The Montgomery County Council has scheduled a public hearing on Bill 23-17, which was introduced by Councilmembers Craig Rice and George Leventhal last month. Bill 23-17 would ban performing animals from the traveling circuses that seek to set up in the County. The bill does not apply within the cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg.
The hearing on Bill 23-17 will take place during the County Council’s regular meeting on July 18. The hearing on the ban on performing animals is estimated to take place about 1:30 pm after the recess.
“The closing of the Barnum and Bailey Circus, which was driven by the concern for the way performing animals were treated, is a major driver behind this bill,” said Councilmember Rice. “Ironically, animals in a large circus such as that one likely were treated better than the animals who are in much smaller circuses with less resources. There are dozens of those type of circuses that go around the country and set up in an empty parking lot.”
The change to the County’s Animal Control law would ban a person or business from profiting by the exhibition of wild animals in a traveling animal act. Wild animals include chimpanzees, baboons, monkeys, lions, tigers, cougars, leopards, ocelots, wolves, coyotes, bears, kangaroos, elephants, crocodiles, alligators, snakes, hippopotamuses, rhinos, giraffes and camels.
Exempted from the law would be shows that showcase domestic animals that might be found at an exhibition such as a county or neighborhood fair. Exempted animals include dogs and cats, domestic cattle, swine, sheep, goats, domestic horses, donkeys or mules.
Councilmember Leventhal said that the proposed bill addresses protecting wild animals while also preserving traditions that have a focus on domestic animals that are cared for by individuals and families.
“The proposed bill will serve to protect wild and exotic animals, which are often mistreated and exploited in captivity,” Councilmember Leventhal said. “Displays of wild and exotic animals cannot be healthy or safe for the animals. They are forced to travel, are caged and displayed at all hours. I am gratified that a majority of Councilmembers is cosponsoring the bill.”
The Montgomery County Republican party released a statement today calling the proposed ban a waste of taxpayers money. “Rather than focus on real concerns of Montgomery County residents who have children attending public schools alongside MS13 members, Councilmember and Chairman of the County’s Education Committee Craig Rice is wasting his time and your tax dollars to push for legislation to prevent circus animals from coming into the county.”
Tom Ferleman, who is a candidate for Craig Rice’s seat as the District 2 representative on the County Council in the 2018 election said, “"The County Council should not waste time and taxpayer funds on silly bills; there are real issues in the County like gang violence and declining school rankings. The County Council should be embarrassed that they are having a hearing on circus animals, they are the circus and this is what we get for a 9 percent property tax increase. Rice’s circus bill is an example of why county voters passed by a whopping 70 percent, the term limits provision in the 2016 general elections. The County Council needs to focus on real issues not silly measures like this."