LOS ANGELES – The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus train has been bringing 4-ton Asian elephants to this city since 1919. But "The Greatest Show on Earth" might have made its last stop here.
Los Angeles is poised to ban elephants from performing in circuses within its city limits, after pressure from animal welfare advocates who say the methods used to train and transport elephants are abusive. If the City Council adopts the ban early next year, Ringling Brothers, the oldest continuously operated circus in the country, will be barred from the nation's second-largest city unless its owners agree to abandon one of the show's signature acts.
"The treatment of elephants in traveling circuses is one of the crueler practices, and it's time for us to stand up for them," said Paul Koretz, the City Council member who sponsored the ban.
The movement to ban elephant acts, which had until recently made little progress in this country, may now have found a foothold in Southern California, a region that has emerged as a hub of animal welfare legislation of all kinds. It is illegal for pet owners to declaw their cats in this city, for example, while in neighboring West Hollywood, the city government officially deemed pets "companion animals" and their owners "guardians."
Six Southern California cities, more than in any other state, already ban circus elephants, according to animal welfare organizations. Over the past year, the Santa Ana Zoo and the Orange County Fair both stopped offering elephant rides.
Ringling Brothers has fought back, arguing that its treatment of elephants and other animals is humane. They point to frequent inspections by the Department of Agriculture as proof that the animals are receiving good care.