ed Murray and the city council at the addresses below and urge them to use the city’s authority under its contract with the Woodland Park Zoological Society to direct that Watoto be sent to a sanctuary now instead of a zoo and also close the elephant exhibit entirely as so many other zoos have done.;;;;;;;;;

Also, please volunteer/donate to support the efforts of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants.
Support Community Coalition for Elephant Retirement!
These organizations are leading the fight to save Watoto, Chai and Bamboo from the terrible conditions they suffer at Woodland Park Zoo.

Horses naturally vicious, says CT court

horse.scuppyI’ve often said there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.” Ronald Reagan

A Connecticut appellate court in the case of Anthony Vendrella v. Astriab Family Limited Partnership issued an opinion that horses are naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious to human beings. In other words, the appellate court found that horses are inherently dangerous. The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Tuesday, September 24, 2013 on this issue and is expected to decide soon whether the appellate court is right.

The case arose out of an incident during which a 2 year old boy was bit in the face by a horse and brought a lawsuit against the owner for damages. The child and his family were visitors at the time at Glendale Farms in Milford, and just before the incident, the boy’s father petted the horse, Scuppy. The trial court dismissed the case, finding there was no evidence that the owner knew or should have known the horse would bite anyone. The appellate court disagreed with the trial court and found that there was sufficient evidence from which a jury could find that horses generally have vicious tendencies including a “natural tendency to bite” and thus the injury was reasonably foreseeable. 133 Conn. App. 630

Once again, an entire group of animals is vilified and condemned because parents failed to take responsibility for their small child.

Connecticut residents who keep horses and the horse industry are taking issue with the appellate court ruling. Horses especially those involved with children could become uninsurable. If the ruling stands, it could become untenable because of the lack of affordable insurance and potential liability for people to keep horses. It is estimated the horse industry contributes about $221 million annually to the state’s economy.

A Statewide Spay/Neuter Program for Washington

Update February 20, 2012:  Efforts are underway to incorporate H.B. 1226/S.B. 5151 into the state budget. 

For more on this bill and how you can help pass it, read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below.

Original report: A Washington state bill, H.B. 1226, and the Senate version, S.B. 5151, would establish a program to subsidize spay/neuter of dogs and cats for low income residents and animal shelters, and also provide financial assistance for trap neuter return and other feral or free roaming homeless cat programs.  Under trap neuter return or similar programs, these cats are humanely trapped, spayed/neutered and provided with vaccinations and veterinary care, and then returned to feral cat colonies under the care of a volunteer caregiver. Kittens are typically not returned to the colonies and instead are adopted. 

The spay/neuter and feral cat assistance programs would be administered by the state department of social and health services. 

Private veterinarians, animal control agencies and non-profits would be able to apply for funds to perform spay/neuter surgeries and vaccinations. The department would administer the program and:

(a) Establish criteria and procedures for screening companion animal owners and caretakers of feral and free-roaming cats for eligibility to participate in the program. 
(b) Enroll surgery providers and publicize the program and the names and locations of participating spay/neuter surgery providers;
(c) Screen companion animal owners and caretakers of feral and free-roaming cats for eligibility or contract for screening to promote the ease and convenience of applying for services under the program;
(d) Obtain the greatest number of spay/neuter surgeries that can be accomplished efficiently, consistent with the program’s purpose and availability of funds;
(e) To the extent practical, maximize the ease and convenience for eligible owners and caretakers of companion animals to apply for and receive spay/neuter, and other authorized veterinary medical services, and minimize administrative burdens, procedures, and costs; and
(f) Actively promote the program to inform low-income individuals about the assistance offered by the program and the public about companion animal overpopulation issues and surgical sterilization.

The department would also  determine (1) eligibility of these surgery providers, (2) rates of reimbursement, (3) co-payments to be paid by low income persons elgibile for assistance, and (4) allocation of funds though no more than ten percent can be used for administration. The deparmtent must report to the leigslature and governon once a year about the program and to that end, would obtain from shelters (animal control, humane socieities, and nonprofits) information about the intake, the source and fate of animals they house, though smaller shelters may be exempt. Private veterinarians that participate in the program would not be required to do the screening to make sure individuals qualify as "low income", but the department may require shelters providing spay/neuter surgeries to take on that task.

