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Santa Fe bans wild and exotic animal acts

SANTA FE, N.M. — Wild and exotic animal acts will no longer be allowed in Santa Fe.

The Santa Fe City Council and mayor on Wednesday voted 8-1 to approve an amendment to the city’s animal welfare ordinance that would prevent such acts within the city limits. While it doesn’t ban circuses, it does prohibit those that include acts featuring elephants, tigers and bears that perform for entertainment purposes.

While most people who spoke during a public hearing prior to the vote supported the amendment, several people said the city was going too far.

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Acts like those featuring animals like elephants Patty and Dutchess, part of a Ringling Brothers circus in Rio Rancho in 2013, have been banned in Santa Fe. (Journal file)

Cynthia Paxton said she was tired of the council’s efforts for “behavior modification legislation,” like its recent ban of smoking in the city’s downtown Plaza.

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“First it’s the circus, then the rodeo, then the pet parade,” she said, wondering where the line would be drawn. “At some point you have to allow the will of the people to take hold.”

But supporters said there was overwhelming public support for the restriction, one woman presenting a petition with 850 signatures supporting the ban.

And several people supporting the proposal said the city wasn’t going far enough.

“If you truly believe in animal welfare, this ordinance is hypocritical,” Richard Mares said, adding the city should start by banning rodeos, which he said also abuses animals by making them do things they don’t want to do.

The amendment outlaws exhibitions of wild or exotic animals performing tricks, giving rides, or participating “as accompaniments for the entertainment, amusement, or benefit of a live audience.” Exceptions are made for animal exhibitions that are for educational purposes. Also excluded from the ban are “commonly accepted domesticated” cats and dogs, as well as cattle, swine, sheep, goats, donkeys, horses and ponies — animals that often appear at fairs and rodeos.

City Councilor Signe Lindell, who sponsored the proposal, said it’s well documented that animals made to perform tricks are subjected to abuse during training and while being housed.

“Entertainment is not an excuse for animal abuse and cruelty,” she said.

Ron Trujillo cast the lone “no” vote against the ban, saying that it would “open up a can of worms.”

While a circus is scheduled for Friday at the city’s rodeo grounds, that show will go on as the event has already been permitted.

Shortly after the vote, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a statement attributed to PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews:

“Santa Feans demanded a more compassionate city, and Councilor Signe Lindell has heard them and delivered. Santa Fe now joins New York City, San Francisco, and other cities in banning exhibitors that profit from animal misery, and PETA looks forward to a day when circuses and other businesses that beat, whip, and electrically shock animals are shunned at every corner of the country,” the statement read.

Also on Wednesday, the Council denied a request by Arizona Fine Wine and Spirits, for a waiver for locating a Total Wine & More liquor store on Zafarano Drive within 300-feet of a place of worship.

While the vote was unanimous, councilors said there was a chance the state’s Alcohol and Gaming Division could still approve it, or the city could face a lawsuit.

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