Soon, the display of wild and exotic animals will no longer be allowed in Maine’s largest city.

The Portland City Council voted unanimously Monday to ban the use of big cats, elephants and a wide range of other circus animals because of “cruel” training and handling practices.

But Friday’s rodeo will go ahead as planned, since cattle, horses, swine, sheep and goats are exempt from the ban.

Portland joined over 100 municipalities nationwide to pass a ban on the display of wild and exotic animals, but is the first in Maine to do so, according to animal rights groups.

City Councilor Brian Batson first introduced the ordinance back in June. It was referred to the council’s Health and Human Services Committee, where it received a unanimous recommendation to the full council.

“We can all recognize the fact these practices are outdated,” Batson said. “They are not only cruel – they are inhumane.”


Nobody testified against the proposed ban, but more than a dozen supporters urged the council to adopt it, in hopes the state would follow suit.

“Tonight you have the opportunity to create history that Portland can be proud of,” said Melissa Gates of Animal Rights Maine, a group founded in Portland in 2009.

The ordinance will apply to a wide variety of animals. Prohibited animals include lions, tigers, zebras, giraffes, monkeys, elephants and kangaroos, as well as crocodiles, seals, walruses and sharks, among others.

The resolution explaining the ordinance cites the treatment and “draconian training that can be cruel and inhuman” toward the animals. It also describes how some exotic animals have escaped from their cages and “roamed in cities, threatening the safety of the residents and presenting a dangerous challenge to the police officers who must respond.”

It notes that two companies – Carson & Barnes Circus and Vincent Von Duke’s big cat act – that have been fined over their handling of animals have also been to Portland.

Violations of the city ordinance can result in a $500 fine.


The ordinance was supported by Animal Rights Maine, The Humane Society of the United States, and the Maine Animal Coalition.

Nearly two dozen people attended a rally prior to the meeting, including one person dressed as a tiger and another as an elephant.

According to the groups, four states and more than 125 municipalities have passed restrictions governing the use of wild animals in circuses and traveling shows.

Rep. Kim Monaghan, D-Cape Elizabeth, proposed a bill in the Legislature that would have banned the use of elephants in traveling animal acts in Maine, but it failed in May.

Monaghan presented a letter to the council from legislators who were disappointed that the state bill did not pass.

“We are pleased to see the city of Portland taking the lead on this issue,” she said.


Val Giguere, a member of the board of directors of the Maine Animal Coalition, applauded the council’s action. “We are hopeful that the passing of this ordinance in the City of Portland is the beginning of a trend towards ending the cruelty and exploitation of animals for entertainment in traveling acts throughout Maine,” she said in a statement.

Last spring, animal rights 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.


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