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Locals fear elephant attack
animal rights |
Tuesday July 18, 2006 23:12 by Ciaran Long - Alliance For Animal Rights pagan_animal_liberation_front at hotmail dot com
Northside People, 13 July
FOUR giant circus animals spotted wandering in a field beside Blanchardstown Shopping Centre last month sparked fears for the safety of locals in the area. Two elephants, a rhinoceros and a hippo were spotted in the field beside the shopping centre within close distance to passers by.
The animals were in Blanchardstown to perform for a circus, which has since moved on from the area.
The area is visited by various circuses throughout the year and despite the animals being fenced in and guarded, locals fear vandals could somehow let the animals loose.
The ISPCA confirmed that on at least three occasions in recent years, lions and bears have escaped from circuses travelling around Ireland.
According to the ISPCA one person has died and at least two have been very seriously injured by circus animals.
One resident in Blanchardstown contacted Northside People to outline her concerns about the close proximity of the animals to local people.
Lori Johnson said that as she drove by Blanchardstown Shopping Centre on a number of occasions recently she saw two elephants, a hippo and a rhino huddled together in a grass field within close distance to people.
"The animals were wandering behind a protected fence but were very close to a group of people, many of whom where standing by viewing them," Ms Johnson said.
"In addition, hippos and elephants are gregarious animals that in the wild would live in large social groups. Therefore I cannot see how at any level it can be acceptable to keep such animals in this environment where not only are they likely to be distressed but are also a potential danger to people."
In a similar incidence last year, local Sinn Fein councillor Felix Gallagher said that he witnessed two youths firing an air pistol in the direction of three circus elephants in the same field beside Blanchardstown Shopping Centre.
Cllr Gallagher said that he contacted the gardai and then continued to watch the youths torment the elephants for a further 45 minutes before leaving the scene of their own accord.
However, in relation to the incident last year, Cllr Gallagher confirmed that circus staff denied that anybody was in the same field as the elephants, and said that they had spent thousands of euros on the provision of adequate security measures.
Another issue that concerned Ms Johnson was the regulation of animals in circuses.
The ISPCA confirmed that at present there is no law that regulates the keeping of exotic animals and that circuses are not regulated in Ireland.
Ms Johnson said it is bizarre that you need a licence for a pet dog but not for a dangerous exotic animal.
"I find it shocking that this has not been reported on more often," she said.
"It's my guess that people are ignorant about this and probably assume that circuses are regulated and have to hold a licence for their animals. However, it seems there is more legislation around keeping a dog than there is a rhino, putting both people and animals at risk."
A spokesperson for the ISPCA said that without such a law, it is inevitable that in future people are going to be seriously injured or killed.
"The ISPCA is responding to this situation by proposing a piece of legislation that will help ensure this scenario will not happen again," the spokesperson said.
The ISPCA is proposing that two tiers of licence be required to keep exotic species.
The first is a simple, cheap licence to keep exotic animals that are not deemed to be dangerous species, such as exotic birds and reptiles.
The second type of licence will be for those animals that are realistically classed as dangerous. This would require owners to have secure caging and adequate public safety measures.
"The ISPCA propose that a licensing authority be set up to administer the law," the spokesperson said.
"Knowledgeable wildlife inspectors and vets would be in charge of issuing licences, and we would hope that the gardai would appoint a special wildlife officer, which most other police forces already have, who would assist in the legal aspects of the implementation of the legislation."
Meanwhile, Bernie Wright, spokesperson for the Alliance For Animal Rights, said that her group was calling for a complete ban on all exotic animals coming into the country.
"We don't believe that licences are a good idea because even with the best will in the world there is no way that people can cater for the proper needs of these animals and especially if they are being dragged all over the country in the back of poorly sized animal wagons," Ms Wright said.
"Any exotic animals currently working in circuses in Ireland should be retired immediately and exported to proper animal reserves where they can live as they are meant to."