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Ringling Bros. Says Proposed Exotic Animal Ban Would Drive The Circus Out Of L.A.

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Photo by Tony Medina via the LAist Featured Photos pool
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We all know that L.A. is a circus, but that doesn't mean residents of the Hollywood Hills have to like it when some asshat rents an actual elephant for a house party and walks it through the streets.

On Wednesday, Councilman David Ryu introduced a motion that would ban the exhibition of exotic and wild animals "for entertainment and amusement," which includes circuses, other exotic animal shows and, of course, the house parties which served as the original impetus for the motion, according to Councilman Ryu's communications director Estevan Montemayor.

"It came about when there were reports last year of an elephant walking with a handler through the Hollywood Hills," Montemayor told LAist, adding that the councilman's office received multiple calls from constituents upset about the presence of the elephant. According to council files, the LAPD has received several calls from Hollywood Hills residents about the presence of exotic and wild animals in the neighborhood, and previous incidents included lions, elephants, and a baby giraffe being rented as "props" for private events.

If passed, the ordinance could also spell disaster for L.A.'s famed annual Ringling Bros. Circus show, which is held every summer at the Staples Center, and features plenty of exotic animals. Ringling Bros. spokesman Stephen Payne told LAist that the ordinance "would effectively prohibit Ringling Bros. coming back to the City of Los Angeles and deny 100,000 Los Angeles families the chance to come see Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey."

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"We think that this is another animal rights-driven attempt to ban the circus in the City of Los Angeles, and a misguided attempt to dictate what Los Angeles area families can do for entertainment," Payne, the vice president of corporate communications for Feld Entertainment (Ringling Bros.' parent company) told LAist.

"We are very proud of our animal care. We know that we are actually the experts in providing care for exotic animals, because we've been doing it for 146 years," said Payne.

"I would challenge any member of the L.A. City Council who's supporting this bill to answer the question: 'What have you done lately to help tigers?' We do it every single day," the circus spokesman added, explaining that the tiger presenter who ran last year's Los Angeles show had "raised all of those cats since birth."

"He is [in the] third generation of his family to work with these cats. And the L.A. City Council has the temerity to say you're doing it wrong? That's insulting," said Payne.

"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,” Ryu said in a statement.

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The L.A. City Council previously butted heads with the circus when they banned the use of bullhooks, a hook used to train elephants and goad them into performing during a show, several years ago. Ryu's motion, now that it has been introduced, will be heard in committee sometime early next year.

"If this [ordinance] passes, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will not be able to return to the City of Los Angeles," said Payne.

"This legislation is intended to protect the welfare of exotic and wild animals. Entertainers who don't uphold that same value aren’t welcome in the City of Los Angeles," Montemayor told LAist in response to Payne's comments.