Maine city blocks scheduled circus amid concerns over animal treatment

ROCKLAND, Maine – The Zerbini Family Circus is hosting a number of performances across the state this month. But on Tuesday night, Rockland officials rejected the circus’s license application, preventing the show from taking place in that town.

The rejection of the permit comes just a week before two performances scheduled by the circus on July 24 and 25 in one of the riverside parks of Rockland. Since Wednesday afternoon, the performances of the Zerbini Family Circus planned in Rockland have been moved to Thomaston.

Rockland City Council held a special meeting on Tuesday evening to consider a Zerbini Family Circus permit application. Melody Ramirez, the circus’s runway mistress, said the company was asked to file for a permit on July 9, although in January it completed an application to use the park this month.

Ahead of Tuesday’s council vote on the permit, two people raised concerns about the treatment of animals by circus productions and claimed the Zerbini Family Circus had a bad track record.

However, Ramirez says the concerns expressed were about another circus with a similar name and not the family Zerbini circus. The Zerbini family circus uses miniature dogs, ponies and donkeys. Ramirez said the circus has never had any wild animals.

“It’s devastating for us. We have already invested a lot of money, but that is the least of our problems. Our name is dragged through the mud. We don’t own any tigers. We don’t own elephants. We don’t own a bear, ”Ramirez said.

Reports from the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on the Zerbini family circus were not immediately available on Wednesday.

Alain Zerbini and Leticia Zerbini, Ramirez’s parents, are the owners of the Zerbini Family Circus. Ramirez said his family’s history in the circus world dates back 250 years. In the 1990s, the family circus came from France to the United States.

City councilors Amelia Magjik, Benjamin Dorr and Valli Geiger voted against granting a permit to the Zerbini Family Circus to operate its show in Rockland. Mayor Lisa Westkaemper and Ed Glaser voted to grant the permit.

Ramirez said the circus had been preparing for his trip to Maine for a year and felt the paperwork and applications filed in January gave him permission to perform in the city.

However, Rockland City Manager Tom Luttrell said in an email Wednesday that city council needs to approve a permit. Luttrell said the permit was an “oversight and once noticed it was presented to council, hence the delay in its presentation to council.”

In a Facebook post on Wednesday morning, the Zerbini Family Circus called on members of the public to lobby city councilors to find a deal that would allow the show to take place in Rockland. The circus maintained that its owners treated show animals well.

“[The City Council] didn’t even give us the option to play Rockland at the last minute without any animals in the performance the only animals we have in the show are miniature ponies, dogs and donkeys, and we can assure you they are loved and well taken care of. They are part of our family ”, we can read in the message.

Ramirez said people are entitled to their opinions on whether animals should be involved in circuses. However, she also said that “the public has the right to go and see any type of entertainment that they would like to see”.

Without being informed that the permit application would be presented at Tuesday night’s council meeting, Ramirez said his family members were unable to defend themselves against the allegations.

The circus was scheduled to take place in Rockland just a week before the city’s flagship event, the Maine Lobster Festival. While animal rights activists frequently protest the festival, Ramirez said it was ironic that the city rejected the circus permit on the basis of the use of circus animals.

“If they are against the circus animals, they should cancel their lobster [festival]. These animals are killed for fun. So it doesn’t make any sense, ”she said.

After seeing that the circus would not be held in Rockland, Ramirez said officials from the nearby town of Thomaston contacted the circus and offered to use the old Lura Libby school grounds.

This is the second or third year that the Florida-based Zerbini Family Circus has come to Maine, Ramirez said. Performances are scheduled in Topsham, Wiscasset, Phippsburg, Minot, Dover-Foxcroft and Cumberland.


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Boyd S. Abbott

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