I was excited to gain the support of City Councilor Brian Batson when I presented him with the background and information in favor of a citywide ordinance banning exotic animal acts and performances in Portland.

The City Council public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for Sept. 18 at City Hall, and advocates from all over Maine are in support and as excited as I am to see this happen.

We know the public no longer wishes to view animals when so much suffering and abuse are taking place, and the notion that animals are being “well cared for” is simply not the case with captive wildlife. The confinement and severe punishment that occur in their training are inherently abusive and cruel. With the closing of Ringling Bros. Circus, the message is clear. As a professional animal behaviorist, I am keenly aware of what is necessary to force wild animals to perform.

We know that organizations contracted by Carson & Barnes Circus, which visited Portland in April, have a significant list of U.S. Department of Agriculture violations. Carson & Barnes itself, based in Hugo, Oklahoma, has a long history of abysmal animal care and elephant rampages, and has been repeatedly cited and fined by the USDA for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act dating to 1989.

Carson & Barnes’ animal care director, Tim Frisco, was videotaped viciously attacking elephants with a bullhook, shocking elephants with an electric prod and instructing trainers to embed sharp metal hooks in the elephants’ flesh. Vincent Von Duke’s Close Encounters of the Exotic Kind tiger show has been cited by the USDA for many failures to maintain tiger welfare.

There is little that circus organizations can do to prevent these abuses, as they do not own the animals. We can, however, make certain Portland is cruelty free.

Gina Garey