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City considers banning circuses with animal acts

Buffalo would be off-limits to circuses that feature elephants, lions and other exotic animals under a plan a local group wants the Common Council to approve.

Members of Animal Advocates of Western New York insist that traveling circuses are sad stories of abuse and confinement.

While the plan has yet to find a Council sponsor, at least three lawmakers said they're interested in studying the issue. North District Member Joseph Golombek Jr. will direct staffers to research legislation in other communities.

Activists said at least 20 municipalities across the country already have banned traveling animal acts, including Boulder, Colo., and Hollywood, Fla.

They said lawmakers in Chicago and New York City also are considering such a ban.

"If Buffalo says 'no' to circuses that have animals in them, it would send a message that we don't tolerate abuse in the 21st century," said Jennifer Radecki, Animal Advocates' treasurer.

Radecki and other group members have been meeting individually with some Council members to try to build support for a ban. They met Wednesday with Golombek and Council Majority Leader Dominic J. Bonifacio Jr.

"There could be some validity to the argument that animals are not treated well," said Golombek, who was reviewing a thick packet of material supplied by the activists.

The activists contend that circus animals spend most of their lives confined in cramped cages or poorly ventilated trailers. They further allege that animals are often beaten, shocked or whipped to make them perform tricks.

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus did not return phone calls to comment on the proposed ban in Buffalo. But the organization repeatedly has denied in the past that animals are mistreated.

Bonifacio agreed that Animal Advocates has raised some serious concerns that merit further review. But he said it would be more appropriate to address the issues with state or federal regulations that would stretch beyond city boundaries.

Lovejoy Council Member Richard A. Fontana said his Legislation Committee will discuss the proposal at a 2 p.m. meeting on Jan. 30 in City Hall. While Fontana stopped short of saying he would support a ban on traveling animal shows, he said the proposal deserves to be aired.

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the region's largest business advocacy group, said it hasn't taken a stand on the issue.

But Bonifacio said some will likely argue that such events bring thousands of people to HSBC Arena downtown, boosting revenue for restaurants, parking concessions and other businesses.

"There are many other forms of entertainment you could bring in that would more than offset any lost revenue," Radecki countered.

She cited Cirque du Soleil and the Moscow Circus as two examples of traveling acts that do not feature exotic animals yet have attracted large crowds when they've visited the region. Ringling Brothers last staged a circus in Buffalo in September 2005.


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