After Delaware City Council essentially canceled today’s circus performances at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, city officials said local laws governing circuses will likely be updated soon.
Chapter 737 of Delaware’s codified ordinances deals with circuses and carnivals. Originally passed in 1970, the code will likely be changed after City Council tabled whether it should grant permission for a circus to operate here this week.
A troupe called Circus Pages was originally scheduled to perform two shows today at the fairgrounds, but it needed permission from council, as well a $10 license from the city.
The circus, which has appeared at the fairgrounds six years in a row, had never applied for a permit with the city. When contacted this year, a representative of the circus told the city they weren’t aware they needed a permit, but did apply for one.
“The permission of council shall be granted unless it affirmatively appears that any such proposed circus, carnival or menagerie shall in any way endanger or threaten the public peace, property, health, safety or welfare of the city,” states the code.
Last week, a citizen-initiated petition asked city and county officials to “ban any circus from coming into the county or the city of Delaware.” Testimony from two citizens at Monday’s council meeting mentioned possible animal abuse, plus the potential transmission of tuberculosis from elephants to humans, as among the reasons to stop the performances.
One council member said another potential danger to the public would be if the animals were to escape.
Council members said they didn’t have enough time to research the safety record of Circus Pages, and no representatives from the circus were present at the meeting. Some said there should be at least 30 days before a show to make a decision. It was also noted that the ordinance was dated and said nothing about the animals’ welfare.
City attorney Darren Shulman said that due to the timing, tabling a decision to a future date would be appropriate. After a couple of withdrawn motions, council voted 5-1-1 in favor of tabling whether Circus Pages could operate within the city in March.
The decision essentially cancels today’s shows.
“We’ll let them (Circus Pages) know tonight that it was tabled,” said City Manager Tom Homan following the council meeting. “Between now and then (any future circus show), council can decide to amend the ordinance and change the requirements, notification period and all of that. We’ll get set to update the ordinance, put some provisions in there that allow us to evaluate these things with more of a focus on the treatment of animals.”
Reactions to the circus cancellation were mixed. One Facebook comment said, “Any show like this with animals should be banned.” An unidentified caller said, “What a country we live in, when the voice of a few people in high places can tell the majority what they can and can’t do.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.