Eureka Springs to draft ordinance banning future animal circuses
The Eureka Springs City Council voted unanimously Monday to have City Attorney Tim Weaver draft an ordinance that would ban future circuses from using live animal acts to perform in the city.
The Carson and Barnes Circus is scheduled to perform Nov. 5 at Lake Leatherwood Park. The performance has drawn criticism from Eureka Springs residents who say circus animals are mistreated.
Monday's city council meeting found many people crowding the hallway outside the meeting room at the courthouse. The crowd's cheers were audible through closed doors as each of several citizens making public comments to the mayor and council stated their objections to the circus.
"As a town, we've said no to many things; we've said no to intolerance, no to fluoride, no to discrimination," said Rachel Brix. "Let's say no to abuse of animals in the circus. Let's be the first city in Arkansas to say no to circuses with performing animals."
"Americans are becoming more sensitive to animal needs," said Suzie Clippinger. "The general public is unaware of what really goes on in the circus."
Jerry Milligan of the Carson and Barnes Circus is a former school superintendent who has traveled with the circus for 12 years. Milligan said he's seen the videos of alleged animal abuse, and acknowledges there are some bad circuses, but he says Carson and Barnes is not one of them. He said one of the videos available on the Internet took four years to compile the alleged abuse.
"In my 12 years with Carson and Barnes, I haven't witnessed anything like the footage being used against circuses," Milligan said at Monday's meeting. "I don't believe in reincarnation, but if I did, I would want to be reincarnated as a Carson and Barnes animal."
"The videos are clear, and the elephants are chained or caged 90 percent of the time," Michelle Greene said. "When animals are outside extreme discipline is used -- it's a horror to me."
At the end of public comments, several other items were discussed before the ordinance to ban future animal circuses in Eureka Springs came back up for discussion. Brix handed out a copy of an ordinance, similar to those of other cities that have enacted the banning of animal circuses, for consideration by the council. Alderman James DeVito asked if City Attorney Tim Weaver had read the proposed ordinance.
"I've seen it, but it wouldn't stand up in court," Weaver said. "It can discourage a circus, but it won't stand up in court."
DeVito then made a motion to have Weaver draft an ordinance for the city prohibiting traveling circuses.
Before a vote could be taken, the council had further discussion. Weaver said there could be problems with such an ordinance such as other caged animals or rodeos. Mayor Morris Pate said even dog shows could fall under the ordinance.
Alderwoman Mickey Schneider asked Milligan if he had run into issues like these before.
"We run into this often, but in my years with the circus, I've never seen an animal injured by severe treatment by handlers," Milligan said. "We meet and follow whatever laws are present."
Schneider then asked when the animals get time for rest and relaxation.
"The ideal travel length between shows is 40 to 50 miles a day," Milligan said. "The animals get taken care of first. In the past, the elephants helped raise the circus, which was good exercise for them, but that practice has been discontinued."
The council passed the motion 5-0 to have Weaver draft an ordinance.
The Carson and Barnes Circus performances on Nov. 5 will go on as planned.