An elephant trainer holding a bullhook.

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | One year after the Oakland City Council passed a watered down ordinance regulating the safety of circus performances in the city, a proposed new law would go further by banning the use of bullhooks and other implements used for controlling elephants. The proposed ordinance is headed for discussion to the full council later this month.

The proposed ordinance, passed the Oakland City Council Public Safety Committee on Tuesday night, is far more strict than one introduced late last year by Councilmember Libby Schaaf, which fell short of banning the bullhook. Animal activists say the tool, essentially a stick with a small hook and point attached to the end, wields unnecessary fear in elephants and constitutes torture.

But representatives from Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros, Barnum & Bailey Circus, among other properties that use the Oakland Coliseum complex for performances, are threatening to drop Oakland from their touring schedule if the ban of bullhook is approved. Feld Entertainment also brings motor-cross and monster truck events to the Coliseum, along with various Disney on Ice productions. City staff said the Coliseum complex, which is jointly operated by the city and Alameda County, could lose up to $1.4 million in revenue if Feld Entertainment were to pull out of Oakland.