(KTLA) – The California city of Ojai is now the first city in America to recognize the legal rights of a nonhuman animal. 

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 on Tuesday night. 

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

“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.” 

Elephants have been found to be quite similar to humans; they are cognitively, emotionally and socially complex and are capable of suffering trauma and brain damage if they aren’t allowed to roam freely or interact with other elephants, 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.” 

The Nonhuman Rights Project is now looking to work with other cities in California and across the country to pass similar legislation.