Animal exhibitors worry Suffolk County bill could end their educational events
Some animal exhibitors say a Suffolk County bill that aims to permanently cage exotic animal shows and events was too broadly written and would end educational events that are popular at schools and festivals.
Jungle Bob's Reptile World store in Selden started as a traveling animal exhibitor, going to schools and birthday parties to educate the young and old about exotic animals.
They still do it today, but the Suffolk bill could stop that. Now they hope that legislators behind the bill reconsider.
"It is so broad and wide sweeping, it's taking every animal on the planet: Dogs, cats and farm animals and putting them in an exotic dangerous-type of category," says "Jungle" Bob Smith. He has been an animal exhibitor for more than three decades on Long Island, so he was surprised by the proposed bill that would stop his educational shows that he brings to schools and private parties.
"I literally have three giant boxes of these," Smith says while displaying kids' "thank you" notes and proclamations that line the walls of his store.
The bill seems to be in reaction to Sloth Encounters owner Larry Wallach offering home sloth encounters after a court order shut down his Hauppauge business.
"The state and the federal government doesn't regulate it, so we are going to regulate it," says Suffolk County Leg. Jason Richberg.
However, exotic animal exhibitors say the proposed legislation is way too broad and could shut them down from doing educational events like at schools and festivals in the county.
"It's really over regulation. We're already regulated at the county level, statewide, DEC and the USDA as exhibitors," says animal exhibitor "Nature" Nick Jacinto, who has even started a change.org petition to hopefully change Suffolk legislators' minds. Meantime other animal exhibitors worry if the bill does pass, kids may not be able to learn as much as they can about these creatures.
"That would be a huge loss for a lot of the kids for them not to experience that and see that for the first time, especially not being introduced to that," says Tyler Smith, of Jungle Bob's Reptile World.
One of the bill's sponsors told News 12 Long Island that they've heard the complaints of exhibitors like Bob Smith and others and are working to adjust the bill at the county level.
Bob Smith says he is willing to work with legislators to make everyone happy.
It could be several weeks until the text of the bill is seen and the county legislators vote on it.