Elephants Etc.: Nobody is Going to Make Fun of Wild Animals in Southampton

Southampton Town still hasn’t gotten over getting stung several years ago when some people tried to ban elephants in that town. Of course, there are usually no elephants in town, except for one day every August when the circus comes to town, which was, of course, the point.

That day, the kids in the Hamptons excitedly take their parents to the Big Top to see the lions and tigers and elephants. Until all the trouble, the circus was on the vacant field owned by the Southampton Elks on County Road 39.

But then, five years ago the town considered banning elephants because of objections by local animal rights activists and the outrageous antics of PETA, the creative group that finds ways to make the public feel that animals are in such pain in these circumstances we just have to do something about it. PETA members with signs picketed the circus earlier that year. They held a march. They presented petitions to the town. Finally the town said NO ELEPHANTS EVER AGAIN, except for purely educational purposes. And they passed it into law.

In these pages at that time I reminded people that 800 acres embedded inside the 295.6 square miles of Southampton Town is the Shinnecock Indian Nation, and it is highly unlikely that the Nation, essentially an Independent Country, would have a ban on elephants or any other animals. I called Trustee Lance Gumbs and suggested the circus rent the PowWow grounds for a day. I then called the circus and told them to call the Trustees. The circus has been there on the PowWow grounds ever since and doing just fine thank you very much.

And so now Southampton Town has passed an updated code on the displaying of all exotic or wild animals in that town. It recently was brought up, besides the issue of the circus, the poignant episode last summer, where a giraffe was brought to the Hampton Classic Horse Show. It was, indeed, only there as a curiosity. People could come over and look at it. Was the giraffe made to feel embarassed? This was the sort of thing that should be banned. Of course if they’d had a Bay Keeper or a safari guide there to explain the giraffe and you were required to listen to him, that would be something else.

So now Southampton Town has strengthened the definition of what would constitute an educational purpose for displaying exotic animals.

After all, where does the joy of looking at a little wild bear cub turn into an educational experience involving looking at a little wild bear cub?

It’s now ok to have wild or exotic animals in town so long as people are able to learn from the experience, and not just be entertained. And the town set academic standards for how the people explaining the animals have to be qualified.

As for the Shinnecock Nation, they are an itch that Southampton cannot scratch. Southampton can hiss and roar, growl and rumble, shake a stick and twirl a lasso, but nothing they can say or do will change things at Shinnecock.

I will say that walking down Jobs Lane the other day, I encountered an enormous four-legged creature on a leash whose owners told me was a cross between an Old English Mastiff and a Standard Poodle. It was white with black spots. It was the size of a rhinoceros.

“It’s a Mastipoo,” its owner, a man wearing a hunting jacket said proudly. “There are only a few of them. And they are very different one from another.”

“Friendly?” I asked.

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