By Dawn Krebs
PORT ST. LUCIE -- When the circus came to town the weekend of Nov. 15-17, the activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, was close behind.
Earlier in November, Delcianna Winders, director of captive animal law enforcement for PETA, sent a letter to city officials asking them to inspect the animals used in the Cole Bros. circus acts.
On Nov. 16, the city reported code enforcement personnel found no violations at the event.
"Animals have always been a part of the traditional, American-style circus," said Bill Carter, one of the marketing directors for Cole Brothers circus, "and they've always been a part of our show."
Mr. Carter stressed the animals' safety is a priority for the circus.
"The exotic animals are all under federal jurisdiction and all the animal handlers are federally licensed," he said.
The circus was previously fined $15,000 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its treatment of two elephants, which were removed from the circus' care in 2009.
"I was glad to learn that the city of Port St. Lucie is taking seriously its duties to enforce animal control ordinances," said Ms. Winders in a press release.
She urged the city council to use an independent exotic-animal expert to help inspect the animals used in the performances in the city. While city officials didn't call in an exotic-animal expert, they stated code enforcement would conduct an inspection.
"We will have code enforcement there, absolutely," said Ed Cunningham, communications director for the city of Port St. Lucie.
"But they are only going to look for city code violations. The animal inspections can only be done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or Florida Fish and Wildlife."
The USDA makes required inspections of circuses several times a year, looking at both the animals and the records of animal care.
In 2011, a bill was introduced to Congress the "Travelling Exotic Animal Protection Act," which, if passed, will restrict the use of exotic and non-domestic animals in circuses and exhibitions. This is the first bill in the United States to address the use of wild animals by a circus. It is currently being examined by a congressional committee.