Back to Court for PETA Lawsuit Against Monterey Zoo

Roadside Zoo Not off the Hook for Use of Weapons on Elephants in Defiance of Laws Protecting Animals and Workers

For Immediate Release:
October 19, 2020

David Perle 202-483-7382

Salinas, Calif.

PETA has filed a notice in Monterey County Superior Court to appeal a court decision dismissing PETA’s lawsuit against the Monterey Zoo and its president, Charlie Sammut, a case involving the use of canes to threaten and control the elephants it exploits.

PETA’s lawsuit alleges that the Monterey Zoo engages in unlawful business practices by using the canes in violation of California’s ban on bullhooks—weapons that resemble a fireplace poker with a sharp hook on one end—and other devices “designed to inflict pain for the purpose of training or controlling the behavior of an elephant.” It asks the court to order the roadside zoo to stop using such objects immediately.

“Elephants never forget the pain they’ve been through, so they suffer every day that they live under the threat of continued violence,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Caitlin Hawks. “Every other business in California complies with the state’s ban on controlling elephants with weapons, and PETA is asking the court to compel the Monterey Zoo to do the same.”

PETA’s lawsuit also alleges that the Monterey Zoo violates California’s worker protection laws by controlling elephants using old, circus-style “free contact,” in which handlers share the same unrestricted space with elephants and use domination, force, and punishment to make them obey. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health cited the Monterey Zoo after a June 2018 incident in which a handler took “aggressive action” toward an elephant named Paula, who stepped on, “began thrashing,” and threw the handler, who was hospitalized.

In its dismissal, the court ruled that the Monterey Zoo’s use of weapons on elephants somehow falls under the protection of “free speech”—a notion that PETA will correct before the court of appeals.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.

Get the Latest Tips—Right in Your Inbox
We’ll e-mail you weekly with the latest in vegan recipes, fashion, and more!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.