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Pittsburgh’s Bullhook Ban

In December of 2017, Pittsburgh City Council voted to ban the use of bullhooks, electric prods, shocking devices, hacksaws, and other instruments capable of inflicting pain, intimidating, or threating pain for the purpose of training or controlling wild or exotic animals, including elephants, lions, tigers, bears, monkeys, and camels, in the city of Pittsburgh.  Each separate act constitutes a distinct offense punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000 and/or a term of imprisonment not to exceed 30 days.  Any person convicted of a violation under the ordinance shall be ineligible for an Amusement License, a Carnival or Street Fair License, or a Special Event Permit under the Pittsburgh Code of Ordinances.

In recent years, similar laws to prevent exotic animal performances have been gaining popularity across the United States.  The bullhook is banned in the entire states of Rhode Island and California, as well as many U.S. cities, including Austin, Texas, Miami Beach, Florida, Fulton County, Georgia, and Richmond, Virginia.  Other cities, including Boulder, Colorado, Stamford, Connecticut, Jersey City, New Jersey, Greenburgh, New York, Missoula, Montana, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Burlington, Vermont, and Redmond, Washington, have taken action to stop exotic animal performances by banning the display of exotic animals or circus performances.

Although Pittsburgh’s ordinance has yet to be tested in the judicial system, the threat of punishment under the law appears to have already had an effect.  Garden Brothers Circus, a travelling circus whose act includes elephants, was scheduled for six performances at the Petersen Events Center on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus in the month of May.  After the University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher was informed of the new ordinance, he promptly cancelled all of the shows.

Time will tell if this ordinance will continue to dissuade exotic animal circuses and event arenas from scheduling such performances within Pittsburgh city limits.  If not, we will see how strictly the courts enforce the penalties required under the new law.

For more information, contact Feldstein, Grinberg, Lang & McKee.

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