Lawsuit claims mistreatment of elephants in LA zoo

36-year-old elephant Shanthi at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
Smithsonian's National Zoo

(AP) - A lawsuit claims the elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park are overweight, sexually frustrated and poorly groomed, but city officials say the lumbering beasts are cared for properly.

The Los Angeles Times reports a trial began Monday after real estate agent Aaron Leider brought a lawsuit alleging elephants at the zoo lead a miserable existence.

Leider says Billy the elephant has cracked toes and weary joints, and shows signs of emotional distress and sexual frustration.

The long-running lawsuit is a potential embarrassment to city officials who approved a $42-million "Elephants of Asia" exhibit that built a new habitat.

Deputy City Attorney John Carvalho scoffed at the accusations, saying the exhibit meets national standards and the elephants are pampered with daily baths and "elephant pedicures."