Anne-Marije Rook
Chai is one of the elephants at the Woodland Park Zoo who according to concern citizens is treated inhumanely and suffers from chronic injuries and trauma.

Seattle taxpayers file appeal in lawsuit against the city for supporting the cruelty to Woodland Park Zoo elephants

Today, concerned citizens represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund are filing an appeal in the Washington State Court of Appeals in their lawsuit against the City of Seattle and Woodland Park Zoo. The Animal Legal Defense Fund intends to stop the City’s unlawful use of taxpayer dollars to support the Woodland Park Zoo’s treatment of elephants in violation of Washington State and Seattle animal cruelty laws.

On May 27, King County Superior Court Judge Michael Heavey dismissed the Animal Legal Defense Fund's lawsuit against the City of Seattle and Woodland Zoo citing a technicality.

The lawsuit, filed in June 2010, by plaintiffs Mary Sebek and Nancy Farnam, accused the City of Seattle of acting illegally in providing support for the Woodland Park Zoo and its ill treatment of elephants.

The Judge granted the City and Zoo's motion to dismiss the case because Sebek and Farnam, both Seattle taxpayers, had no standing to sue the city.

The Court did express concern about the humaneness of holding elephants captive in zoos but because the court dismissed the case on procedural grounds, it did not consider the facts presented in the complaint about the cruel treatment of the elephants at the Zoo and did not exonerate the Zoo or its elephant exhibit.

Critics of the Zoo claim that the Woodland Park Zoo offers inadequate facilities and engage in abusive management practices, longstanding intentional neglect, and questionable breeding practices, which has led to chronic injuries and trauma to the Zoo’s elephants Bamboo, Watoto, and Chai.

The City of Seattle owns the land and the buildings of the Woodland Park Zoo, including the elephant exhibit, and uses taxpayer money to fund its operations.

“Shamefully, the Woodland Park Zoo continues to use taxpayer money to exploit its elephants while failing to provide them with adequate care,” says Stephen Wells, Executive Director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “We are confident that the Court of Appeals will agree that Seattle’s taxpayers may sue under Washington State law to prevent the City from funding the illegally cruel treatment of elephants.”

The Zoo meanwhile claims the elephants are "healthy and thriving". On May 27, the Zoo released a statement regarding the lawsuit starting that they “are very pleased with the ruling.”

“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," said Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO Dr. Deborah Jensen. “We remain committed to the lifelong and day-to-day care of our elephants and ensuring their preservation into the future."

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