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Court Overturns Protections For L.A. Zoo Elephants On A Technicality

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The California Supreme Court voted Thursday to overturn a court order requiring the Los Angeles Zoo to protect its elephants, the L.A. Times reports. The 2012 court order, which required the L.A. Zoo to exercise its three Asian elephants at least two hours a day on soft ground and to bar the use of electric shock, was overturned on a technicality; the Supreme Court ruled that the taxpayers who obtained the injunction against the L.A. Zoo had used the wrong legal vehicle to address their grievances with the Zoo. The 2012 civil suit accused the L.A. Zoo of violating a criminal law against animal cruelty, but Thursday's Supreme Court ruling said that a taxpayer lawsuit cannot be used to stop criminal conduct. "The Supreme Court emasculated the only statute that offered lawyers a good chance to help animals," David Casselman, a Tarzana lawyer who worked on the taxpayer case for five years, told LAist.

The plight of L.A. Zoo elephants has already received attention from animal-welfare advocates like L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz, who filed a motion in April to free Billy the Elephant from captivity at the zoo. "The well-being of Billy is of the utmost importance to our office," Koretz told LAist, adding, "This Supreme Court ruling has no effect on our momentum working toward the goal of getting Billy to an animal sanctuary as soon as possible."

L.A. Zoo director John Lewis announced his intention to continue complying with the original elephant-protection suit in spite of this new ruling, telling the LA Times, "We will continue to exercise them and provide the best care for our elephants.”

LAist reached out to the L.A. Zoo for comment, but did not immediately hear back.