Advocates file appeal, aim to send zoo elephants to sanctuary

Advocates file appeal, aim to send zoo elephants to sanctuary
SEATTLE -- A battle over elephants has divided the city of Seattle and animal advocates.

Critics claim the city spends hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on the Woodland Park Zoo where they claim animals are kept in substandard conditions.

Protestors from the group Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants call the exhibits "archaic" and harmful to the animals.

The city says the group's claims shouldn't keep it from supporting the popular attraction.

For nearly two years, the safety of the elephants at the zoo has come under scrutiny.

Defenders of the animals filed suit in 2010, claiming taxpayer money shouldn't support a zoo where they say small enclosures hurt the elephants and also make them suffer emotional damage.

After the suit was dismissed, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an appeal and on Friday presented the case to the Court of Appeals.

"The Woodland Park Zoo, which operates on city land and use city buildings, confines the city's elephants in conditions which violate both state and local animal cruelty laws," said Jason Stavers of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Protesters want the animals to be able to go to a free-roaming preserve in Tennessee.

Attorneys for the city say the animals are not being mistreated.

The city's agreement puts zoo management in charge of care and living spaces for the animals. And no matter the accusations, no lawsuit should keep the city from supporting the zoo.

"The city makes no decisions of any kind at the zoo about what animals to exhibit," said Greg Narver, an attorney for the city of Seattle.

The appeals court ruling is expected in several months, and the ruling could pave the way for a trial.

Zoo leaders call the merits of the lawsuit "silly," and say they do not mistreat the animals.