“Hundreds of circuses have come and gone since the mid-1800s,” states the Cole Brothers website. “Circuses large and small, carried by horse-drawn wagons or on dozens of railroad cars, three-ring circuses and dog-and-pony shows alike crisscrossed the North American continent bringing entertainment to the public.”
One Milford resident would like to see that tradition altered, at least somewhat and at least in Milford.
Lorrie Davies, who protested the Cole Brothers circus when it appeared at the Westfield mall in 2011 and 2012, asked the aldermen at a recent board meeting to consider an ordinance that would prohibit circuses that have live animal shows.
Davies urged the city’s aldermen to consider the safety of the animals in the show as well as the people who attend the events. She said elephants can get tuberculosis and can pass it to humans. She also recounted stories of animals escaping from circuses in various parts of the country.
The Milford woman said that according to research she has gathered, circus animals are abused. She said there are circus shows that only feature human performers — no animals — and she thinks those can be equally entertaining for circus-goers.
“Dating back as far as 1983, possibly longer, the Cole Bros. circus has been cited by the USDA for violating the Animal Welfare Act,” Davies told the aldermen. “Their violations are too numerous and extensive to discuss now but I do have fact sheets. A small list of them include failure to meet minimal federal standards for the care of exhibition animals, inadequate food and water, inadequate fencing, abuse including beating the elephants with bull hooks, lack of documentation providing necessary information on vaccines, deworming and most importantly TB and not being up-to-date on vaccines and testing for TB.”
Davies is waiting to hear back from city aldermen to learn if they will consider crafting an ordinance as she suggested.
Cole Brother’s Circus officials will likely be paying attention because they hope to return to Milford in 2013, said Renee Sporey, vice president of administration for Cole Brothers, which is based in Florida.
She said the circus was very well attended two years in a row in Milford, with many repeat patrons.
“Clearly, people liked what they saw,” she said.
A soft-spoken woman, Sporey didn’t criticize the animal rights activists who protest the circus but she said she thinks they are misinformed about how Cole Brothers cares for its animals.
“We’re very open,” she said. “We invite people to come to the tent raising, and they get to see behind the scenes, to meet the animal trainers and care givers, to see how the animals are housed.”
She said the circus helps raise awareness about animals, and gives people a chance to appreciate them.
“People who see the elephants find themselves in awe of the elephant, and that’s not going to happen by watching a nature program on television,” Sporey said.
Sporey also maintains that the trainers and caregivers are dedicated to the animals, and the other 150 people who travel with the circus are likewise animal lovers.
“That’s 150 pairs of eyes on how these animals are being treated, and if they see something wrong, they’ll report it,” Sporey said.
Board of Alderman Chairman Philip Vetro said the aldermen are gathering information, such as whether other towns have similar ordinances. They will also try to learn more about the treatment of circus animals. If they decide an ordinance is appropriate they will consult with the city attorney and then bring the matter before the ordinance committee.