Lawsuit Filed to Compel San Antonio Zoo to Release Elephant to a SanctuaryPosted on December 1, 2015
Lucky the Elephant Suffers Physically and Psychologically at Zoo
For immediate release:
Natalia Lima, Natalia@PawsPR.com, 201 679 7088
San Antonio, TX. — The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the nation’s leading legal advocacy organization for animals, today filed a lawsuit against the San Antonio Zoo for violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with its treatment of its lone remaining Asian elephant, Lucky.
The suit alleges that the conditions of Lucky’s captivity injure her both physically and psychologically. The zoo’s ESA violations include:
Inadequate shelter: Elephants are susceptible to overheating and their skin is sensitive to strong sun. The pool available to Lucky is too shallow to allow her to submerge and cool herself. After receiving ALDF’s intent-to-sue notice, the Zoo planted a few trees, but Lucky took them down by using them as scratching posts and playing with them, and the zoo never replaced or maintained them.
Inappropriate substrate: The exhibit floor where Lucky lives consists of a thin layer of sand compacted on a hard undersurface of limestone—contributing to Lucky’s abnormal gait and her probable arthritis and joint calcification. Spending hours every day standing on such an unyielding surface will worsen Lucky’s medical conditions and could lead to osteomyelitis (terminal bone disease).
The Animal Legal Defense Fund and its clients would like to see Lucky go to a sanctuary, where she could have the companionship of other Asian elephants, a more natural environment, and large spaces that would allow her to move and walk, activity being the best way to counteract or halt her physical deterioration.
San Antonio City Council member Joe Krier invited both parties to mediate this dispute. Despite ALDF’s willingness to stay this litigation and participate in mediation to ascertain Lucky’s best interests, the zoo declined to participate. Previously, the zoo had twice declined to discuss settlement possibilities with ALDF.
“More and more zoos have admitted that they cannot meet elephants’ complex needs and have closed their elephant exhibits,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Instead of acknowledging the obvious–that it cannot meet Lucky’s needs–the San Antonio Zoo makes excuses about why it is unwilling to allow her to have a better life. We hope the zoo will choose to let Lucky live out her days in the more natural environment of a sanctuary, rather than stand around waiting to die where she is now.”
ALDF’s suit was filed on behalf of three San Antonio residents and is backed by the international nonprofit One World Conservation, which has campaigned on Lucky’s behalf since 2008. Melissa Lesniak, a San Antonio-based animal welfare and criminal defense attorney, and the international law firm Dentons LLP are providing pro bono legal assistance.
Copies of the complaint are available for download (PDF).