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Austin Commission Considers Ban on 'Painful' Circus Animal Tools

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Austin’s Animal Advisory Commission is considering a recommendation at its meeting tonight that would ban the use of so-called “painful devices” – such as whips and electric prods – on elephants. The policy would mostly affect animals in town for the circus.

The idea was brought forward by a group called Action for Animals. Last year, commission chair David Lundstedt says the same group approached the commission about banning circuses with animals from coming to Austin altogether.

While the commission decided the city wouldn’t have the authority to enact a full ban on circuses, Lundstedt says it’s not clear whether the same is true for this more narrow ban.

“There are still questions of whether the city has the authority since the circus usually comes in on the state highway and they perform at the Erwin Center – which is a state facility," Lundstedt said. "So it would be something that city legal would have to look at to see if the city even has the authority to ban devices like that. But we won’t know unless we make that recommendation and send it on to the city for them to take a look at.”

The commission is expected to vote on the proposal tonight.

“I have no idea whether it will pass the commission," Lundstedt said. "And I certainly don’t know if it will have any traction if we do make a recommendation to council. But citizens have come to us with a request and I’m trying to honor their request and send something to council.”

So what would happen if the ban passes? Would circus trainers be able to use some devices but not others? Lundstedt says he really isn’t sure.

“Basically what we’re doing is just coming up with the idea," Lundstedt said. "And if council wants to pursue it, then the council and city legal can come up with that wording. Because I honestly don’t know how that would go.”

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