MEDIA RELEASE: Animal Activists Welcome LA Council Recommendation To Free Billy the Elephant

MEDIA RELEASE: Animal Activists Welcome LA Council Recommendation To Free Billy the Elephant

LOS ANGELES (Nov. 30, 2022)In Defense of Animals has welcomed a unanimous vote by Los Angeles City Council’s Personnel, Audits and Animal Welfare Committee to send long-suffering elephant, Billy, to sanctuary and stop future attempts to breed him. The Asian bull elephant has been a captive at the Los Angeles Zoo for over 30 years, and the subject of fierce campaign efforts to free him. A full meeting of the LA City Council to hear the motion to free Billy could be heard as early as next week.

“Billy has support from Cher, Lily Tomlin, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, dozens of animal organizations, thousands of members of the public, and now the LA City Council’s animal welfare committee and Councilman Paul Koretz have reaffirmed their backing for Billy,” said Courtney Scott, Elephant Consultant at In Defense of Animals. “The Los Angeles Zoo has been a repeat offender on our list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants because Billy’s suffering is painfully obvious. LA Zoo has ignored Billy’s signs of trauma and brain damage for years, so it’s past time to send him to a sanctuary that is equipped to put his needs first in a larger, more natural setting. Captivity is a terrible existence for all elephants. He deserves liberty — it’s time to free Billy.”

“I don't think we should let Billy languish there any longer,” said Councilmember Paul Koretz, according to a City News Service report. Koretz’s motion to free Billy is similar to another he tabled in 2018. It exposes the LA Zoo’s treatment of Billy, including how he lacks sufficient exercise and stimulation, and for many years was “alone in a small enclosure where he was kept on hard surfaces not considered beneficial for his feet and joints.” The motion recommends the LA Zoo should stop invasive attempts to breed Billy and send him to a sanctuary.

In 2012, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John L. Segal found the Los Angeles Zoo guilty of mistreating Billy. He told the courtroom, “captivity is a terrible existence for any intelligent, self-aware species.”

But the zoo fought back against the ruling and counter-sued so they could continue to abuse Billy with bullhooks and electric shocks. Fortunately in 2016, California banned those methods of cruelty. However, Billy is still suffering at the LA Zoo.

In Defense of Animals has exposed the Los Angeles Zoo seven times on its respected annual list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants. The latest list places LA Zoo as the #8 worst zoo for elephants in North America. It exposes Billy’s repetitive, abnormal “stereotypic” behavior as a sign of psychological trauma known as zoochosis, and an example of how lack of space and choice in zoos leads elephants to develop brain damage. Billy bobs his head almost continuously.

Billy exists in a series of small elephant corrals less than an acre in size, separated by metal gates and fencing. It’s a far cry from his natural home in Malaysia, where he was shipped from in 1989. Sickeningly, things that would give him a little pleasure are just out of reach. The zoo wraps trees and vegetation with electric wires to prevent Billy from reaching them.

Judge Segal commented, “The Elephants of Asia exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo is not a happy place for elephants, nor is it for members of the public who go to the zoo and recognize that the elephants are neither thriving, happy, nor content.” He called zoo employees “delusional” for their attempts to explain away his clear signs of distress.

An insightful, compelling film charting Billy’s fight for freedom has been produced by a lawyer fighting for his freedom, David B. Casselman. Free Billy is available to watch on Ecoflix.

### NOTES ###

Contact: Courtney Scott, Elephant Consultant,, 503-288-6142

More information:

Motion submitted 09/23/2022:

Watch: Free Billy on Ecoflix

Images & Video (free to use with credit per filename):

In Defense of Animals first published a list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants in North America in 2004. Every year since, In Defense of Animals has released a list of zoos that have earned a spot. The list serves to raise awareness about the plight of elephants in zoos where lack of space, unsuitably cold climates, and unnatural conditions condemn Earth’s largest land mammals to lifetimes of deprivation, disease, and early death. The 10 Worst Zoos list has been featured by hundreds of news outlets including the Daily Mail, Esquire, and the New York Times. Find out how the list is determined and see all 10 Worst Zoos lists at

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization based in Marin County, California, with over 250,000 supporters and a 39-year history of fighting for animals, people, and the environment through education and campaigns, as well as hands-on rescue facilities in India, South Korea, and rural Mississippi.


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