Statehouse bill makes commissioners leery

County not yet taking official stance on bill regarding exotic animals in traveling shows

Tabatha Stewart
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 4/20/21

Elbert County commissioners discussed yet another piece of legislation that they believe will hurt the agriculture industry at their April 14 meeting. Senate Bill 21-135 would make it a misdemeanor …

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Statehouse bill makes commissioners leery

County not yet taking official stance on bill regarding exotic animals in traveling shows

Posted

Elbert County commissioners discussed yet another piece of legislation that they believe will hurt the agriculture industry at their April 14 meeting. Senate Bill 21-135 would make it a misdemeanor to use certain animals in a traveling animal act, and carry fines of up to $1,000.

The Traveling Animal Protection Act, according to Commissioner Chris Richardson, was written to stop abuse of animals used in circuses, and currently exempts livestock animals. But the language, the commissioners believe, pave the way to easily remove the livestock exemptions in the future.

“One of the many bills that can and do affect the rural lifestyle many people out here love is SB21-135,” said Richardson. “It’s an outright ban on traveling circus acts, and also bans transportation of animals for photography. It’s kind of one of those slippery slope things, and several folks have reached out to us asking what does that do for the future of rodeos? Well, a slight change in the future could wipe out the landscape of rodeos in Colorado.”

The bill, sponsored by nine Democratic senators and Democratic Reps. Monica Duran and Meg Froelich, would prevent certain animals from being “required to perform tricks, give rides, or participate as accompaniments for the entertainment, amusement, or benefit of an audience, or be used primarily for photographic purposes.”

Basic livestock, as well as domestic cats and dogs, are exempt from the restrictions, which primarily focus on exotic, or non-native animals, including Marsupialia, Felidae, Pinnipedia and Proboscidea, according to the language of the bill.

“There are already laws that control animal cruelty,” said Richardson. “At this point, I think there’s some concerns for at least one of our animal rescues in the county that is focused on non-native exotic species. They don’t show or travel, but they breed and supply to zoos and other businesses. Potentially, if they have animals that are being used for entertainment, that does cut off a market for them.”

Commissioner Grant Thayer said he’s concerned about the future of agriculture in Colorado.

“It looks like there’s a group out there that want to make agriculture in our state economically non-viable,” said Thayer. “What the Legislature, and some of these people like from PAUSE (a farm-animal rights campaign), want to put in place is cutting away the viability of agriculture in our community. It’s up to us as citizens, and as commissioners, to watch this and make sure the public is well aware of some of these negative aspects.”

Richardson said the county is not taking an official position on SB21-135, but they are waiting to see if there are any amendments, or any other opposition.

“This is one exemption away from killing rodeo and ending that mainstay of Colorado culture,” said Richardson. “Once it passes, it wouldn’t take a lot to have the livestock exemption removed.”

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