Legal rights for all inhabitants of the animal kingdom have been formally recognised in the Southern California city of Ojai after a council vote Tuesday night.

Elephants are the first to benefit as the city leads the U.S. to ensure legal protection is delivered to any and all “nonhuman animals.”

The Ojai City Council voted to adopt the ordinance introduced by Councilmember Leslie Rule (District 1) and developed with the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) by a vote of 4-1, local outlet KTLA reports.

Rule first proposed the ordinance earlier this year. Specifically, she wrote the ordinance due to how elephants in Ojai were once made to do circus tricks and were later moved to a large elephant sanctuary, the California Globe reports.

The proposal argued elephants are cognitively, emotionally, and socially complex like humans, and deserve liberty to lead healthy lives with their feelings intact.

The ordinance defines and protects elephants’ rights to freedom, NhRP said in a press release.

File/Elephants will benefit as Southern California city of Ojai leads the U.S. to ensure legal protection is delivered to a non-human animal. (FLORENT VERGNES/AFP via Getty Images)

“It’s indisputable that elephants suffer when deprived of their freedom and that animal welfare laws can’t end their suffering,” said NhRP Director of Government Relations and Campaigns Courtney Fern.

“For elephants and the nonhuman animal rights movement, we are proud to support this first-of-its-kind ordinance and we commend the Ojai City Council for standing up for what is necessary and just.”

The KTLA report sets out elephants have been found to be quite similar to humans and are capable of suffering trauma and brain damage if they aren’t allowed to roam freely or interact with other elephants, per the NhRP release said.

“We have known for some time that elephants have strong empathetic responses to one another’s condition,” said Mark Scott, Interim Ojai City Manager. “I am glad that we are able to make this statement supporting the place of these noble creatures in our world.”

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