Comedy Stars Support Lawsuit Against the Los Angeles Zoo

Laughter filled the air at the Voice for Animals Foundation’s Beverly Hills fundraiser hosted by Lily Tomlin. Top comedians brought their talents to raise funds for a pending court case to free Billy the elephant from the L.A. Zoo.
Aug. 12, 2010 - PRLog -- Lily Tomlin and some of her best comic friends are supporting animal welfare groups that say "Free Billy the elephant from the Los Angeles Zoo or we'll see you in court for cruel and unusual punishment!"

Voice for the Animals Foundation’s lawsuit was originally filed in 2007. The suit charges the Los Angeles Zoo with cruel and unusual punishment of elephants and seeks to put a stop to the planned elephant exhibit which will cost taxpayers $42 million. In 2009, the council voted to approve of the exhibit despite there is sufficient evidence that proves the conditions captive elephants are kept in constitutes civil and criminal abuse under California law. 14 Elephants have already died under the Zoo’s care. After a number of motions and appeals, the Court of Appeals ruled the case could go to trial.

This is the first civil case, ever, approved for a trial to determine whether a public elephant exhibit should be closed due to abuse of the elephants in its care.  It is also the only case, ever, to go forward regarding such an issue, with the express approval of a Court of Appeal.

Comedians performing at the fundraising event August 8 included Lily Tomlin, Bruce Vilanch, Orny Adams, Elayne Boosler and Rick Overton.

Billy the Elephant Facts

Male Asian Elephant
At Los Angeles Zoo since 1989
In solitary confinement for 20 years at L.A. Zoo.

Billy was caught in the wild and forcibly taken from his native home of Malaysia, as part of a trade between the L.A. Zoo and the Malaysian Game Department. Billy lives on approximately one-quarter acre at L.A. Zoo. In the wild, elephants can walk 30 miles in a day. There are roughly 640 acres in one mile.

With no other elephants near him, Billy lives an unnatural, solitary life at the Zoo. While male elephants are often kept separate from other elephants in zoos, in the wild males can display social connections, residing in bachelor herds or frequenting areas with female elephants, sometimes moving from family to family. In India, younger bulls join with older bulls to crop raid.

For many years Billy has been displaying stereotypic behavior in the form of repetitive head bobbing that goes on for extended periods of time. Stereotypic behavior is often viewed as an indicator of poor welfare, caused by factors such as restriction of movement, size of enclosure, social isolation, and lack of complexity in the physical environment. Billy has experienced all of these factors at the L.A. Zoo. In fact, Billy was routinely chained each night, likely from the time of his arrival at L.A. Zoo in 1989 until 1994, for approximately 12 to 14 hours each night. It was during this period that a keeper reportedly physically abused Billy by using electric shock on him.

Experts state that stereotypic behavior can lead to foot problems such as nail cracks (which Billy already has), and abscesses and abrasions to the sole of the foot. Foot-related problems are one of the leading causes of euthanasia in captive elephants in the United States.

Free video clips of this event are available at for use in the media. Contact for more information.

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