people standing at podium

View full press conference HERE.

With potential future veterinarians and local animal protection officials on hand, County Executive George Latimer signed Executive Order No. 1 of 2020 which forbids the use of exotic animals for performances on County property. 

Latimer said: “We are at a point, as has been reached by many other jurisdictions, to have these type of performances and subject these animals to whatever efforts are needed to control them to perform is not worth the entertainment value that people can get from them. We believe there are similar entities that can be solicited to come to this building and be equally entertaining – without the animals.”

As the E.O. states, studies have shown that the conditions inherent to traveling performances involving exotic animals create acute negative effects on the psychological and physical health of the performing animals as a result of often small, confined spaces they are kept in and the pressures of the unfamiliar environment.

When signing the Order, Latimer was joined by students from Woodlands Middle/High School who have made caring for all living things an issue that is important to them at a young age. Times have changed and many children today have a different understanding of what they see at a performance involving animals. Often, they worry about animals and have a level of compassion that generations before didn’t have.

Woodlands Middle/High School 7th Grade student Gissella Polit said: “This topic is a passion of mine. I believe that all animals should be treated with humanity, they are not objects and we should never hurt them. My fear is that more animals will become endangered around the world if we continue to treat them with neglect. 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. 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.”

Latimer was also joined by representatives of the SPCA of Westchester, an organization devoted to saving homeless, abused and abandoned animals and to protecting animals from cruelty and neglect through education and enforcement of humane laws.

SPCA of Westchester Executive Director Shannon Laukhuf said: “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.  Wild animals are not meant to be confined in small cages, which is typically how they live when they aren't being used for human entertainment and are then forced to perform unnatural behaviors for no good reason. It's extremely stressful on these poor animals who inevitably suffer physically and psychologically. 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.”

Several tragic incidents involving exotic animals have already occurred prompting responsive legislation from the impacted municipalities including the State of New Jersey, the State of California, the State of Mississippi and the State of Hawaii.

This Executive Order takes effect immediately