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Pittsburgh City Council revises controversial circus legislation | TribLIVE.com
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Pittsburgh City Council revises controversial circus legislation

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Shriners, who perform as clowns in the Shriners Circus, protest Tuesday in front of the City-County Building, Downtown, against a proposed city ordinance that would ban circuses and other events that use live animals.
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Shriners, who perform as clowns in the Shriners Circus, protest Tuesday in front of the City-County Building, Downtown, against a proposed city ordinance that would ban circuses and other events that use live animals.

Pittsburgh would prohibit circus animal trainers, among others, from using devices capable of inflicting pain under a revised version of controversial legislation City Council proposed earlier this year.

Council President Bruce Kraus introduced a bill in May that would have banned live animal acts — including circuses — from performing in the city.

Kraus on Wednesday offered an amended version that permits performances but bans anyone from using such tools as bullhooks, electric prods, baseball bats, whips, sticks, muzzles or any other device capable of causing an animal pain.

The ban includes displaying such tools in the presence of animals and the use of “look-alike” devices that may not inflict pain, but mimics those that do.

Kraus said it is “very narrow” legislation but declined further comment.

Violators would be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and 30 days in jail for each incident.

The earlier version prompted wide criticism and drew more than 100 people to a council meeting to argue for and against the legislation, including a group of clowns from the Syria Shrine Circus.

Supporters offered graphic testimony, claiming animals are beaten, zapped with electric prods and gouged with hooks to force them to perform. Opponents denied allegations of abuse and said the ordinance was unconstitutional.

Council gave preliminary approval to the bill with Councilwomen Darlene Harris of Spring Hill and Deb Gross of Highland Park abstaining. They said they didn’t have time to read the amended version before the vote. A final vote is expected Tuesday.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or on Twitter @bobbauder.

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