The department would have the authority to contract with public or private agencies or nonprofits to carry out the purposes of this bill.  

If funding is available, the department could provide spay/neuter assistance to animal shelters. 

The bill would establish a companion animal spay/neuter assistance account that would accept donations, grants and the like to fund the program though the principal source of funding would come from a fee of $50 per ton that would be assessed against initial distributors or buyers of pet food. There is no fee for distributors or buyers of less than a ton or on specialty pet foods.


S.B. 5151 is the senate version of the bill. Find your Washington state legislators here and urge them to support H.B. 1226/S.B. 5151 and incorporate its provisions into the state budget.

Go here to Save Washington Pets for more information! 


Animal Advocates Challenge AETA

Five people who say they are "committed to changing public opinion and corporate policies regarding
animal mistreatment and cruelty",
have filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal
court in Boston to challenge the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act ("AETA"),18
U.S.C. § 43 (2006).

The plaintiffs Sarahjane Blum, Ryan Shapiro, Lana Lehr,
Lauren Gazzola and J Johnson say AETA violates their rights under the First
and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution, for "unconstitutionally
restricting their ability to speak on these matters of public concern".

According to the Complaint, "While all kinds of activists and protestors may be chilled from
undertaking constitutionally protected activity as a result of this overbroad
statute, the specific target of the AETA is clear: animal rights activists
whose demonstrations have caused large businesses to lose profits. Previous
prosecutions under the AETA and its precursor statute, the Animal Enterprise
Protection Act (the AEPA), along with the AETA’s legislative history, support
this interpretation.

targeting lawful speech and advocacy, the AETA has cast a chill over the animal
rights community, leading many advocates to censor themselves and refrain from
protected speech."

Plaintiffs say that "AETA is unconstitutional for several independent reasons: (1) it is
overbroad because it sweeps within its ambit core First-Amendment-protected
speech; (2) it is vague because many of its terms leave citizens uninformed as
to whether they will run afoul of the law’s prohibitions; and (3) it
discriminates on the basis of the content and viewpoint of particular speech
and expressive conduct."
Plaintiffs seek a declaration that the AETA is unlawful
and an injunction striking down the AETA on its face, and as applied to them,
as a violation of the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States

classifies certain protected speech and activity as a ‘terrorist’ crime. It
punishes individuals who alone, or with others, criticize or demonstrate
against what the statute vaguely identifies as an "animal enterprise," if that
otherwise permissible speech damages the property or profitability of the
animal enterprise or even a person or entity connected with it.

the AETA creates the terrorist offense of traveling in interstate or foreign
commerce, or using the mail or any other facility of interstate commerce, ‘for
the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal
enterprise,’ when in connection with such purpose, an individual (A) intentionally
damages or causes the loss of any real or personal property used by an animal
enterprise, or by a person or entity with a connection to an animal enterprise;
(B) intentionally places a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily
injury through a course of conduct involving threats, vandalism, property
damage, criminal trespass, harassment or intimidation; or (C) conspires to do

fails to define key terms, but its plain language criminalizes core political
advocacy and speech that are protected by the First Amendment. For example, it
punishes otherwise lawful and innocuous speech or advocacy that causes a
business that uses or sells animal products to lose profit, even where that
lost profit comes from a decrease in sales in reaction to public advocacy.
Thus, AETA effectively criminalizes the very purpose of the First Amendment –
changing people’s minds. It would also criminalize individuals who plan a
peaceful protest, if an entity undertakes the routine business decision hire a
security guard."

Plaintiffs say they "currently want to engage in lawful animal rights activism, like
attending public protests, or investigating and publicizing conditions and
mistreatment of animals on factory farms – all of which are protected activity
under the First Amendment – in order to educate fellow citizens about the harms
and abuses associated with large-scale factory farming and to urge businesses
to discontinue inhumane farming practices. But, they are chilled from this
lawful and socially useful advocacy based on their reasonable fear that such
activities will subject them to prosecution and imprisonment as terrorists
under the AETA

The Plaintiffs’ attorneys include Howard Friedman
and David Milton, Howard Friedman Law Offices; Rachel Meeropol
 and Alexis
, Center for
Constitutional Rights, and Alexander A. Reinert,  Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

For more on AETA and how
it was passed by Congress and signed into law…..

For a copy of the
Complaint, see attachments below.