On November 30, Los Angeles City Council Member David Ryu introduced a motion that, if passed, would direct the City Attorney to draft a new ordinance to “prohibit the exhibition of wild or exotic animals for entertainment or amusement, including circuses, other wild or exotic animal shows, and rentals for house parties.”
In an official statement about the motion, Ryu said:
“Wild and exotic animals have a long history of being exploited for public and private entertainment. Treating animals in this manner has taught generations of people that it is okay to view wild and exotic animals as toys. It is time that the City of Los Angeles take action to make clear that exhibiting such animals in this way is no longer in line with our City’s values.”
The motion is aimed at preventing the harmful exploitation of the animals, as well as “the public safety hazard that arises from animal mishandling.” The proposal seems at least partly directed at “lavish” house parties, often in the Hollywood Hills, where such animals have been used as props and entertainment. But Ryu said displays of some types of snakes, reptiles, birds, and primates on public sidewalks are also a concern.
Wayne Pacell, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, was quoted in Ryu’s statement, saying, “Wild animals in circuses and other traveling displays typically have lives of unending transport and dislocation, deprivation, and long-term confinement. Trainers typically inflict punishment and pain to induce certain behaviors for performances.” Pacell also commended Ryu for introducing the motion, which goes even further toward curbing animal abuses than a 2014 ordinance outlawing the use of bullhooks to control animals.
Details of which specific animals, and uses of those animals, the proposed new ordinance might ban are still up in the air. CD4 Director of Communications Estevan Montemayor explained that while Ryu’s motion was made this week, it will still have to make its way through the City Council’s Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee, and then return to the full Council for a vote. If the Council approves the motion, then the City Attorney’s office would draft the new ordinance, including the specifics of which animals and uses would be prohibited.
When asked if a resulting ordinance might include camels, such as those currently used for children’s rides at the annual Larchmont Family Fair, Montemayor said it’s too soon to tell. He said some cities with similar ordinances have included camels in their bans, while others have not.
Camels have actually been used for various purposes in the U.S. since about 1857, and cities that have excluded camels from exotic animal bans tend to consider them “domesticated” and in the same category of unrestricted use as sheep, bison and llamas. Also, it appears that at least some cities ban certain animals from some types of display or performances, but make exceptions for other uses. For example, while a similar exotic animal ban is pending in New York City (and camels are on the list of banned animals there), the famous Radio City Rockettes will apparently continue to be able to feature camels in their Christmas shows. In a recent New York Post story, New York City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez explained that, “Camels are exempted if they’re being used for a religious setting…as long as they’re just being displayed.”
So, as with many other newly proposed pieces of city legislation we’ve all been following in recent months, it’s likely that this one will go through several iterations and lists of potential provisions before it actually becomes new law. Stay tuned…