Flanked by schoolchildren and officials from the SPCA of Westchester, County Executive George Latimer last week signed an executive order prohibiting the use of exotic animals in performances at Westchester County Center in White Plains.
From February 15 through 17 this year, the Royal Hanneford Circus performed their yearly shows at the center, including acts featuring horses, dogs, cats, camels, elephants, tigers, and more. On February 18, Latimer’s office released a statement that it would be reassessing the county’s policy of allowing these animal acts to perform at County Center.
“For nearly 50 years we have hosted shows that include such animals, but we have the responsibility to determine what should happen moving forward,” the county executive says.
“There are many who are against the exploitation of animals for entertainment; the use of elephants in entertainment acts including circuses, carnivals, parades, and trade shows are already prohibited in New York State.”
On February 28, 2020, Mr. Latimer signed the executive order at the County Center. He was joined by representatives from the SPCA of Westchester and student activists from the nearby Woodlands Middle and High Schools. The order takes effect immediately and cites studies demonstrating that the conditions necessary for transport and keeping of, and performance by wild and exotic animals is inherently detrimental to their physical and psychological health.
“Whatever efforts are needed to control them to perform is not worth the entertainment value that people can get from them,” Latimer says.
The ban does not forbid all circus acts, Latimer says. “We believe there are similar entities that can be solicited to come to this building and be equally entertaining — without the animals.” Also not affected by this order are the county’s ongoing dog adoption program at the center, or its yearly NY Metro Reptile Show, which do not include performances.
Shannon Laukuf, Executive Director of the SPCA of Westchester, praises the announcement, saying, “The SPCA of Westchester is extremely proud that our County Executive is taking a stance on the exploitation of exotic animals used to perform in circuses and shows,” adding, “We are grateful that Westchester County will be joining dozens of other cities and states who have enacted similar bans to protect animals from this cruel and inhumane practice.”
“I want to work with animals when I get older because I strongly believe they should live a life outside of being hurt and abused,” says Woodlands Middle School 7th grader Gisella Polit. “I’m so happy to be here today, as this is a great thing for Westchester that will hopefully improve the quality of life for our animals.”