Intense debate over circus animals at City Hall

The public hearing for a proposed ordinance that would ban wild circus animals from the city turned into quite a circus of its own.

More than 100 people crammed into City Council chambers for the Sept. 12 hearing, with even more spilling into the hall and filling a neighboring room that was playing the hearing on a television. On one side of the City Council chambers, supporters of the ban wore large yellow stickers that demanded “No Wild Animal Circuses.”

On the other side of the room, members of the Zuhrah Shrine that sponsors a circus at the Target Center each year proudly sported their tall, glittery maroon fezzes. Also dotting the crowd were veterinarians and other prominent animal experts who testified on both sides of the issue.

Members of both sides passionately argued their case for or against the ban during several hours of testimony at the City Council’s Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee, but time constraints left council members unable to do much debating of their own. The committee voted to send the proposed ban to the full City Council without recommendation. The City Council will take the issue up at its Sept. 21 meeting.

Council Members Ralph Remington (10th Ward) and Cam Gordon (2nd Ward) proposed the ban because they say it would better align the law with the city’s policy against the inhumane treatment of animals, as well as protect circus goers against potential attacks by wild animals. The ban was initially introduced to the City Council in June but has been delayed several times.

An alternative measure recently proposed by Council Members Paul Ostrow (1st Ward) and Betsy Hodges (13th Ward) would increase circus regulations and inspections but would not ban wild animals from performing.