Animal rights advocates will rally Monday evening on the steps of Portland City Hall before a scheduled City Council vote on an ordinance change that would prohibit the display of wild and exotic animals in circus performances and other types of traveling acts.

The rally, which was announced in a statement Sunday by three animal rights organizations, will begin at 5 p.m., just before councilors are scheduled to consider adoption of an amendment to the city’s wild and exotic animal ordinance.

The council order, which requires five affirmative votes to pass, would make it illegal for circus acts to use elephants and other animals in Portland. It is supported by the animal rights advocates.

Last spring, those same advocates staged protests outside the Cross Insurance Arena during the 64th annual Kora Shrine Circus, which uses elephants, lions and tigers in public performances. The Kora Shrine Circus defended the practice of using wild animals, arguing that their animals are not mistreated.

In May, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus held its final performance, blaming the closure on declining attendance caused by its being forced to eliminate elephant acts.

“Circuses and other popular entertainments have included wild and exotic animals in their performances for centuries, but acceptance of this practice is shifting, and those performances are now often viewed as acts of cruelty to the captive animals involved,” the proposed City Council order says.


The council order, sponsored by Councilor Belinda Ray, goes on to say that animal rights supporters have encouraged the city to adopt the ordinance, which is similar to those enacted by other cities and states around the country. “Evidence that animal trainers use cruel methods and that circuses routinely abuse the animals in their possession is strong,” the order says.

The council’s Health and Human Services Committee reviewed the ordinance change at its June 13 meeting and voted to recommend passage.

Monday’s rally is being organized by Animal Rights Maine, The Humane Society of the United States, and the Maine Animal Coalition.

According to their statement Sunday, four states and more than 125 municipalities have passed restrictions governing the use of wild animals in circuses and traveling shows. Maine is one of 16 states with no local restrictions on the use of wild and exotic animals.

“By prohibiting these acts in Portland, we have the opportunity to lead the way toward ending the subjection of animals to lives of misery for fleeting moments of human entertainment,” the statement says.

Nationwide, there have been numerous dangerous instances of tigers escaping from cages, elephants rampaging, and even zebras bolting through traffic, rally organizers say.


“Circuses with animal acts have earned the reputation as the cruelest shows on earth due to the use of violent training methods, constant confinement and severe neglect of animals.”

The Portland ordinance would apply to a wide variety of animals, including elephants, lions, camels, tigers, kangaroos, apes, monkeys and rhinoceroses. It carries a penalty of $500 for each violation.

A 2015 Gallup poll found that 69 percent of Americans were either very or somewhat concerned about the treatment of circus animals.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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