San Francisco board expected to ban wild animal performances

SAN FRANCISCO (REUTERS) - Live performances by wild and exotic animals, from the circus big top to movie and television sets, would soon be banned in San Francisco under an ordinance the city's Board of Supervisors was expected to approve on Tuesday.

The measure, which the panel unanimously endorsed in a preliminary 11-0 vote last week, would make San Francisco the largest city to adopt such a sweeping prohibition on the commercial use of wild animals for public amusement, supporters said.

A final vote was slated for Tuesday's board meeting. Unless vetoed by the mayor, the measure would go into effect in 30 days from passage.

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

But the measure bars 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 travelling 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".