Ralph Remington and Cam Gordon: The city can and should prohibit animal circuses

  • Article by: Ralph Remington and Cam Gordon
  • September 7, 2007 - 6:27 PM

We have looked extensively at the issue of wild-animal circuses over many months, and we've received input from local and national experts who have spent years studying the problems and the most effective ways of addressing them. Unfortunately, the language in the circus amendment by Minneapolis City Council Members Paul Ostrow and Betsy Hodges is a reflection of hasty assembly and lack of reliance on expert knowledge. It would do nothing but allow circuses to continue operations in the city as they always have.

In their recent commentary ("What a city can usefully do for circus animals," Sept. 6), Ostrow and Hodges erroneously state that "Minneapolis would be the first major city in the country to ban wild animals in circuses." This is simply not true. Albuquerque, N.M., a city of 504,949 people, has already taken this step, along with 27 other cities across America.

Unlike domestic animals, wild animals are forced to perform tricks through the inducement of pain. Tigers, for instance, are deathly afraid of fire but are forced to jump through flaming hoops because they fear that their lives will be in jeopardy if they don't. Elephants are territorial creatures that are used to traveling 25 miles per day in the wild but are chained in small areas in captivity and are forced to travel tens of thousands of miles in boxcars. This renders them mentally unstable. They are forced to perform tricks by the use of bull hooks, whips and baseball bats. Their torsos are gouged by metal hooks to ensure compliance.

Over the last few years there have been a number of disturbing incidents in which people have been hurt and even killed by circus animals. Nothing in the Ostrow-Hodges amendment addresses the hazards posed by two-ton animals in close proximity to people.

We have heard from Minneapolis Animal Care and Control staff that the proposed Ostrow-Hodges permit fees will not cover the cost of all of the work the amendment requires. Worse, they do not have the expertise to do this sort of intensive regulation, which will mean expensive training. This amendment will cost the city significantly more than a prohibition. If the concern is protecting the public pocketbook, Ostrow and Hodges have crafted an alternative that is worse than the original.

We are as concerned about the revenues at the Target Center as our colleagues. We have never sought to prohibit circuses in our city. Rather, we are asking that the Shriners, whose good work we deeply value, bring one of the many wonderful existing animal-free circuses to Minneapolis. This would not impact the Target Center's revenue and would not place more unnecessary burdens on staff.

We do not accept the tortured logic that if Minneapolis cannot prohibit abuses everywhere, it should not prohibit them here. We cannot prohibit dogfights everywhere -- should we allow them in Minneapolis?

The proposed amendment seems to originate from a place of fear. We can do better. The times that we inhabit require muscular, bold and robust leadership to ensure Minnesota values and chart a visionary path toward the future.

Ralph Remington and Cam Gordon are members of the Minneapolis City Council. Remington represents the 10th Ward. Gordon represents the Second Ward.

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