Tuesday, February 14, 2012

..Judge's order halts Fulton elephant bullhook ban..

By Joel Anderson

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
9:53 p.m. Monday, February 13, 2012

A Fulton Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday that could prevent the county from enforcing animal control laws in the city of Atlanta, according to a Fulton County commissioner.

Commissioner Rob Pitts said Judge John Goger's order effectively blocks the county's ban of the use of bullhooks by circus elephant trainers.

The decision comes only days before Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus comes to Philips Arena in Atlanta. The show will run from Wednesday to Feb. 20.

Pitts, who has been an advocate for the bullhook ban, said the judge's order hinged on the lack of a specific intergovernmental agreement between Fulton and Atlanta.

"The fact is that Fulton County has been providing animal control services in Atlanta, and Atlanta has been paying Fulton County for those services," Pitts said in a written statement Monday night. "That amounts to an Implied Agreement/Contract.”

Pitts further suggested the order would prohibit the county from enforcing animal control laws in Atlanta, with the exception of rabies cases and cases of imminent danger to citizens by animals.
Anna Ware, a Buckhead resident and local animal rights' advocate, said she was disappointed with the judge's order.

"I believe that when the Fulton County Board of Commissioners passed the bullhook ban ... they heard and understood the concerns of their citizens relating to the use of the of the bullhook," said Ware, who attended the court hearing Monday.

Ware also said the judge's order could nullify previous citations issued in Atlanta by Fulton County Animal Control.

"This could have opened a big ol' can of worms," she said.

Fulton was the first Georgia jurisdiction to approve a bullhook ban, following cities and counties in Florida, South Carolina, New York, Kentucky and Indiana. Commissioners voted for the ban in June.

Officials with Atlanta and Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Brothers, could not immediately be reached for comment Monday night.