A ban against exotic animal exhibits voted down by the Greenville City Council was unnecessary because the city’s Animal Protective Services ensures that the animals are not mistreated, the department’s supervisor said.
Tim Langley told the City Council on Thursday that he personally inspects exhibits that comes to town, and his remarks swayed the council to reverse course from a unanimous vote in September asking city staff to develop a ban. The council voted 4-2 against the ban.
The ordinance would have barred the exhibition of animals such as large cats, elephants, birds and reptiles. It did not ban private ownership and or use by accredited universities, museums and aquariums.
Prior to the vote, District 5 Councilman P.J. Connelly asked for a representative from Animal Protective Services to assess the ban. Langley told the council he did not believe the the ban was needed to address animal welfare concerns.
“That is because — I’m not patting myself on the back here — these shows know if they come to Greenville, they have to meet Tim Langley face to face, and I’m going to give them the once around,” said Langley.
He pointed to his 29 years of experience, 15 of which he spent as supervisor, and his training from the Humane Society of The United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), as qualifications. The exhibition have to pass inspections carried out by him and have a APS officer on site for the duration of the show.
Langley said by the time an exhibit applies for a permit with the city, it already has passed requirements set out in the Animal Welfare Act and the United States Department of Agriculture. He said his own inspections exceed the guidelines set out by the Humane Society, PETA and USDA.
He said his inspections look at cage sizes, food, water and shelter conditions and check the animals for scars, injuries or markings.
“Looking at each one of you tonight in the face, I can tell you, with all the years of experience that I have, I can promise you when these exhibition shows come to Greenville, I give it my best,” Langley said.
He also read a letter from Harry Peachey, who he said is an adviser for the International Elephant Foundation who works for the American Zoos and Aquariums Foundation. Langley said he reached out to Peachey about the ban and received the email in response.
“I very strongly support the concept behind exhibition shows,” the letter said. “Traveling exhibition shows provide many people, including both children and adults, the opportunity for a close experience with animals they may never have the opportunity to see otherwise. That opportunity is often not only just educational, it can be inspirational as well and create support for wildlife conservation that may not exist in the absence of that inspiration. A blanket ban on traveling animal exhibitions would do wildlife and human communities a disservice.”
Langley told council that he would begin to implement more procedures and requirements from the Zoological Association of America and the Association of Zoos and Aquarium Association. Both organizations were spelled out in the proposed ordinance as acceptable exceptions to the ban on exhibitions. He asked Council to give him 24 months to work with the community, and if complaints still existed after that time, then he would not oppose the ban.
The ban was proposed after the city received complaints about an exhibition outside Greenville Mall. Langley also said that he and others he heard from felt that banning exhibitions was just “chipping at the wall,” and that more restrictions against exotic animals would follow.
District 2 Councilwoman Rose Glover said that having the ordinance in hand means the council may ban exhibitions at any future meeting, so she supported giving Langley time. District 3 Councilman McLean Goldey agreed.
Councilman At-Large Calvin Mercer said he was surprised by opposition to the ban. He motioned the discussion be tabled until November the council could hear from more constituents. No one seconded his motion.
The matter was brought to a vote, with Mercer and District 4 Councilman Rick Smiley voting in favor of the ban.
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