Upwards of 60,000 people attend the Shrine circus in Minneapolis each year. But one group contends, that doesn't make it right, and the group wants animal circuses banned, or at least monitored more.
“Circus Reform Yes” says those circuses are cruel and inhumane.
Circus officials counter: Performance animals are treated better and live longer than those in the wild.
Both sides were at Thursday’s Minneapolis City Council meeting, one day before the council is schedule to vote on the wild animal ban.
Some of the discussion concerns the public safety threat posed by wild animals and, in particular, council members discussed the spread of tuberculosis from elephants to people
“First of all, on the tuberculosis question, it is transmissible to humans, and that’s a fact,” said Ralph Remington, the council member who represents Ward 10.
Council president Barb Johnson had suggested Remington’s fact was not actually a fact.
“There are barriers between human and animal transmission of diseases,” she said.
The debate continued outside of the council chamber.
“When kids get up on the back of these animals, and they're spraying their trunks around or being in close contact, it's possible for this tuberculosis to transmit to humans,” said Christine Coughlin, with Circus Reform Yes.
A veterinarian with Ringling Brothers took the other side:
“I have to tell you, first off, there's been no studies that elephants can give humans tuberculosis,” Michelle Graham said.
And council chambers were packed.
If Minneapolis banned wild animal circuses, it would join about two dozen other cities with similar ordinances or rules.
Ban opponents are skeptical of the public safety argument.
“To craft this as a public safety argument, I think, does a great disservice to the challenges that we have with public safety in this city,” Johnson said.
Johnson made the point that, this past weekend, a person fired a gun at another person inside the Target Center. No animal ever has attacked anyone there.
“Just because the circus hasn't had an incident in the last 89 years doesn't mean it's not going to happen. Wild animals are by nature inherently dangerous,” Coughlin said.
The Target Center is under contract to host Shrine circuses for the next five years. If Minneapolis bans the show, Shriners says it'll just go on someplace else.
“We will move our circus outside the city limits of Minneapolis,” said Timothy Davison, a member of the Minneapolis Shrine Committee.
The Shriners say their circus brings Minneapolis $1.5 million a year in direct economic impact.
One option the council is considering is passing the ban, but not enacting it for a few years, so the loss of that money doesn't hit so hard.
Council will vote on the ban Friday.