New Law Gives Elephants Legal Rights In One Tiny California City

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Ilan Hulkower Contributor
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The city council of the small southern Californian city of Ojai voted Tuesday to recognize the legal rights of elephants.

The new ordinance, titled “Right to Bodily Liberty for Elephants,” was overwhelmingly approved in a 4-1 vote, redefining “the ethical boundaries of humanity’s relationship” with animals, RedState reported.

“Last night the Ojai City Council made legal history by becoming the first city in the US to recognize the legal right of a nonhuman animal,” the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) touted in a press release.(RELATED: Animal Rights Activists Push For Cancellation Of Feral Cat Hunting Contest For Kids)

A draft of the ordinance determined “all animals under the family Elephantidae [elephants]” had legally recognized “bodily liberty.” In this sense, “bodily liberty” means “freedom from forced confinement,” among other things.

However, the draft had exceptions. For instance, if the elephants were confined “at a sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries,” or if a non-accredited sanctuary would agree to a number of stipulations, such as not placing the species “on public display,” then the sanctuary would not be in violation, per the ordinance.

NhRP declared elephants will no longer be forced to be public entertainers like an elephant named Tarra who roller skated in the 1980s, according to the press release. Tuesday’s vote by the city council was the second and final reading of the ordinance, Ojai Valley News reported.

Justin Barker, a political analyst specializing in animal and wildlife-related laws, cast ridicule on the new ordinance.

“You know that the law you are trying to push isn’t good when you repeatedly have to say ‘This isn’t a joke’ to the press,” Baker told the California Globe.

“This Ojai law is kind of crazy and is only inviting someone to bring an elephant there and directly challenge it. It stands as an ordinance now, but it won’t really be cemented until it is firmly challenged. I mean, you have plenty of California residents facing personal liberty violations. Those should have been dealt with first,” he told the outlet.

Ojai city has a population of 7,540 persons, according to the 2021 US Census.