New Jersey plan to ban exotic circus animals suffers setback

January 16, 2018, 10:45 a.m.
A circus elephant performs during a show.
Photo: Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock

New Jersey legislators recently passed a bill that would ban exotic animals from circuses and fairs, but it was not signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie before he left office Jan. 16. The bill's sponsors and supporters are undeterred, though, vowing to resubmit the bill with a few minor changes. If the bill does become law, New Jersey would be the first state with such a ban.

The legislation was named Nosey's Law after a 35-year-old elephant that was seized from the Great American Family Circus over allegations of neglect and mistreatment. Nosey is currently living at a Tennessee elephant sanctuary that focuses on providing a stable, community environment for elephants that have lived in captivity.

Former state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who has sponsored animal welfare and protection laws in the past, and state Sen. Nilsa Cruz Perez pushed the bill after learning of Nosey's plight, NJ.com reports.

"The conditions for Nosey and other elephants in similar circumstances is cruel and inhumane," Lesniak told NJ.com. "These animals are not here to be used as entertainment for humans. And using an injured elephant like Nosey to give rides to children and others can actually be dangerous. If the animal should stumble or collapse due to her fragile condition, any rider could be injured."

The bill didn't define what constitutes an exotic animal, but Lesniak recommended state regulators turn to the state's Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act for guidelines. That law defines an exotic animal as "any species of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish, mollusk, or crustacean that is not indigenous to New Jersey as determined by the Fish and Game Council."

The bill sailed through the state senate unopposed and received only two nay votes in the legislature's lower house. Gov. Christie opted not to sign the bill into law before his term ended, however, a move known as a "pocket veto." No explanation was immediately provided, but advocates of Nosey's Law say it's only a matter of time before a version of the bill resurfaces.

"A new bill with an education exemption to assuage the concerns from zoos will be on Governor Murphy's desk in a few weeks," Lesniak wrote in a Facebook post Monday, referring to Christie's successor Phil Murphy. "And we'll get to work making Nosey's Law a model for every state to follow!"

Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published.

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