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Last month, a federal judge ordered the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to install an elephant sponsored by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The newly added Ella PhantzPeril, shackled and weeping to protest the treatment of elephants in circuses, expands the ideological range of the Party Animals.
It does nothing, however, for the project’s geographic reach. Instead of adding its animal to the undersupplied neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, PETA insisted on planting its pachyderm in the middle of the District, where the faux fauna already abound.
Back in March, when the animal-rights outfit put up its $5,000 sponsorship fee, PETA officials say, the group sought a high-profile location for its protest piece. By the time the dispute over the design was resolved, all the desired spots had been taken.
The commission offered PETA its pick of 17 unoccupied sites—including two locations east of the Anacostia, where currently there are only five Party Animals. But the animal-rights group disdained the city’s “leftovers,” says Arthur Spitzer, legal director for the D.C. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued PETA’s case in court.
“We were not interested in being in an outlying area of the city somewhere,” Spitzer says. “We wanted a spot that had good visibility and high pedestrian traffic, just like the other people who paid good money to have high-level sponsorships.”
In the end, the court affirmed the separate and unequal distribution of animals around the District. PETA secured a site it had originally requested, just steps away from Dupont Circle’s northern Metro entrance. Ella PhantzPeril brings the number of Party Animals around Dupont Circle to seven—including another pachyderm only a few feet away from the new arrival.
A little overcrowding, in the eyes of the animal-rights forces, is better than being sent to Southeast.
“The city,” Spitzer says, “would have been happy to put us in Anacostia….But that’s not the audience that PETA was trying to reach.” —Chris Shott
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