San Francisco board approves wild animal performance ban

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Performances by wild and exotic animals, from the circus big top to movie and television sets, will soon be banned in San Francisco under an ordinance given final approval on Tuesday by the city’s Board of Supervisors.

A worker climbs to the top of a circus tent in San Francisco, California in this file photo from November 13, 2007. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Passage of the measure, opposed by the circus and motion picture industries, makes San Francisco the largest city to adopt such a sweeping prohibition on the commercial use of wild animals for public amusement, supporters said.

The measure, formally adopted by unanimous consent a week after the board tentatively endorsed it on an 11-0 vote, is due to take effect in 30 days.

The ordinance does not apply to domesticated animals, such as dogs, cats, horses and other livestock or pets. Educational activities or exhibitions accredited by certain zoological and museum organizations are also exempt.

It does bar any public showing, carnival, fair, parade, petting zoo, ride, race, film shoot or other undertaking in which wild or exotic animals “are required to perform tricks, fight or participate as accompaniments for the entertainment, amusement or benefit of an audience.”

Wild and exotic animals are defined as any nondomestic or hybrid creature, whether or not it was bred in captivity.

At least eight smaller California municipalities have enacted broad circus bans, while Los Angeles and Oakland have moved to effectively prohibit elephant performances by outlawing bullhooks and other implements used to control the animals.

The bullhook bans in Los Angeles, Oakland and dozens of other cities across the country led America’s oldest and largest traveling circus, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, to announce last month that it was phasing elephants out of its act by 2018.

A spokesman for Ringling Bros.’ parent company, Feld Entertainment, has called such measures “completely unnecessary,” saying all circuses are subject to rigorous inspections by local, state and federal officials.

Ringling Bros. will be unaffected by the San Francisco ordinance because none of its Bay Area appearances takes place within city limits, the spokesman, Stephen Payne, said last week.

Supervisor Katy Tang, a sponsor of the measure, acknowledged it may discourage film and TV productions from coming to San Francisco, but they were not exempted because “we don’t want to undermine the underlying message of our legislation that animal abuse is not going to be tolerated.”

Reporting by Emmett Berg; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Sandra Maler and Doina Chiacu