Bull hook

No one within New Braunfels city limits can use a bull hook to abuse elephants since council closed a weird loophole to animal abuse restrictions last week.

The New Braunfels City Council passed an amendment last Tuesday that bans the use or brandishing of bull hooks — traditionally used to train elephants that perform in shows — in an effort to better protect exotic animals within city limits. The change comes the week before the Carden Int’l Circus presents the 2019 Alzafar Shrine Circus on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on the Comal County Fairgrounds.

The effort to ban the use of these poker-like devices in city limits is a way to act locally on a global issue, City Councilmember Matthew Hoyt said. Hoyt spearheaded the amendment after a constituent brought to his attention that the city code prohibited animal abuse apart from one exception — bull hooks. 

“Bull hooks are made for one purpose, and that is controlling and punishing elephants,” Hoyt said. “They’re horrendous that they even exist. Elephants are beaten over the head oftentimes with this thing to be taught their master is this human, not their mother or father or social circle.”

The Carden Circus has a page on its website dedicated to its “animal family.”

“Carden International circus understands and supports all efforts to monitor and regulate the treatment of animals,” a statement on their website reads. “Because they are integral part of our show, we work closely with local, state, and federal agencies to ensure that the highest standards of animal care are provided and attained. 

“We continue to meet or exceed all federal animal welfare standards by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the animal welfare act and all aspects of animal care and safety. We’re committed to our animal family every single day of the year, there are no days off for animal care.”

Brett Carden, one of the owners of Carden Circus, said bull hooks are used by the circus but only as a guide to point elephants where to go. 

“We don’t touch our animals with them, just point with them,” Carden said. “This doesn’t change our plans, we’re still coming into town next week.” 

Records show the Carden family has been cited by the USDA more than a dozen times for violations since 2010, including a case in which two elephants exhibited tested positive for tuberculosis, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

“(The use of bull hooks) is not something that happened one time 100 years ago — this is how these animals are brought into the entertainment world,” Hoyt said. “In our city code there was this odd exemption that existed that animals can’t be abused, unless they’re circus animals.”

Anyone who uses a bull hook can be fined up to $500, according to the updated ordinance.

Hoyt said he felt getting the bull hook exemption removed should be a priority, and while it might not be a priority to someone who wants the roads re-paved right now, it was something major that could be done now to make a difference.

“These animals are horribly mistreated, it’s not just the circus, its in animal trade,” Hoyt said. “It’s how they’ve existed for years, because they move.”

By banning the use of bull hooks in city limits, New Braunfels is a leader on this issue in the state of Texas, Hoyt said.

“It prevents any circus that comes to town from exercising animals in that way,” Hoyt said. “I’m proud the citizens of this city alerted us to this. This isn’t new, we didn’t innovate (banning bull hooks) but we’re a city doing it.”

Nothing on the state level or national level prevents the use of bull hooks, sadly, Hoyt said.

“Anything we can do as a community to end the needless suffering of animals is something we need to consider,” Hoyt said. 

Proceeds from Tuesday’s circus benefit the Alzafar fraternal operation. The Shriners of San Antonio are known for community service and civic involvement in San Antonio.

Tickets start at $10. For more information about tickets and the circus, visit https://bit.ly/2Z5WRpF.

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