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SPCA expected to push for end to animal acts

Roaring trade: White tiger Fuji had crowds flocking to the Esso Tigermart in Hamilton yesterday.Photo by David Skinner

Animal welfare group the SPCA is expected today to take a firm stand against animals ever coming to Bermuda again for the purpose of entertaining residents.

Chairman and veterinarian Andrew Madeiros said the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) would be discussing the issue at a meeting last night and would decide, one way or another, to go public with its sentiments.

He said the recent arrival of the Tarzan Zerbini Circus, and the concerns that have followed over its captive elephants, dogs and white tiger, have led to the group wanting to address the issue head on.

And last night he condemned the circus for taking Fuji, a white tiger, to the City of Hamilton TigerMarket gas station yesterday - in a very small cage - for the purpose of promoting the event.

"We have a board meeting tonight and we are going to discuss the whole circus thing," said Dr. Madeiros yesterday.

"I feel fairly confident that we will come out and say that we don't think it's appropriate for animals to be brought here for these sorts of things.

"We will then notify the Ministry of Environment and the Government vet, and we will be asking them to decide whether they think they should be involved in the future. We will certainly make our opinions known.

"But to take that tiger and put it at the gas station as a promotional thing, I don't think is appropriate at all. "The SPCA has received a number of phone calls from concerned people who have seen it there, and we don't believe it is acceptable."

Dr. Madeiros said the SPCA inspector, Charles Whited, had gone to St. David's to inspect the animals with Government vet Dr. Jonathan Nisbett when they arrived on the Island last Friday.

He said they found the animals in good health and condition, and found their transport and shelter adequate.

However, he said it was time for the SPCA to take a more philosophical view of bringing animals to the Island for the purposes of entertainment.

He said: "We are probably going to decide that this circus thing is something that we do not want to be involved in or associated with again. It is not something that we will support.

"I'm not saying that we supported it this time. We had no input as to whether or not they came, but after the meeting we will probably make our feelings very well known.

"I think there are concerns about the appropriateness of this type of thing. Certainly in Europe and Canada, circuses are becoming a thing of the past."

The Royal Gazette reported yesterday how a number of people had contacted the newspaper to voice concerns over the history of Tarzan Zerbini Circus and its animals.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) website had cited a number of occasions where the circus had failed to meet standards or caused concern.

And on inspecting the living quarters of the tiger at the big top in Southside, the newspaper found the 500-pound cat spending practically 24 hours a day in a cage measuring only ten feet by about 22 feet, except when it was to be taken out very briefly for the shows. During the visit to Bermuda, the cat will have spent almost the all of the 14 days in the cage.

When it was taken to Hamilton yesterday to promote the show, it was in a smaller cage.

However, Larry Solheim, general manager of the big top, claimed many of the citations on the PETA website were "distorted and generalised", although he said many of the actual incidents had occurred in some fashion.