While the venerable Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Baily Circus lowered the curtain its last show earlier this year following years of protests by animal rights groups, a proposed County bill could prevent any remaining traditional circus from operating in Montgomery County.
On Nov. 9, the Montgomery County Council Public Safety Committee recommended adoption of Bill 23-17, which would prohibit circuses and other traveling shows from using many species of animals as performers in Montgomery County.
Leventhal said the bill is meant to prohibit traveling circus animals and exempts animals that are used as livestock or for agricultural purposes.
The bill, which was proposed by Councilman Craig Rice (D-2) and George Leventhal (D-at large), and is meant to target traveling circuses such as Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, which recently closed for good in May.
“What we’re doing here today is that we’re saying that it is not necessary for humans to enjoy animals put in unnatural situations that are uncomfortable and unfair to the animals for our entertainment,” said Leventhal said. “We don't need that; we can be entertained in many, many other ways including at the circus."
The Public Safety Committee also agreed to draft an amendment providing an exemption for kangaroos from the list of “wild animals” which the bill would prohibit in performance shows. The draft amendment, which will go before the full council, was proposed to exempt Germantown-based Roo2u – a ranch that raises young kangaroos and wallabies – because the ranch's mission is primarily educational.
Council members spent much of the committee meeting debating the kangaroo amendment.
“If this is the will of the body, I'm okay with this, but this is the slippery slope you involve," Council member Marc Elrich said.
Council member Nancy Floreen (D-at large) – the only Council member who did not sign on as a co-sponsor – said that trying to prohibit the Roo2u ranch, would go beyond the bill's proposed parameters.
"I'm not sure I understand the intention of prohibiting kangaroos per se," she said.
The bill – which is likely to be adopted by the full Council because eight of nine members have sponsored it – would prohibit circuses and traveling shows from keeping chimpanzees, monkeys, baboons, lions, tiger, leopards, cougars, wolves, coyotes, bears, elephants, crocodiles, and snakes in Montgomery County as part of their performances.
It would not affect the Montgomery County Fair as the fairgrounds are within the city limits of Gaithersburg and outside the County's jurisdiction.