Sara, 'The Tiger Whisperer,' of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, puts some of her eight Royal Bengal tigers through their paces.
The “Greatest Show on Earth” may soon be forced to fold its tent in New York City.
The City Council is considering a bill to ban wild and exotic animals from appearing in “entertainment” events, a move that a circus spokesman warned might spell the end of a 100-year tradition in the Big Apple.
“There are only two circuses that regularly perform in New York City, Ringling Brothers and UniverSoul,” said spokesman Ken Frydman. “If the bill passes, neither circus could return in their current form.”
Radio City’s annual Christmas show, which features camels, could also be affected.
Barbara Austin, a founder of the Dawn Animal Agency, which has provided the animals to Radio City for 30 years, said no one from the City Council has reached out to her about the bill.
“I was kind of shocked that they didn’t ask any input from anyone in the city, any of the trainers,” she said.
The bill, which is scheduled for a public hearing next week, would prohibit “wild or exotic” animals at circuses when they’re housed in “mobile” facilities for more than 12 hours at a time.
Zoos and religious institutions would be exempt. So would farm animals, such as horses.
A Royal Bengal tiger in a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus act.
Frydman said Ringling has an 80-city circuit and it would be impossible to replace its animals just for New York.
Stephen Payne, a VP at Feld Entertainment, Ringling’s parent company, said, “This bill is unnecessary, does nothing to advance animal welfare, and would deny circus fans the opportunity to see the amazing bond that exists between our human and animal performers.”
He noted that the circus is already subject to local, state and federal animal-welfare inspections.
“We are very proud of the high level of care we provide for all our animals,” he said.
But animal-rights advocates disagreed.
“These are wild animals and they need to be treated in a humane way,” Councilman Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) said. “I don’t think trucking animals into the city is a humane way to be treating them.”
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