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PETA still wants Lodi to place restrictions on circuses

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Posted: Friday, September 11, 2009 10:00 pm

Months after the Carson and Barnes Circus left Lodi, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals still would like to see Lodi ban the use of bullhooks, electric prods and other devices used to inflict pain on elephants.

Lodi is not the only city that has faced the issue of whether to restrict or ban circuses. Some cities, like Encinitas and Rohnert Park, have already banned all exotic animals within city limits.

But circuses like Carson and Barnes say the bans are unnecessary because they do provide good care for their animals and are not abusing them.

The debate in Lodi started when PETA sent a letter to the city toward the end of May about a week before the circus arrived. It asked the city to ban the use of bullhooks, which the organization says are used to beat circus animals while training them to do tricks. The city took no action at that time.

Since then, the animal-rights organization has sent a follow-up packet to council members with more information on a ban, said RaeLeann Smith, PETA's Circus and Government Affairs Specialist.

While Mayor Larry Hansen said he spoke briefly with PETA after the May letter, the organization has not followed up since then. He said the group was disappointed the council did not pursue a ban.

But when the letter arrived in May, the city was swamped in its yearly budget, Hansen said. He does not know if the council will consider some type of restrictions on circuses in the future.

"Unless it becomes more of an issue, I doubt we would deal with it," Hansen said.

The organization has worked to get statewide bans, Smith said. But PETA often targets cities, too, because there is less red tape, and it can be quicker to get a ban through, Smith said.

"We use a multi-pronged approach to ending abuse of elephants and other animals at the circus," Smith said.

If the city wanted to consider drafting a ban, the Lodi Animal Advisory Commission would be able to research it and present the council with possibilities, said Linda Castelanelli, the committee's chairwoman.

While she has not researched circuses, she does not personally like animals being put on display to do tricks.

"You can go to zoos where they are well-cared for and learn about them there, or go on a safari and see them in nature," she said. "But I don't think elephants are there for our enjoyment, especially to do tricks."

Even though a ban would be helpful, she said consumers play a large role with their pocketbooks, and she recommends people simply not attend the shows.

It takes a circus to ban a circus

At least four cities in California have enacted bans prohibiting exotic animals from being in the city limits.

In Rohnert Park, the drive for a ban on all exotic animals started when the circus came to town, said Mickey Zeldes, supervisor of the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter.

A group of protesters in 2005 marched outside the circus when it came to Rohnert Park, which is located near Sonoma State University, Zeldes said. Then, that carried into the group of residents asking the council for a ban to prevent future circuses from coming to town.

"It's sad the circus has to come to town before it gets attention," Zeldes said. "But city councils are busy, so if the circus coming isn't on the schedule, who's going to take the time to look into it?"

Without publicity, she said most people do not know the "atrocious" conditions the animals are kept in.

She said people can also be unaware that the circus can be dangerous for public safety.

"There have been a lot of situations where animals have escaped and injured people," Zelde said. "Very few communities are equipped to handle an elephant or lion running through town."

Having protesters at the event can help because the council might take into consideration the negative publicity from the demonstrations, Zeldes said.

But protests and threats of circus bans are a way of life for traveling circuses, said Mal Knopf, director of marketing for the Carson and Barnes Circus. During an interview in May, he said the circus often encounters protests, but that the claims are not true.

He said the industry is highly regulated and the U.S. Department of Agriculture regularly inspects the animals. When a circus comes to town, he said local animal rights organizations usually also come out and inspect the animals.

While the circus does use bullhooks to guide the animals, he says circus workers do not beat them.

"When we are spending that kind of money and abiding by the rules and regulations, we are not going to beat up on the animals. That's just silly," Knopf said.

He said he is not concerned about ordinances banning circuses because many of them, while publicized in the media, have never become reality. Because city councils often will not vote for them or citizens groups are against them.

A refuge for animals

In Galt and at a large property in Calaveras County, the Performing Animal Welfare Society provides a sanctuary for exotic animals, some of which have been in circuses.

Time and time again, PAWS co-founder Pat Derby said, the group has received animals that have been permanently scarred by the circus.

Besides visible injuries, Derby said the elephants usually have strain on their rear legs from doing hind leg stands. One of the elephants had a hernia in its back leg.

She said many of the animals exhibit behavior that is associated with stress from being confined in small spaces. Animals are not meant to travel in confined spaces for long periods of time, but in the circus, she said, they are sequestered while traveling.

People who are stressed sometimes bob their head, and she has seen that in the elephants. They will also sway from side to side. Some of the other animals, especially lions and tigers, will pace back and forth.

She believes local ordinances are one of the most effective ways to prevent abuse.

"I think local ordinances help a great deal because they limit the availability of these displays. Oftentimes if you try to do any legislation at a federal level and state level, it's so incredibly competitive because of the large amount of issues," Derby said.

A common misconception is that when cities ban exotic animals, they are really banning circuses. She said there are many animal-free circuses that tour.

"I just always hope that people don't think that you are ruining children's fun by saying no animals at a circus. Kids love the clowns, acrobats, but they are somewhat fearful of the animals. I really don't think it hurts anyone to have animalfree circuses," Derby said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com or read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blog/citybuzz.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • posted at 4:26 pm on Sun, Sep 20, 2009.


