April 16, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Aaron Leider: Brentwood’s “Elephant Manâ€

Billy - the ElephantQ: Aaron, you are involved in a lawsuit having something to do with elephants at the LA Zoo. For those of us who don’t know what’s going on, can you get us up to speed?

Unable to convince the majority of the LA City Council to stop funding the $42 million “Elephants of Asia†exhibit in 2006, I filed a lawsuit in ‘07 against the zoo. The premise was very basic: the Zoo’s plans would fail to improve the lives of our captive elephants and it was a colossal waste of taxpayer’s money. It took 5 years of legal wrangling by our brilliant attorney David Casselman to secure a June 18th, 2012 trial date. We finally had our six days in court.

Then on July 26th, 2012 Superior Court Judge John L. Segal entered a judgment in our favor and issued an order requiring changes that must be made by the zoo in its care of the eAaron and Cherrylephants. His 56-page “Findings of Facts†is a detailed document that forever lays to rest the zoo’s idyllic view of the “Elephants of Asia†exhibit. By testimony of the zoo’s own witnesses the judge found that the Exhibit and the Keepers are abusive to the elephants. He went on to say: “All is not well at the Elephants of Asia Exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo. Contrary to what the zoo’s representatives may have told the Los Angeles City Council in order to get construction of the $42 million exhibit approved and funded, the elephants are not healthy, happy, and thriving.â€

Q: What got you interested in this cause in the first place?

In 1992 I learned that through the zoo’s incompetence, Hannibal died while being transported to another zoo. Nearly 20 years later, I learned at trial by my own expert witness, Dr. Phil Ensley — the only Board Certified Zoo Vet to testify at trial — that he had given the zoo recommendations on how to handle Hannibal’s transport, but they didn’t listen. Upon further investigation, I learned 12 more elephants over a 35 year period died prematurely. Sadly, these majestic intelligent creatures died a slow and painful death at the LA Zoo.

Q: Are you as interested in other animals, or is it mostly elephants?

The truth is, I just care and have a special place in my heart for those that have no voice.

Q: What happens next with respect to the lawsuit? What do you hope is the ultimate outcome in all of this?

The zoo will have to comply with the judge’s orders. The silty sand must be roto-tilled so the ground will be soft, imperative for the elephants’ health, they must be exercised for a minimum of 2 hours a day and bull-hooks and electric shock devices are banned. Although I’m disappointed that the elephants weren’t sent to a sanctuary, one must understand that the Judge who stated we proved that the exhibit is abusive, felt his hands were tied by no legal precedent. Although he found the exhibit abusive he felt it didn’t rise to the legal definition of abuse. I hope the City Council takes a long hard look at this, reads the judge’s findings and sends the elephants to a sanctuary. The current exhibit can be used to improve the lives of other LA Zoo animals in desperate need of space.

Q: What’s your connection to Brentwood?

A. In December of 2005 I was awarded the Keller Williams Realty Franchise for Brentwood and we opened our doors at the Coral Plaza building in April of 2006. Today we have over 110 agents, a commercial division, an escrow company and a mortgage department.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A. This may be hard to read, but there is a truth that cannot be denied ever again, borne out by actual video and authenticated during trial by a retired zoo keeper. Billy the lone bull elephant at the LA Zoo, was, in his youth, shackled with chains, had his legs pulled apart forcing him to the ground, doused with water and was shocked with electricity while being struck with a bull-hook — approved “training†by the LA Zoo and its governing body, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) so they can keep control over a 12,000 lb wild being.

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