Success! First State in the Nation Bans Cruel Bullhooks Used on Elephants

Rhode Island has just become the first state in the nation to ban the use of bullhooks and other cruel training devices that are used to control performing elephants.

For decades, bullhooks, which are long rods that feature a sharp hook on the end, have been considered a standard tool for circuses  and many zoos, which use them to “train” elephants, often to perform uncomfortable tricks, and control them through violence and intimidation. Being so large, they might seem to be immune to our puny weapons, but they’re incredibly sensitive and handlers know how to use these tools right where they can hurt elephants the most.

Posted by Ringling Beats Animals! on Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Animal advocates have long been opposed to their use, instead supporting other methods like protected contact, and have been pushing for bans around the country to protect elephants from abuse. So far, around 60 jurisdictions have passed ordinances banning the use of bullhooks, including Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Richmond and Miami Beach, along with others that have gone even further by banning wild animals in circuses altogether, or are working to get it done. But until now, nothing has been passed that would protect them statewide.

While Ringling Bros. has finally retired its elephant from performing, there are still other circuses traveling across the country with them, and other wild animals, who still need need advocacy on their behalf.

This week, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed legislation that bans the use of bullhooks, along with several other devices that can be used to inflict pain to control performing elephants, pretty much anywhere they may be used as of January 1, 2017. Anyone found violating this new law will now be facing fines up to $5,000, up to a year in jail, or both.

Posted by Ringling Beats Animals! on Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Circuses have continued to fight bans like this, but animal advocates and experts believe the use of these tools needs to be stopped and thousands spoke up in support of Rhode Island’s ban when it was introduced – nearly 9,600 people signed Care2 petitions urging lawmakers in the state to make it official.

Now while the number of cities that are banning the use of bullhooks continues to grow, which have now been joined by an entire state, there are fewer places where these cruel shows are welcome.

“For too long, elephants in traveling shows and circuses have suffered inhumane and cruel treatment by handlers wielding the sharp end of the bullhook. Rhode Island has becomes the first state to take this monumental step to protect these highly intelligent and social animals from inhumane and outdated training methods. We urge other states to follow suit,” said Nicole Paquette, vice president of wildlife protection at The Humane Society of the United States.

While we celebrate this epic win for elephants in Rhode Island, we can continue to send a strong message that it’s time to stop forcing them, and other wild animals to endure lifetimes of abuse and deprivation for our fleeting amusement by not buying tickets to shows that feature them and by supporting federal legislation  that will help the U.S. catch up with other nations that have already banned their use in performances.

If you want your city or state to be the next to do something huge for performing animals, help them out by starting a petition.


Photo credit: Thinkstock


W. C
W. C6 months ago


William C
William C6 months ago

Thank you.

John B
John B10 months ago

Thanks Alicia for sharing the news!

Peter P.
Peter P1 years ago

Good to read

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Graham P.
Graham P1 years ago

How are you going to implement this law Rhode Island??? Why didn't you just ban circuses from visiting your State. Nuff said.

chris B.
chris B1 years ago

Free our critters. You are to use no type of instrument on them. Or we will turn it on you.

Wendi M.
Wendi M1 years ago

Happy news tyfs

Marija Mohoric
Marija M1 years ago

Thank you Rhode Islands.

Janis K.
Janis K1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.