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Proposal Would Ban Lions, Tigers, Bears And Other Exotic Animals From Circus Acts In NYC

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The days of going to the circus may be coming to an end in New York City.

A new bill expected to be considered by the City Council would ban wild or exotic animals for public entertainment or amusement, with exceptions for zoos and religious ceremonies.

The proposed bill would effectively end certain circus performances in New York City.

Councilmember Rosie Mendez said she sees training of the animals as inhumane because they "sometimes are physically hit in order to get them to learn or perform the trick."

"Some of these animals in different cities have escaped and have attacked people, so we're talking about the safety of the animals, we're talking about the safety of human beings," Mendez said.

As CBS2's Hazel Sanches reported, Mendez said she has been proposing and revising the bill since 2006.

The bill is backed by NYCLASS, the animal rights group that tried to ban horse carriage rides in Central Park. The group's executive director previously said animals in the circus are horribly abused, the Daily News reported.

Stephen Payne, vice president of Feld Entertainment, parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, insists their animals are not mistreated.

"Our animals are trained through repetition and reward and really the bond between our human and animal performers and the trust that exists there is most important," Payne said.

"We are already inspected and governed by regulations at the local, state, and federal level," he added. "We're very happy to have transparency in our animal care. We're very proud of what we do."

Stephen Payne, spokesperson for Feld Entertainment, said he questions the motivation behind the legislation. He believes the failed ban of the horse and carriage industry has pushed animal advocates to go after the circus.

"Sadly, they decided that Ringling Brothers and other circuses and other exhibitors would be a target that would serve no purpose other than to cost jobs and deny thousands of New Yorkers to see Ringling Brothers and other circuses when they come to the city," he said.

NYCLASS is currently being investigated for allegedly donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to Mayor de Blasio's campaign in an effort to ban horse drawn carriages.

Mendez said NYCLASS is not influencing her, claiming she hasn't had a relationship with the group since 2014, and that they haven't donated to her campaign.

She said her bill is not about campaign promises, it's about protecting the animals and the people of New York.

She said if the bill passes there will be exceptions, including animals on display for religious purposes.

A hearing on the bill is set for Oct. 20.

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