November 27, 2012

For Immediate Release



Contact: Catherine Doyle

PAWS Director of Science, Research & Advocacy

(323) 301-5730




Performing Animal Welfare Society

Campaigns To Free Elephants From Circuses


Los Angeles City Council Poised to Vote on Restricting

Performing Elephants and Banning the Bullhook


(San Andreas, CA) - The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), which established the first natural-habitat elephant sanctuary in the United States, is playing a key role in the campaign that may end the use of performing elephants in circuses that visit Los Angeles. Since 1984, PAWS has been rescuing and providing refuge for performing animals, including elephants from circuses.


Last week, the Los Angeles City Council Personnel & Animal Welfare committee voted to send to the full City Council its recommendation for an ordinance that would ban the use of elephants in traveling circuses and prohibit use of the bullhook in public displays, a move PAWS fully supports.


"PAWS has witnessed firsthand the devastating effects that circuses have on performing elephants' physical and psychological health," said PAWS' co-founder and President, Pat Derby. "Circuses can never be humane for elephants or allow them to have a healthy, normal life. This is why PAWS has been actively working on efforts to pass an ordinance in Los Angeles to prohibit their use in circuses visiting the city."


According to PAWS, elephants are naturally on the move for 20 hours a day, roaming vast home ranges. In circuses, however, they are immobilized in chains, confined in cramped train cars and trucks while traveling as many as 50 weeks a year, and subjected to cruel training. Handlers use the bullhook, a heavy steel-tipped weapon, to control elephants through painful physical punishment and the fear of it. The tricks they are forced to perform cause painful, crippling arthritis and premature death.


PAWS currently provides sanctuary for eight elephants at its 2,300 acre facility. Four of PAWS' elephants came from or spent time in circuses:  

  • Gypsy and Wanda, two female Asian elephants, were together in a circus 20 years ago; they were reunited at PAWS where they are now inseparable.
  • Nicholas, an adolescent Asian bull elephant, came from a company that rented elephants to circuses and was ordered to give up its elephants as part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of severe neglect. In circus life, Nicholas was forced to perform and ride a tricycle.  
  • Prince, an Asian bull elephant, was born in a breeding program at a zoo and then sent to the circus as a breeding bull.    

At PAWS, Gypsy, Wanda, Nicholas and Prince have vast, natural habitats complete with therapeutic ponds.


Derby concluded: "As a progressive and humane city, Los Angeles should not tolerate the use of elephants in circuses or allow use of the bullhook in public shows. This ordinance represents an important step toward making Los Angeles a truly humane city and a leader in elephant protection."


If passed, Los Angeles would be the largest U.S. city, in a growing number of cities and counties, to adopt an ordinance that restricts the use of elephants in circuses and bans the use of the bullhook.







Performing Animal Welfare Society:

PAWS operate three captive wildlife sanctuaries in Northern California, providing lifetime care for hundreds of exotic animals. Having worked inside the performing animal industry, and now specializing in the care of abused, abandoned or retired performing animals, PAWS founders, Pat Derby and Ed Stewart, are acknowledged experts on the impact travelling life has on these animals and the suffering they endure in the name of entertainment. Pat and Ed provide expert testimony in criminal and agency investigations and also provide expertise to wildlife agencies, Congress, State Legislatures, and city and county hearings across the United States.