ANIMAL rights campaigners have called on York council chiefs to ban circus shows involving animals from the authority's land.

Knavesmire, owned by City of York Council, has hosted numerous performing acts containing animals including the Spirit Of The Horse, which is appearing at the site in April.

The council currently does not allow animal circuses except those containing dogs and horses, but the Northern Animal Rights Network (NARN) has called on the authority to amend its policy NARN spokesperson Luke Steele said: "The current policy was adopted due to the controversy and cruelty associated with animals used in performing acts, but horses and dogs suffer just as much as any other creature in circuses.

"Horses, for instance, can suffer from severe mental problems due to the stress of being transported around continuously. They also get joint problems caused by being forced to stand on their hind legs in acts."

Coun Keith Orrell, the council's executive member for leisure and culture, said: "This policy has been in force for many years.

As far as I am aware, there have not been any complaints about it or any problems related to it.

"There are no plans to review the policy in the immediate future. I know from my discussions with officers that the welfare of the animals is always a high priority.

"It is also worth noting that events that are under the auspices of the council are subject to all the controls that result from that involvement."

A council spokesperson said: "We can confirm that the council's ban on performing animals currently excludes horses and dogs. However, any shows that do feature dogs and horses are subject to rigorous checks to ensure that the animals are healthy and kept in good conditions. Those responsible for them are also expected to register with a local vet when they perform on council-owned land."

Three years ago, special branch police officers had to be called in, after animal rights activists made a string of threatening phone calls to a York riding stable owner, after she agreed to host a controversial animal circus.

Lorna Marchi said she was plagued with intimidating phone calls after leasing part of her Wigginton Road stables to The Great British Circus, which included 30 animals, including big cats, camels, llamas and horses.

Campaigners called on residents to boycott the show.