Montgomery County Council gets cheers over circus animal ban

The Sentinel reported last week that circus animals may no longer be welcomed in the County as the County Council is likely to pass a bill banning performance animals from staying in the County.

Eight of the nine County Council members are co-sponsoring Bill 23-17 which would ban businesses and traveling shows such as circuses from keeping their performance animals in the County.

The bill was well received during its public hearing last Tuesday with almost all testifying in support saying it would be a strong stance against animal cruelty.

“There really shouldn’t be any debate about this legislation because the fact of the matter is that abusing and exploiting wild animals for our own amusement really does not belong in our County–it belongs in the history books,” said Silver Spring resident Paul Shapiro who testified in favor of the bill. Council member Craig Rice introduced the bill, saying he was prompted to do so after the closing of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, which had its final show in May.

“The closing of the Barnum and Bailey Circus, which was driven by the concern for the way performing animals were treated, is a major driver behind this bill,” Rice said.

“Ironically, animals in a large circus such as that one likely were treated better than the animals that are in much smaller circuses with fewer resources. There are dozens of those types of circuses that go around the country and set up in an empty parking lot.”

Bill 23-17 specifically lists chimpanzees, monkeys, baboons, lions, tigers, leopards, cougars, wolves, coyotes, bears, elephants, crocodiles and snakes as animals that circuses or travelling shows are prohibited from keeping in the County as part of their performances. The bill would not apply to municipalities within the County.

Other cities across the country enacted similar bans on circus animals being kept within their jurisdiction such as Takoma Park, Boulder, San Francisco, Oakland, and Jersey City.

“The exploitation of animals for human entertainment is no longer acceptable,” said Chris Shaughness, of Montgomery County Partners for Animal Welling-Being, who testified in favor of the bill. “That’s not a practice we want to condone for our children.”

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