    PETA steps over the line when it puts human life and animal life on the same equal plane. That is a huge philosophy shift most people don't understand about PETA. It is unique in History totally and inconsistently out of whack with any reasonable thinking. So don't try having a rational conversation with them. They have no honest and understandable relationship with animals set in human historical context. Their frame of reference is Walt Disney, and Winnie the Pooh. They have anthromorphized (the attribution of human characteristics to nonhuman objects) mostly the cute animals otherwise their campaign to save the dolphins would also include the tuna. But no, tuna aren't cute with little rounded heads like human babies.Most PETA members were raised in the suburbs or cities and have been isolated from the real world of working with animals and have no clue about the real world of animals' lives. They know little about what happens on a real farm, expecially a family farm. they have also very little knowledge of what really happens in the wild.

  • posted at 1:36 pm on Sun, Sep 13, 2009.


    DCB, your dinner is waiting for you, in the produce section of your favorite market. Enjoy

  • posted at 1:14 pm on Sun, Sep 13, 2009.


    dogs4you: I am not "anti-meat". I eat beef and chicken. I just TRY and be an informed consumer and try not to eat animals that have been killed in an inhumain way. I've heard of different fast food companies buying "meat" from places that hurt and torture animals. I'm all for eating beef and poltury, but why make the animals suffer in the process for my enjoyment.

  • posted at 10:41 am on Sun, Sep 13, 2009.


    DCB, are you out of your flying spaghetti sauce mind, animals were put on earth for one thing, for humans to eat. And I would be carefull how I used the word torture, that might mean waterboarding, and we wouldn`t want to waterboard the family cat, maybe my mother in law, there is always an exception.

  • posted at 9:58 am on Sun, Sep 13, 2009.


    Animals were not put on this earth to amuse us. We should not ever hurt or torture animals for our entertainment. How would YOU feel if there were children being whipped and tortured to perform in front of us. Honestly, in my opinion there is no difference. Humans and animals both feel pain.

  • posted at 9:51 am on Sun, Sep 13, 2009.


    I will never look at a can of Armadillo meat the same. I will try to understand when PETA wears Birkenstocks made from woven corn husks. Please, Please don't go after "Man vs Wild" for eating lizards, spiders and grubs !!!!!

  • posted at 8:14 am on Sun, Sep 13, 2009.


    Gray Cloud, would you like some cheese with those monkeys.Lodi`s CC and PETA, what an interesting combo, brings the Demo`s donkey to mind.

  • posted at 7:43 am on Sun, Sep 13, 2009.


    I agree !!! Lets save the animals. Get all the PETA people to dress up like animals [monkeys come immediately to mind] and have them run around and do tricks. Then instead of feeding the lions animal meat, feed them the "monkeys".

  • posted at 12:39 am on Sun, Sep 13, 2009.


    "animal-free circuses" WTF?Oh... she must be talking about the Galt City council.

  • posted at 12:37 am on Sun, Sep 13, 2009.


    Ummmm... tastes like chicken.

  • posted at 1:49 pm on Sat, Sep 12, 2009.


    I`d LOVE to get a hold of some deep-fried elephant while wearing my alligator boots! Then for dessert go hunt me some of them wacked out PETA members!! Theys is pretty squirlly tho! Keep duckin into them fairy shrimp ponds!

  • posted at 12:04 pm on Sat, Sep 12, 2009.


    peta needs to go away.

  • posted at 12:01 pm on Sat, Sep 12, 2009.


    Maybe City Council can offer prayers for the elephants.

  • posted at 11:52 am on Sat, Sep 12, 2009.


    Ever watfch the big top pulled up by the elephants? The 'tainer' stands about ten feet away watch the block and tackle and winches. He signals with horizontal and vertical movements of the bullhook. Not even near enough to touch the elephants.I heard a member of the sister organization of the Peta group; the PAWS group, ask children what their belt or shoes were made of. Woe unto the children that said leather. The paws person then said "you don't have to murder animals just so you can have belts and shoes."I meant is that fringe thinking or not?Besides PAWS is for performing animals, I don't think any of them end up as shoes and belts.

  • posted at 11:19 am on Sat, Sep 12, 2009.


    I belong to peta! People eating tastyanimals..mmmmmmmmgood!!

  • posted at 10:51 am on Sat, Sep 12, 2009.


    What a load of crap...

  • posted at 7:03 am on Sat, Sep 12, 2009.


    PETA clames that bullhooks are used on elephants, ever seen a bullhook? They are nothing more that a rounded piece of brass with a blunt end, not a sharp hook as some would think. Used to get the animals attention much like a choke chain is used to get a dogs attention, and never ment to hurt or injure the animal. While elephants in the wild might live free, the constant fight for survival goes on daily. Never enough to eat and at times of drought never enough water. And then there are the elephants biggest predator, the poacher who would kill the magnificent animals for their ivory tusks. Where as the animals in the circus relinquish their freedom to be well cared for, given ample water and food on a daily basis, and veterinary care if needed, all that for working at the most an hour or two out of 24. It is my hope that the CC of Lodi prevents PETA from entering Lodi, and feeds them to the lions, hopfully the lions won`t get sick.

  • posted at 4:52 am on Sat, Sep 12, 2009.


    If the request just could have come from any other organization.

  • posted at 2:45 am on Sat, Sep 12, 2009.


    I agree. Love the circus...but make sure that the animals are treated humanely. Read: "Water for Elephants"...a great novel. And don't go overboard and succumb to the nutcases on the fringes of what is realistic.



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