Edmonton elephant Lucy gets new treatment program; critics say its not enough

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EDMONTON - The Edmonton elephant at the centre of a tug of war between the city and animal rights activists will be getting a treatment program aimed at improving her breathing capacity, helping her lose weight and addressing her arthritis, zoo officials said Friday.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Zoocheck Canada said that just proves what they've been saying all along - that what the zoo has been doing up until now has not been good enough.
The saga of Lucy, an aging, ailing Asian elephant, has been escalating since the Edmonton Valley Zoo shipped Lucy's companion, Samantha, a younger African elephant, to a breeding program in Asheboro, N.C., in September 2007.
That left Lucy on her own, something that animal rights groups decried, noting that elephants are highly social animals. They enlisted the help of celebrities such "Price is Right" host Bob Barker and "Star Trek" star William Shatner to their campaign to have Lucy moved to an elephant sanctuary in the United States.
Zoo and city officials went on the counter-attack, contending that moving the 34-year-old Lucy could kill her. They argued the elephant is not in distress and is happy and well-cared for in the home where she has lived for more than 30 years.
PETA and Zoocheck responded by threatening to file a lawsuit, and hired prominent Toronto-based lawyer Clayton Ruby, who said he would argue the city was violating Alberta's Animal Protection Act by keeping an animal in distress.
On Friday, zoo officials said they had developed a treatment program based on a report commissioned from Dr. James Oosterhuis, a veterinary consultant in San Digeo.
In addition to addressing Lucy's breathing and arthritis, the plan would include an enhanced exercise program to help the pachyderm lose weight.
Oosterhuis also suggested investigating ways to improve her indoor space to facilitate exercise in colder weather.
"I believe our treatment program shows we are taking Dr. Oosterhuis' report to heart," said city spokeswoman Linda Cochrane. "It lays out the further actions we are taking to address Lucy's health concerns. As we have said all along, our actions will be guided solely by what is in Lucy's best interests."
Bill Peters, national director of the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, lauded the zoo for its response to Oosterhuis' report and its "action to ensure Lucy continues to receive excellent care."
Lisa Wathne of PETA and Julie Woodyer of Zoocheck Canada said it shouldn't take a threatened lawsuit for Lucy to get better care.
"We are deeply concerned that Lucy has not been treated adequately for her respiratory ailments," they said in a joint statement.
"We condemn the zoo for not having a treatment plan until now."
The animal rights groups said Lucy is kept on concrete and is unable to roam normally to maintain physical fitness, adding that simply expanding her barn will not help her to get adequate exercise during the long winter months.
"Lucy's indoor enclosure is grossly inadequate and does not meet minimum industry standards," said Wathne and Woodyer.
"The only answer for Lucy - one that must be immediately undertaken - is to finally allow this solitary elephant to move to a warmer sanctuary climate."

Organizations: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Edmonton Valley Zoo, Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Geographic location: Edmonton, Asheboro, N.C., United States Alberta San Digeo

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