McALLEN — City commissioners are considering how to best deal with a petition to ban the Carson & Barnes Circus from coming back to the city.
Edinburg resident Jaqueline Reed started the Change.org petition a month ago, urging residents to consider the treatment of animals in the circuit after the circus announced it would be making stops throughout the Rio Grande Valley throughout February.
“Carson & Barnes has been cited for over 100 violations by the federal Animal Welfare Act, including but not limited to, failing to provide animals with basic necessities, like veterinary care, shelter and clean water,” Reed wrote. “There is video footage of the inadequate care facilities, and of trainers violently using bullhooks (resembling a fire poker) and electric prods.
“These circus animals spend 96% of their lives in chains and cages with inadequate care and physical torture, all for our entertainment.”
As of Saturday, more than 5,300 others had signed the virtual document.
On Monday, McAllen commissioners discussed the permitting process for large mass gatherings during a workshop. Commissioner Sebby Haddad suggested the city include two checkboxes on large mass gathering permits: one for domestic and small wild animals, and one for large-grade exotic animals. Those with the latter would have to go through the commission for approval, Haddad suggested.
“The community has obviously shown us that they wish to speak up on those matters,” he said. “So I think that permit should come to the city council for approval. That way people have the ability to come talk to the commission if they feel that that’s a permit that we should approve or not.”
The current process requires permit seekers to submit documentation 45 days in advance, but does not allow the public to weigh in.
“There’s nothing in the permit that addresses their treatment of the animals,” Haddad said. “I don’t know that we would have the expertise to inspect some of that stuff, so our best bet is to, I think, bring the permits to the commission, those types of permits, at least.”
“Why don’t we just ban those types of circuses from coming to McAllen and you don’t have to mess with this type of permit,” Commissioner Tania Ramirez suggested. “I know some cities, they’ve done it.”
A few seconds later, city attorney Kevin Pagan weighed in.
“It would be the first time, that I can think of, that the city has banned an otherwise legal business,” he said. “There’s nothing about it that’s illegal, on the face of it. And so, I’m just throwing that out there… it’s just something to think about.”
“We’ve done it to smokers,” Ramirez said a few moments later in reference to a 2017 ordinance that essentially barred smoking in public places, including at restaurants and bars.
McAllen City Manager Roy Rodriguez said he would come up with options for the commissioners to review at a future meeting.
“I think it’s a sentiment and I think the community has been pretty outspoken about it,” Haddad said. “We’ve got to give the public the ability to voice their concerns and make decisions based on that. We do it all the time.”