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City Of Delaware Wants To Ban Circuses With Exotic Animals

Circus Pages
Circus Pages performers stand with elephants Daisy and Bambi. The circus applied for a permit to perform at the Delaware County Fair.

No lions, tigers or bears? Oh my.

In the city of Delaware, council members are pushing to ban circuses that mistreat animals or use exotic animals like elephants and large cats in their acts after growing criticism for the practice.

The proposal comes just over a week after the announced closing of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

If approved, Dublin's new ordinance would be the first update to the city code on circus permits since 1976. 

Council member George Hellinger, who developed the proposal, says it would ban circuses from performing within city limits if they have a history of documented animal mistreatment, or if they use exotic animals in their show.

Hellinger says the main motivation for the regulation is public safety. If a potentially dangerous animal escapes from their holdings, it's up to local law enforcement to chase them down.

"You know we don't carry the weapons that would be necessary to put down a large animal," Hellinger says.

Another motivation, he says, is that training and exhibiting exotic animals has largely fallen out of public favor. He likens it to circus freak shows from the early 20th century.

"We as a society moved beyond that," Hellinger says. "I think the same thing can be said now with the animals. I think the animal rights and animal safety has really come into that."

Sandy Kuhn, manager at the Delaware County Fair, disagrees.

Kuhn says the circus is still a traditional American pasttime that's worth keeping alive.  

"In today's age I don't think we spend enough quality family time," Kuhn says. "Why not provide another outlet for families to do that?"

Circus Pages, a small circus out of Florida, has applied for a permit to perform at the Delaware County Fair  in March. If the ordinance passes, the circus will be denied because they perform with elephants and large cats.

USDA records show Circus Pages has no citations of animal abuse in the last three years. However, a recent video from YouTube shows a Circus Pages trainer being attacked by a tiger, and subsequently beating the animal to protect herself.

George Hellinger says this is the sort of thing they want to prevent from happening in their community. If you want to see elephants and tigers, Hellinger says, visit the Columbus Zoo instead.

Delaware City Council plans to vote on the ordinance in February.