Christy Wolyniak, News Intern
Bamboo and Watoto do not get along, so they must be separated while Chai will be in a pen with either one of them. Pictures here: Watoto (left) and Chai (right).

Judge dismisses lawsuit against the Woodland Park Zoo regarding ill treatment of elephants, cites technicality

On Friday, dismissed by King County Superior Court Judge Michael Heavey dismissed a lawsuit filed by local animal activists against the City of Seattle and Woodland Zoo, citing a technicality.

Both sides had 10-minutes to make their arguments in King County Superior Court on Friday. Activists from the Animal Legal Defense Fund argued that the city of Seattle was acting illegally in providing support for the Woodland Park Zoo because of its ill treatment of elephants.

The judge granted the City and Zoo's motion to dismiss the case because the group had no standing to sue the city, and there was nothing illegal about the city's funding of the zoo.

“We are very pleased with the ruling,” said Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO Dr. Deborah Jensen. “This was an attempt to get a court to decide issues of elephant care and medicine that have been appropriately delegated to experts – at our zoo and at other zoos around the country.”

Regarding the accusation of inhumane treatment of the elephants, Jensen said the Woodland Park Zoo elephants "are healthy and thriving”

“We remain committed to the lifelong and day-to-day care of our elephants and ensuring their preservation into the future,” Jensen said.

Alyne Fortgang from Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants responded that "the case was dismissed on the technicality of standing.  The zoo is not absolved of causing the elephants' captivity-induced ailments and their suffering."

"As Judge Heavy ruled from the bench, he twice stated his personal belief that the zoo's elephant exhibit is objectionable, stating at one point, " confine animals in small habitats, take away their freedom in grossly confined spaces, outweighs children seeing (wild and rare) animals," Fortgang said.

The plaintiffs now have a number of options available in response to the court's order, including appealing the court's dismissal or refilling their complaint. Their decision will likely come within the next few weeks, according to Fortgang.
To learn more about Woodland Park Zoo’s elephant care program and elephant conservation, visit

To learn more about Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, visit

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