Abuse at Los Angeles Zoo

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed two amicus briefs in support of a lawsuit brought by a Los Angeles resident and taxpayer to end the abuse of three elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo.


May 25, 2017

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In 2007, Los Angeles resident and taxpayer Aaron Leider sued the City of Los Angeles and the director of the Los Angeles Zoo to end the abuse of three of the zoo’s elephants. Billy, Tina, and Jewel were held captive at the Los Angeles Zoo’s controversial and cruel “Elephants of Asia” exhibit. Leider argued that the poor conditions in which they were kept caused the elephants both physical and mental harm, and violated the state’s criminal animal cruelty laws.

In 2012, the trial court issued an order enjoining the zoo from using some especially cruel behavioral tools like bullhooks and electric shocks, and mandated that the elephants be given at least two hours of exercise every day on soft ground to protect their feet and joints. The court did not, however, order the elephants to be moved to a sanctuary.

Both sides of the case appealed the order. The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an amicus brief urging the appellate to properly apply the language of animal cruelty statutes provide the elephants with adequate relief. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling in 2016.

In 2016, the City of Los Angeles and director of the Los Angeles Zoo sought and obtained review of the case by the Supreme Court of California. The Animal Legal Defense Fund again filed an amicus brief on behalf of the taxpayers and elephants to preserve their victory.

In 2017, the Supreme Court of California reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision on procedural grounds—that taxpayer lawsuits could not be used to enforce criminal laws like animal cruelty laws—and not on the case’s merits.



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