Portland bans exotic animals, circus elephants

PORTLAND, Maine — There will be no more elephants in Portland.

The City Council voted unanimously 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 across the country that have done so, according to animal rights groups.

“We can all recognize the fact these practices are outdated,” Batson said. “They are not only cruel — they are inhumane.”

Nobody testified against the ban during the Monday council meetings, but 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.

“You have the opportunity to create history that Portland can be proud of,” Melissa Gates of Animal Rights Maine told the council.

The ordinance will cover a wide array of 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.

People found to have violated the city regulation will be subject to a $500 fine.

Before the vote, more than 20 people rallied in support of the measure on the steps of City Hall. One person came dressed as a elephant, and another as a tiger.

Among those to applaud Portland for taking up the issue was Rep. Kim Monaghan, D-Cape Elizabeth. During the last legislative session, she proposed a bill that would have banned the use of elephants in traveling acts throughout Maine.

Monaghan’s bill failed, however, and she presented the City Council with a letter from legislators who were disappointed that state had not acted.

Four states and more than 125 cities and towns have restricted circuses and others shows’ use of wild animals, according The Humane Society of the United States, an animal advocacy group.

Batson proposal 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.

Animal 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.

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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