Opposition forms to proposed Pittsfield ban on animal entertainment acts


PITTSFIELD >> A group of area residents is urging the City Council to reject a proposed ordinance barring "the display of non-domesticated animals for entertainment."

Five local couples delivered a statement on Friday to councilors opposing a citizen group's recent petition to the council to adopt an ordinance submitted with approximately 50 signatures. On June 14, the council received petitions calling for an ordinance to ban the use of animals such as elephants in circuses, carnivals or other events.

The proposal states in part: "No living non-domesticated animal shall be displayed for public entertainment or amusement ... As used in this paragraph, 'displayed' shall include, but is not limited to, animal acts and performances, and competition and rides."

The ordinance would not apply to domestic animals, such as dogs, cats, horses, donkeys and farm animals, according to the petition. Councilors referred the proposal to their Ordinance and Rules Committee for review.

Addressing council members, the statement delivered on Friday states in part, "Since the 1800s, hundreds of circuses have come to Pittsfield. To our knowledge, no problems concerning animals have ever been noted. When they come to Pittsfield they are inspected by local and state animal control officers. Again, no problems have been found."

The statement is signed by Mary and Kevin McGinnis, Mary and Todd Plumbly, Water and Tracy Horton, William and Joanne Coe and Harry and Linda McGinnis.

It continues: "There are federal and state laws and agencies that oversee animals in the circus. Let them do their job as they have better knowledge of these issues. Pittsfield has far more important issues that need to be addressed, mainly the ongoing gang and gun violence in the city, and certainly drugs."

A packet of material submitted with the release includes statements on the issue from an animal trainer, along with a DVD of the speaker; from the chairwoman of the Animal Welfare Committee of the Circus Fans Association of America, and several articles on the subject.

On the other side of the issue, local animal rights activist Leslie Luppino — speaking during the public comment segment of the June 14 council meeting — urged the council to make Pittsfield "one of the growing number of communities all over the world" to have passed similar bans.

Another local resident, Terry Carlow, told councilors that acts with wild animals "are not benign things that come to town to entertain children," and can present a risk for the public in terms of accidents.

The residents have not pointed to any specific event currently scheduled in Pittsfield.

During the spring of 2015, Berkshire Voters for Animals, with many of the same local activists, collected enough signatures to force a Dalton Town Meeting vote on a similar bylaw banning the display of non-domesticated animals for public entertainment. However, the proposal was shot down in a floor vote by a 2-to-1 margin.

For more than two decades, the Dalton Lions Club has hosted circuses to raise funds for the organization. In recent years, the event has drawn protesters who allege the animals suffer lives of drudgery, confinement and ill-treatment in a traveling circus. Circus officials and supporters deny the allegations.

Dalton Lions Club members and others publicly defended the circus prior to the May 2015 town vote to reject the bylaw. Members said the circuses have helped bring in more than $70,000 to the local service club since 1994.

This year, the Lions Club is hosting the Zerbini Family Circus — http://zerbinifamilycircus.com — on the weekend of July 11-12, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. each night at American Legion Field on Route 9.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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