Current Status: Ordered referred to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy
Bill 69 2012
An Act to amend the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to protect elephants
Note: This Act amends the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. For the legislative history of the Act, see the Table of Consolidated Public Statutes – Detailed Legislative History at www.e-Laws.gov.on.ca.
When elephants are required to perform in animal shows and performances, including in circus shows, some elephant handlers still employ abusive and outdated disciplinary tools. These tools are designed to cause the animals pain and to invoke fear. The elephants may also be routinely restrained for substantial periods of time, often by chaining their legs. This restricts their ability to move to one or two steps.
These kinds of elephant handling practices, and the devices employed, are based on a traditional system developed hundreds of years ago. At the time, it was common to dominate an elephant by breaking its spirit to make it more compliant and therefore easier to train for performance purposes, as well as for husbandry convenience.
Modern, progressive zoos around the world have stopped using fear or dominance-based training of elephants in favour of safer, more humane systems, such as protected contact management systems. Such systems reward elephants for good behaviours, rather than disciplining them for unwanted behaviours. The elephants are not restrained for substantial periods of time and are only restrained using specially designed barriers.
Proponents of fear or dominance-based elephant training claim that the devices they use, such as bullhooks, are only supposed to be used as guides and that they are necessary and not damaging to elephants. They also claim that restraints such as chains are acceptable and do not negatively impact an elephant’s health or welfare.
Cruel and abusive elephant training methods often result in life-long injuries to the elephants and there is also a high risk to human handlers. There have been incidents in which elephants have escaped from their handlers in a rampage, damaging property and attacking people, causing injury and even death. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) recently issued a directive requiring all of their accredited member facilities with elephants to switch to protected contact management systems by September 1, 2014.
Therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows:
1. Section 1 of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is amended by adding the following subsections:
(1.1) For the purposes of the definition of “distress” in subsection (1) as it relates to elephants, abuse includes the following except in the prescribed circumstances or conditions:
1. The use of an electric prod, a bullhook, an ankus, a pole or a similar implement or device to shock, poke, strike, hit, stab, pierce or pinch the skin of an elephant.
2. The use of a chain, rope or similar device to restrain an elephant.
(1.2) Paragraph 2 of subsection (1.1) does not apply if the purpose of the restraint is to allow an elephant to be physically examined or treated or to load or unload an elephant onto or off of a vehicle.
2. Subsection 22 (1) of the Act is amended by adding the following clause:
(b.1) prescribing circumstances and conditions for the purposes of subsection 1 (1.1);
3. This Act comes into force six months after the day it receives Royal Assent.
4. The short title of this Act is the Elephant Protection Act, 2012.
The Bill amends the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The amendments prohibit the use of an electric prod, a bullhook, an ankus, a pole or a similar implement or device on an elephant. The amendments also prohibit the use of a chain, rope or similar device to restrain an elephant. These prohibitions are subject to certain exceptions.