There will be no animals at the Ramos Bros. Circus set to return to Glendale next week after city officials requested that the zebras, horses and other four-legged performers, except dogs and cats, be kept out of the show, partially because a camel escaped last November, causing a hullabaloo on Glendale Boulevard.
The getaway camel, which was eventually caught after a one-block pursuit, brought criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which at the time called on city officials to revoke the circus' permit to operate in the Civic Auditorium's parking lot.
Brad Wright, a former National Basketball Assn. player who now partially owns the circus, asked the City Council this week to let the Ramos Bros. Circus bring animals to the big top, pointing to several documents that showed they were healthy and safe.
But his 11th-hour plea didn't work. The circus operators had already signed a contract with the city to rent the Civic Auditorium space agreeing not to bring animals before Wright and another new partner, Glendale Kia President Onnik Mehrabian, came onboard.
To change it now would be difficult because several city departments, including fire, police and building safety, would have to be involved, said Tom Lorenz, city spokesman.
"It totally caught us off-guard," Lorenz said of Wright's request to have animals at the circus. "We're going to stick with the original contract."
Wright, who used to play for basketball for UCLA, the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets, said he was disheartened the city was blocking the circus from having animals.
"I'm disappointed not for myself and not for the circus, but for the kids," Wright said. "It's like having a birthday party without a cake."
He added that he understands there are some who oppose animals in circuses, such as PETA, but he would invite critics to make a surprise visit to check on the animals' quality of life.
"I'd want PETA to come at any time, inspect at any moment," he said.
Lorenz said other cities have blocked the Ramos Bros. Circus from having animals in the past. That list includes Corona, which bans exotic or wild animals in the city. He added Glendale officials are open to reviewing animals at the circus next year on a case-by-case basis.
The circus will still have other featured acts, including clowns and motorcycle performances, Wright said.
Wright bought one of the circus shows last year for roughly 1,300 children and teens in the Los Angeles County foster care system and local less-fortunate children. This year, he and Mehrabian bought shares of the circus in order to have as many free shows for at-risk children in the L.A. region as they wanted.
Wright said he plans to have a free show for foster children again, and will host another show for homeless and at-risk children. He also wants to have a free show to honor outgoing Police Chief Ron De Pompa.
Wright, who lives in Woodland Hills, said he wanted to host the circus in Glendale because to him, it's a quintessential American city.
"We wanted Glendale. Glendale was the birthplace of what my wife and I did last year," he said.
Mehrabian said he'd like the city to give the circus a discount on renting the Civic Auditorium parking lot because they will be hosting so many free shows.
However, Lorenz said the circus was signed on to offset revenue the city will miss out on because of the cancellation of the gun show at the Civic Auditorium.
The circus is scheduled to begin Nov. 15 and will cost $25 for adults and $15 for children. Tickets can be purchased at the circus at 1401 N. Verdugo Road.