PAWS Magazine

Issue 44, Winter 2000

Redmond Votes Circuses Out

Redmond says Yes to keeping wild animals wild

Will Seattle be the next city to prohibit circuses featuring animals?

"I don't think I've ever been more satisfied being a member of this body," said Redmond City Council member Richard Grubb. He and his fellow council members had just voted unanimously to ban the display or performance of wild and exotic animals within the Redmond city limits.

The Redmond ban was the first such ban in King County, but as this edition of PAWS News went to press, the city of Seattle was poised to become the second. Before the Seattle City Council was a similar ordinance, with hearings set for the second week of February.

The success of the Redmond decision, and the success in persuading Seattle Mayor Paul Schell, and council members Heidi Wills and Judy Nicastro to support the proposed Seattle ban is the result of the hard work of a local community group dedicated to helping the nation's captive circus animal population. Citizens for Cruelty-Free Entertainment (CCFE) was formed specifically to bring the issue to local government agencies. Among the founding members of CCFE are PAWS Animal Advocate Diane Venberg and PAWS board member Claudine Erlandson. Other members of CCFE include Joe Haptas from Northwest Animal Right Network, animal behaviorist Ellen Leach, and noted activists Simon Chaitowicz and Lars Pardo.

CCFE approached the Redmond City Council last year. Council member Richard Grubb agreed to sponsor the ban, and through the process became very vocal in his support of animals. Grubb's passion helped persuade all six of his fellow council members to support his proposed ban.

While CCFE was working with the Redmond City Council, they were also working behind the scenes with Seattle Mayor Paul Schell, earning his support as well. Schell announced in fall of last year that he intended to bring the issue before the incoming Seattle City Council in the new year. Among the newly elected Seattle City Council members, Heidi Wills and Judy Nicastro have embraced the issue and have been speaking out in support of it on TV and in newspapers.

As PAWS News went to press on February 1, the Seattle City Council was planning to hold a preliminary hearing on February 8, with the final vote being tallied on February 14. FELD Entertainment, the half-billion dollar corporation that controls Ringling Bros. circuses, is expected to hit the Seattle airwaves and newspapers hard in early February, trying to win public sympathy for their side through savvy public relations. PAWS and the other Seattle animal groups are hard at work trying to counter FELD's costly PR campaign. Results will be detailed in the next issue of PAWS News.

Why PAWS is working towards a proposed ban on exotic animal acts and displays

PAWS believes that the use of wild animals in entertainment is dangerous to the public, cruel to the animals, an inappropriate way to teach children about wildlife.

To address these issues, PAWS and other Seattle animal organizations proposes to ban the use of wild animals in exhibitions, circuses, photographic opportunities, carnivals, rides, parades, traveling petting zoos, races, performances, and similar undertakings on any city-owned or city-leased property or on any private property. The proposal allows exemptions for facilities accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, and allows for performances by domesticated animals such as cats, dogs, and horses.

Animal Welfare

Conditions for performing animals are pitiful. Wild animals, even if bred in captivity, possess all the innate social, physical, and behavioral needs of their species. Given the very nature of traveling shows-on the move so much of the year- no company can provide adequate care. Chained and/or caged virtually all of the time that they're not performing, the animals suffer from extreme confinement, abusive training and handling, and psychological deprivation.

Public Health and Safety Risks

Wild animal acts pose a significant threat to public health and safety. Since 1990, at least 98 people have been seriously injured or killed by performing elephants in the United States. One woman, permanently disabled by an elephant attack at a TV studio, recently won $1.65 million in a lawsuit against the Moscow Circus. Elephants aren't the only problem, however. Numerous incidents happen every year involving tigers, monkeys, and other exotic species. In the summer of 1998, for example, a 5-year-old boy was mauled by a Bengal tiger at a state fair in North Dakota.

The Negative Educational Message

Children do not learn anything of value from watching wild animals perform tricks. Because the animals are deprived of their natural habitats and activities, they rarely exhibit behavior patterns characteristic of their species. In fact, dancing bears and cowering tigers give children a distorted view of wildlife. As David Hancocks, former director of Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, has said, "The true image of wildlife is seriously and deliberately destroyed in the circus."

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