Mayor Bill de Blasio geared up for another animal rights fight on Thursday as his representative testified his support of a proposed ban on exotic animals for entertainment, calling the protection of animals a priority for the administration.
The bill, introduced to the Committee on Health in a hearing that lasted more than three hours, comes after de Blasio’s failed attempts to ban carriage horses in the city and amid an investigation into campaign donations by animal rights group NYCLASS.
“It is inappropriate for the wild and exotic animals covered by this bill to be forced to perform for entertainment purposes,” said Jeffrey Dupee, the senior community liaison for the mayor’s office who works primarily with animal welfare issues.
Julie Cappiello, the campaign organizer for NYCLASS, testified for the ban on Thursday, but declined to talk about the failed horse carriage ban.
“I support animals not being in the circus, they don’t deserve a life of captivity. They don’t deserve a life of boxed cars and being dragged around, forced to perform on stage,” said Cappiello, whose own great aunts performed as aerialists for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
But many advocates fighting against the bill testified on Thursday that it would unfairly affect the circus, effectively banning it from the city.
Animals used at accredited zoos, research facilities, for religious ceremonies or celebrations, and educational or conservation-related programs or presentations are exempt.
Council Member Rosie Mendez, who is a sponsor on the bill, also told the New York Post earlier this month that the ban won’t affect the camels used for the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular because “they’re being used for a religious setting.”
Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, which puts on the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, said the circus will not be coming back to Barclays Center if the ban is passed.
The circus group testified they retired their elephants earlier this year because it would have been a logistical nightmare to remove the big animals for different shows in different cities that have passed similar bans to the one proposed.
“If this bill passes, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey will not come back to New York. Period,” Payne said. “We have no plans at this time to remove any other animals from our show.
“We will not leave our animals at the city limits,” Payne added.
The circus is slated to perform at Barclays Center in February and March.