Word travels fast among animal handlers.

An exotic animal ban went into effect just over a month ago and already the area around the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier, and all of the other areas the ban impacts, are free of snakes and colorful birds.

City Council approved the ban unanimously at the end of February and adopted it at the end of March. It went into place at the end of April.

The Santa Monica Police Department, which is taskedwith enforcement of the ban and other street performer violations, has not issued a single citation, according to police spokesmanRudy Camarena.

Pier officials are noticing anecdotal improvements in pedestrian access to the pier. The most common gathering place for animal handlers was on the Palisades Park grass adjacent to the pier bridge.

“I believe it has had a very noticeable impact in reducing the congestion at the top of Pier/Pier bridge entry,” Pier Manager Rod Merl said in an email, “and from comments I am hearing from people that they feel far more comfortable coming down to the Pier through that area and on the Pier as well.”

The ban has also completely eliminated the animal handlers’ presence on the deck, he said.

Camarena explained that the police department does not require the tracking of warnings issued.

“Since the law went into effect I know that PD has monitored the area and we have not seen a return of those activities,” Merl said.

The ban started at the Recreation and Parks Commission after Chair Phil Brock told the commission that a snake was stuck in his face while a bird came at him from the other side.

The Santa Monica Pier Corporation Board also approved of the ban before it went to council.

Animal rights activists argued on behalf of the ban, claiming that the animals were forced to work long hours without adequate water, shade, or breaks.

Animal handlers called the claims bogus, noting that they care greatly about the welfare of the creatures and that injuries were not occurring.

Animal handlers allow visitors to pose for photos with birds or reptiles in exchange for tips. Many animal handlers said that they relied on the tips to support their animals.

Council also recently decided, after protest from animal rights activists, to oust a vendor who’d been running pony rides and a petting zoo for years at the farmers market.

The pony rides got the boot last week.

Council’s wild animal ordinance banned snakes, reptiles, birds, and non-human primates, from all city parks, the beach, Ocean Front Walk, the Santa Monica Pier, the pier ramp, the Third Street Promenade, and the Downtown Transit Mall.

City officials said that the police department had responded to several animal-related injuries around the entrance of the pier. They also stated that the crowds gathered around the animals caused a public safety hazard.

dave@www.smdp.com

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