City of Charlotte bans exotic animals from being used in circuses

Big Cat Trainer Alexander Lacey performs on the final day of the Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey Circus on May 21, 2017 in Uniondale, New York. Known as "The Greatest Show on Earth," the circus performed its final act after a 146 year run. (Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE — It’s curtains for the use of exotic animals in circuses held in the city of Charlotte.

The Charlotte City Council voted 6-4 on Monday to ban the animals from being used in circus performances. About a dozen or so animal rights activists protested outside the Government Center ahead of the vote.

[PAST COVERAGE: City Council defers decision on exotic animal ordinance]

Charlotte has one circus that primarily operates in town called the UniverSoul Circus. A representative from the UniverSoul Circus said they are opposed to the ban, but he did say they continue to operate in cities and states with similar ordinances in place.

The Charlotte City Council’s vote won’t ban UniverSoul Circus entirely. The circus will still be permitted to include horses and dogs in its performances but exotic animals like zebras, camels and elephants will be prohibited.

Animal rights activist Trey Morrow said entertainment shouldn’t be at the expense of animals.

“If you want to have some family fun, find some other way or go to a circus that doesn’t involve animals,” he said.


A substitute motion failed that would have banned the use of bullhooks and whips on or with exotic animals for circuses. UniverSoul was also against that alternative, saying they use the sound of whips to get horses to perform.

Voting in favor of the exotic animal ban was Tariq Bokhari, Braxton Winston, Matt Newton, Dimple Ajmera, Victoria Watlington and Larken Egleston.

The effort was pioneered by Councilman Matt Newton, who said he is vehemently opposed to the use of exotic animals in circuses. He called their use “morally and ethically wrong.”

(Watch the video below: UniverSoul Circus Gives Students A Lesson In Laughter)

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