The city of Delaware is closer to become the first Ohio community to ban circuses from bringing exotic animals.
City Council unanimously adopted two potential changes for legislation to update the permit process for circuses Monday night. The first change would ban exotic animals as defined by a city codified ordinance and second would ban circuses if it has more than five non-critical or two critical citations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) or animal control within the last three years.
Codified ordinance section 505.23 prohibits anyone to own or harbor any wild or exotic animal with exceptions for farm animals such as horses and domesticated animals such as dogs and cats.
City Attorney Darren Shulman said he would bring legislation to Council at a future meeting to update the section 505.23 because it exempts circuses from the prohibition and would conflict with the proposed ordinance.
Council is expected to have the final vote on the legislation in February but the decision to adopt the changes signals the direction of what kind of circuses are allowed to perform in the city.
Council’s decision came after a public hearing where some residents and out-of-town citizens voiced their support for the exotic animal ban.
Dayton-resident Tim Harrison of Outreach for Animals provided accounts of people killed when handling exotic animals.
“Public safety is very important,” he said. “What happens if an animal gets loose?”
Sherry Drescher of Cincinnati is a retired law enforcement officer who tracks circuses. She told Council APHIS inspectors are underpaid and overworked.
But Sandy Kuhn, Delaware County Fair manager, voiced her opposition to the ban. She said Circus Pages has had no non-compliant items found since 2014 and that APHIS has done its due diligence to inspect circus animals.
“The circus is for entertainment,” she said. “… I say let’s give them an opportunity.”
The permit process for circuses has not been updated since 1976, a fact that Council became aware of when Circus Pages planned to perform at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in March. The troupe had performed in Delaware for six years without ever getting a permit from the city.
But it was why Council essentially canceled last year’s performance because the permit was not filed in time after a group of citizens protested because of alleged animal mistreatment.
Circus Pages had started the process to tentatively perform on March 24.
Council decided to include language that would allow them to ban circuses that mistreat animals. Shulman has said that the mistreatment of animals needed to be defined to avoid subjectivity.
Councilman George Hellinger proposed at a previous meeting that circuses cannot bring exotic animals.
The Gazette reported that Circus Pages had no citations from APHIS since 2014. But one inspection report referenced a tiger incident at the Pensacola State Fair.
A circus audience member shot video of a 2-year-old Bengal tiger that knocked down a trainer and clawed at her legs in front of 25 children and eight adults on Oct. 25, 2016, according to the Pensacola News Journal. The video shows the trainer’s response by hitting the tiger with a stick until her fiance rushes in and whips the tiger with another stick in the caged ring.
“We are not the same organization that owns the tiger act,” Yolanda Earhart, the troupe’s bookkeeper, told The Gazette last week.
“After the incident she returned to her father’s home and family environment for the support that only a family can give,” Earhart said in an email. “Our family name has been prominent in many Circus arenas, and we have branched out from four generations of Circus performers mastering everything from the flying trapeze (our families original claim to circus fame) to animal training to motorcycle stunt riding. All of which use our family name along with our family winter quarters as a place to rest and maintain their particular talents.
“Although we are a family, our businesses operate independently and I would not be able to offer you any insight to the Pages Tigers incident.”
Councilwoman Lisa Keller, 2nd Ward, said safety was a main reason to support the ban. She noticed in the video that the fiance did not close the gate when he rushed in to help the trainer, risking the safety of the children present.
Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle voted to include the ban with the legislation.
“I want to say yes, but I know I should abstain, but I don’t want to,” she said. “I’m on the fair board but I feel strongly about this.”
In other business, Council:
• Approved two separate development projects that consists of more than 150 single-family homes to move forward: Bowtown Delaware’s Old Colony Estates Phase 2 development that consist of 55 single-family lots on about 15 acres north of Bowtown Road and west of the Kensington Place subdivision; and T&R Properties’ Willowbrook West, which consists of 96 single-family units on more than 15 acres, located on the west side of North Houk Road, north of Arthur Place.
• Approved a resolution to move City Clerk Elaine McCloskey from part-time to full-time effective Monday.
Brandon Klein can be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.