The magic rabbit that appeared in Palisades Park as part of a disappearing act over the summer may soon vanish for good. On Tuesday, the City Council will consider adding rabbits, rats and spiders to the long list of animals banned from performing at popular tourist areas in the city.
The exotic animal ban includes areas at the Beach, Ocean Front Walk, the Pier, the Third Street Promenade and Transit Mall.
Like many tourist destinations around the world, Palisades Park was known for showmen offering photos with exotic animals and birds for money up until 2015. After a flood of complaints from the public and police, the City banned the practice, citing instances where the animals caused a commotion and complaints of inhumane treatment.
In an effort to keep the ordinance narrowly focused, the Council banned snakes, reptiles, non-human primates and birds, but it seems animals outside the list have ben popping up near the Pier.
Most recently, a man showing off his collection of tarantulas has frightened some tourists. Over the summer, people worried about the welfare of the white rabbit that performed all day in the heat, according to the City’s principal administrative analyst Melissa Spagnuolo.
“It can get hot and the crowds can get large and it’s not the best environment for wild animals,” Spagnuolo said, who works in the Community and Cultural Services Department and helped draft the expanded ordinance.
Over the past two years, City Leaders have acted to move away from animal related acts, prohibiting exotic and wild animals from tourist areas and ending pony rides at the farmer’s markets.
“This ordinance would protect people in our parks from spiders, scorpions and rats, but also would protect small, vulnerable animals like bunny rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs from being exploited for ‘showmanship’ or being put at risk of getting loose in public spaces where their safety might be in jeopardy,” said Councilman Kevin McKeown who signaled his support for expanding the ordinance next week.
Although there are public safety concerns over whether the animals have vaccinations or could attack a tourist, Spagnuolo says most of the complaints received by the City concern the well being of the animals themselves.
“We knew that at some point, we would most likely need to expand the list,” Spagnuolo said, adding that the list could be expanded again if the City notices new animals popping up near The Pier or Promenade.
If the ordinance passes Tuesday, it will appear on the agenda again before the end of January for a second reading and then go into effect long before the next tourist season starts.
City Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 10 at City Hall, 1685 Main St.