Lawmaker wants to bar elephants Circus: Saying the animals are mistreated, a Howard County Republican moves to ban their use in entertainment.

March 13, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

To most people, the elephants performing at the Baltimore Arena are the biggest stars of the circus. But to Del. John S. Morgan, they are dangerous, mistreated beasts.

The Howard County Republican has proposed legislation in the General Assembly that would ban the use of elephants in public or private entertainment, including circuses and carnivals. "I believe you cannot make animals perform in circuses without abusing them," Morgan said.

He said that 36 people have been killed by performing elephants worldwide since 1990.

While Morgan acknowledged his bill is unlikely to pass this year, the producer of the country's best-known circus -- Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus -- is taking it seriously and has sent a lobbyist to Annapolis to kill it.

Joan Galvin, a vice president of Feld Entertainment, said no patrons have been hurt by Ringling Bros. elephants in more than 120 years of performances. Circus employees, she added, are not allowed to hurt the elephants.

"Any type of abuse, cruelty or whatever, is absolutely prohibited," said Galvin. "It's counterproductive. If you abuse an animal, that animal will be unpredictable."

Ringling Bros., performing in Baltimore through March 22, has been advertising a traditional event involving its elephants, a lunchtime appearance at Lexington Market on Tuesday.

If the bill passes, Galvin said, Ringling Bros. would stop performing in Maryland. "The elephant is one of the hallmarks of the circus," she said. "It's part of who we are."

Morgan said he is not concerned by that prospect.

Pub Date: 3/13/98

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