San Francisco board approves wild animal performance ban

Wed Apr 15, 2015 7:48pm EDT
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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - San Francisco's Board of Supervisors has voted unanimously to ban performances of wild or exotic animals for public entertainment, including appearances in circuses or on the sets of movies, television shows and commercials.

The measure, approved 11-0 by the board on Tuesday and expected to be enacted in a final vote next week, would make San Francisco the largest city to adopt such a sweeping prohibition on the commercial use of wild animals for public amusement, supporters said.

The ordinance would not apply to domesticated animals, including dogs, cats, horses and other livestock or pets. Educational activities or exhibitions accredited by certain zoological and museum organizations would also be exempt.

But the measure bars any public showing, carnival, fair, parade, petting zoo, ride, race, film shoot or other undertaking in which wild or exotic animals "are required to perform tricks, fight or participate as accompaniments for the entertainment, amusement or benefit of an audience."

Wild and exotic animals are defined as any non-domestic or hybrid creature, whether or not it was bred in captivity.

At least eight smaller California municipalities have enacted broad circus bans, while Los Angeles and Oakland have moved to effectively prohibit elephant performances by outlawing bullhooks and other implements used to control the animals.

The bullhook bans in Los Angeles, Oakland and dozens of other cities across the country led America's oldest and largest traveling circus, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, to announce last month that it was phasing elephants out of its act by 2018.

A spokesman for Ringling Bros.' parent company, Feld Entertainment, called San Francisco's ordinance and similar measures passed elsewhere "completely unnecessary," saying all circuses are tightly regulated.

"We are subject to open, unannounced, frequent inspections by local, state and federal officials, not only in California, but everywhere we go," spokesman Stephen Payne said.   Continued...

A worker climbs to the top of a circus tent in San Francisco, California in this file photo from November 13, 2007. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith