MFOA Testimony in Favor of Portland Ordinance to Prohibit Wild and Exotic Animals

MFOA Testimony in Favor of Order 267-16/17
Amendment to Portland City Code Chapter 5 Animals & Fowl 
Re: Prohibition on Display of Wild and Exotic Animals
Portland City Council
September 18, 2017

Dear Mayor Strimling and Portland City Council Members, 

This testimony is in support of the proposed ordinance to ban the cruel, dangerous and outdated practice of using wild and exotic animals to perform in circuses and other traveling acts.

Cruel & Inhumane

Forcing wild animals to entertain is inhumane on many levels. These animals are ripped from their homes and natural environment. They spend months every year on road transports and locked in small, confined spaces. In most cases they are trained and controlled through the use of force. There is nothing humane about this form of entertainment. (

Public Safety Threat

Traveling circuses also pose a serious public safety threat.  

An estimated 12% of captive elephants in North America are infected with tuberculosis (TB), a contagious disease that can be passed from elephants to humans.

Additionally, keeping wild animals confined under constant duress in close proximity to the public in lightweight, temporary enclosures has proven disastrous on many occasions. Circus workers, and members of the public, including children, have been killed and maimed by escaped circus animals throughout the U.S. No matter how much training they receive, these are still wild animals that will act aggressively and unpredictably under the stressful circumstances inherent with traveling acts.

Outdated/Declining Business Model

Lastly, circuses and traveling acts which use wild animals represent a declining business model. As consumers become more aware of the cruelty involved, they no longer wish to see wild animals being forced to entertain in an unnatural setting. Circuses, like all businesses, have to change with the times to stay relevant and profitable. An educated public prefers to view humane entertainment. As a result, animal-free circuses are thriving.

This trend is exemplified by Cirque du Soleil, which has grown from one show in 1990 to 19 shows performing in 271 cities, generating an estimated annual revenue of over $810 million. 

Closer to home, Circus Smirkus (, an award winning, animal-free, international youth circus based out of Vermont , just celebrated 30 years of success. It is important to note that part of the Circus Smirkus business model beyond the big top, includes fund-raising programs for children’s health and education organizations, and also offers circus camps and in-school educational programs to pass the tradition of circus arts on to future generations.

In contrast, Piccadilly Circus, which still uses wild animals, recently canceled shows across Southern California due to poor ticket sales. 

As stated by Hamid Circus owner and producer, James M. Hamid, Jr.:

“As we look into the future, we see all circuses moving to non-animal productions,” Hamid said. “Over the last 20 years, both through strict regulation as well as changing public sentiment, performing animal acts have begun to be a thing of the past.

“So it’s up to creative minds to conceive new and entertaining all-human performances, utilizing the high-tech rigging systems, computers, lighting, music and video combined with social media platforms.”


In conclusion, circuses and other traveling acts that wish to remain financially viable are evolving with public demand by implementing a more humane business model.

As someone who has dedicated her life to advocating for the humane treatment of animals- for me, the passage of this ordinance is all about saying NO to animal cruelty, which is what we support as a community (and teach our children) by allowing the exploitation of wild and exotic animals for entertainment and financial gain.

However, even if you have no interest in animal welfare, there are many other benefits to the City of Portland and its residents that will come from passing this ordinance such as promoting public safety and supporting viable business models. It is a win win for all of us.

I truly hope that you will all vote in favor of passing this Amendment to Portland City Code Chapter 5 Animals and Fowl that would ban the use of wild and exotic animals in circuses and other traveling acts. 

It would make me so proud to see my city lead the state by example on this issue.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



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