Montgomery County Approves Circus Animal Ban

New regulation prevents exotic animals from being used in performances


Circuses can no longer feature exotic animals in their shows in Montgomery County.

The County Council on Tuesday approved a bill to ban certain exotic animals from circus or traveling act performances.

Council member Craig Rice, a sponsor of the bill, said the ban came about after residents requested it at a town hall meeting that council members hosted in Silver Spring.

“This is truly responsive governing,” Rice said.

He said it’s difficult for zoos to keep wild animals healthy, even with large enclosures designed for them and experienced veterinarians on staff.

“It’s still a challenge to keep them in confined spaces,” Rice said. “What do you think happens when you have an animal in a small cage?”

Council member George Leventhal, also a sponsor, said circuses have adapted and can be successful without using exotic animals.

The bill bans animals such as chimpanzees, lions, tigers, wolves, bears, elephants, crocodiles, and giraffes from being used in performances.

The bill does not prevent sanctuaries or rescue facilities from possessing wild animals in the county. It also would not prevent educational events with animals, as long the event does not charge a fee. It allows farm animals to be used in traveling acts or performances.

The county’s fairgrounds is exempted from the bill because it is in the city of Gaithersburg and not under the jurisdiction of the county’s animal control regulations.

A violation of the law results in a fine of $100 per day, up to $500.

The county joins a growing list of more than 40 jurisdictions in the United States that have enacted similar bans, according to Born Free, an animal advocacy organization.

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