Portland becomes first city in Maine to ban exotic animals; Greenville, NC takes up ban

Circus Tiger (File Photo)

The Portland City Council voted unanimously last Monday night to prohibit circuses and other traveling acts from exhibiting wild and exotic animals in Maine’s largest city, citing their “cruel” handling and training. City Councilor Brian Batson proposed the ban after a handful of animal rights activists protested the Kora Shrine Circus’ annual visit to Portland in the spring.

Portland is the first city in Maine to ban the display of exotic animals and joins more than 100 cities across the country. “We can all recognize the fact these practices are outdated,” Batson said. “They are not only cruel— they are inhumane.”

No one testified against the ban during the council meetings; however more than a dozen people, including representatives of several animal rights groups, urged the councilors to take it up in the hope that state lawmakers would follow suit.

The proposed ordinance received a unanimous recommendation from the council’s Health and Human Services Committee. The resolution framed the ban as a way for the city to keep pace with changing public norms about the treatment of animals. “Animals have long been displayed for human entertainment but acceptance of this practice is shifting, and those performances are now often viewed as acts of cruelty to the captive animals involved,” it states.

The ordinance will cover wild animals, including elephants, lions, tigers, zebras and giraffes, as well as aquatic animals such as crocodiles, seals, walruses and sharks. But it exempts horses, cattle and swine.

Anyone found to be in violation of the city regulation will be subject to a $500 fine.

Meanwhile a former city councilwoman in Greenville, North Carolina outraged over exotic animal show

Former city councilwoman, Marion Blackburn, saw an animal exhibition that was held near the Greenville Mall last May. The show featured tigers and elephants. It left her outraged. “And I saw those beautiful elephants, walking around in circles, and the suffering on their faces,” Blackburn said. “I knew it had to be the last time that a circus ever came to Greenville.”

Blackburn spoke before the Greenville City Council last Monday. The council decided to move forward to draft a bill that would ban commercial use of exotic animals. That ban would affect It’s a Zoo Life, is located in Edgecombe County. That business does animal exhibitions in Greenville regularly, partnering with East Carolina University, Vidant and the Ronald McDonald House. “There’s children, there’s elderly, and there’s disabled that come out, and there’s some people that that is all they had to look forward to,” said Jo Abrams, owner of It’s a Zoo Life.

Abrams said most of her animals are rescues and that each animal is cared for and happy on the 15-acre property. They are animals that are stressed by traveling and never leave the property. “The thing is I’m always gonna do the best I can, as a caregiver and as a parent. And that’s how I feel, we feel like we’re a family,” Abrams said.

Blackburn argues any time you take these animals away from their natural habitat, it’s just not right. “Where’s a tiger supposed to be? In the rainforest,” Blackburn said. “Where’s an elephant supposed to be? In the Asian rainforest. The ordinance is currently being drafted but Blackburn said it will be ready to present to the Greenville City Council for an official vote in a few months.

In May, the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus shut down the “Greatest Show on Earth” after its nearly 150-year run. The circus’ owner blamed a dramatic drop in attendance on the 2016 decision to bow to pressure from animal rights groups and stop using elephants in its performances.

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