News Local

Exotic animal ban at the table

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner



No more lions, tigers or bears at any Barrie circus?

City councillors will consider a motion Monday to prohibit the use or display of wildlife or exotic animals, as part of its business licensing bylaw.

The proposed change would allow a circus to obtain a business licence if it didn't incorporate wildlife and/or exotic animals.

"So they could have horses, acrobats, clowns, aerial artists, etc. but not lions, tigers, bears or elephants, as examples," said Coun. Bonnie Ainsworth, chairwoman of the city's community services committee.

On average, the city licenses one circus a year. The Shrine Circus of 2016 was held at the Bayfield Mall parking lot in early August.

But chances are it won't be back, exotic animal ban or not.

Sandy Mealing, past president and club manager of the Sheba Shrine Club of Barrie, says he doesn't think it's on the club's 2017 agenda - although that's not official yet.

"Circuses with that type of performance I think have run their course, and it's time to look elsewhere for fundraising and to participate in the community," he said. "It's very doubtful that the circus will return."

Mealing said the Shrine Circus is booked by Toronto's Rameses Shriners, and was actually supposed to be in Ajax, not Barrie, this summer.

"Ajax passed a similar bylaw which disallowed the circus, so we took it at the last minute," he said.

Mealing was unsure this circus would return to Barrie anytime soon.

"Things have changed," he said, regarding wild or exotic animals. "There's a different concern and a different awareness than there has been in our generation."

City officials began looking at the ban in May, when there were more than 500 votes on Barrie's online suggestion forum to ban circuses that still use exotic animals as performing acts.

Online comments said these acts are unnatural, painful and stressful to the animals; trainers use inhumane methods to teach the animals to perform, they endure severe confinement, hardship and brutality, are housed in poor conditions and can be dangerous to the public.

Barrie's animal-control bylaw bans the keeping of specific exotic animals, but it doesn't apply to circuses or a municipally sanctioned event.

The city's licensing bylaw requires a circus or similar show get a business licence from the city and outlines operating conditions for the event.

The licence has a number of conditions to ensure the safety and welfare of animals, and public safety. City law enforcement staff have unencumbered access, as do inspectors with the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

To date, Barrie's bylaw services branch has received no complaints related to these events.

"I don't think they've been targeting us in any way," Mealing said of the city. "If I were a member of council, I would find myself supporting that (the ban)."

If eventually approved by city council, the wildlife or exotic animals ban would also apply to other circuses in Barrie.

Once a suggestion meets the threshold of 500 votes on the online suggestion forum,, it's brought to council's attention.

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