Oakland is second California city, after LA, to ban tool used by circus elephant handlers

OAKLAND, Calif. – The circus will stop coming to Oakland in a few years after a tool used by elephant handlers was banned in the city.

The Oakland City Council earlier this week unanimously approved an ordinance outlawing bullhooks. The instrument resembles a fireplace poker, with a sharp hook on one end that is used by trainers to control the animals.

Oakland is now the second California city, after Los Angeles, to ban the use of a bullhooks. The circus will stop performing in Los Angeles in summer 2016.

Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, said the Oakland ban takes effect in 2017.

“(That) will be the last time we will be in Oakland because we can’t perform without the elephants,” he said.

But the circus is still holding out hope about having future performances in Oakland.

“We may see if the Oakland City Council wants to reconsider,” Payne said.

Payne said the move is a loss for people who enjoy the circus. An estimated 30,000 people attended the circus in Oakland over six days last summer, he said.

The Oakland Zoo and animal rights activists supported the ordinance, saying bullhooks are cruel and inhumane.

Proponents say the bullhook is designed to give trainers dominance over elephants and does not hurt or harm the animal.

“A lot of the information that was presented to the Oakland City Council by the proponents was designed to distort our animal care,” Payne said.

Oakland Zoo Chief Executive Officer Joel Parrott said the practice harkens back to the turn of the 20th century and has no place in modern times.

“If I suggested using a bullhook on giraffes to get them through gates or to stab tigers to get them to do what I want them to do, everybody would react,” Parrott said. “The only reason it’s acceptable is we’ve grown used to it with the elephants.”