Executive director: Circus is still coming despite city’s ban

Published 6:31 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2018


NATCHEZ — The head of a circus group scheduled to perform in Natchez next month said Tuesday that despite city aldermen’s prohibition of his group performing in the city, the show would go on.

Stellar Entertainment Executive Director Jim Davis said that his group, Garden Bros. Circus, would still come to Natchez as planned on Feb. 2., after aldermen unanimously voted last Friday to bar the group’s circus animal performances in the auditorium or on city property.

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Davis said the city “jumped the gun” by voting impulsively without all the necessary information.

“It’d be like (a person) taking somebody to trial because somebody told them they did something,” Davis said. “How do you take secondhand information and not know the facts on both sides and make a decision?”

Their vote stemmed from pressure received via emails from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) about animal abuse concerns.

Aldermen said at Thursday’s meeting that they were aware of the allegations brought forth by PETA.

Davis, however, categorically denied claims levied against the group by PETA, and said the circus’ animals were already not to perform in the auditorium, which is leased by the city to Christ Life Church.

“If (the city’s) concern was the animals, there’s not going to be any animals performing, so that’s not going to be a concern,” he said.

Davis said the group would adhere to a clause in its contract with the auditorium stating that animals are not allowed in the facility.

Some of the claims PETA has made against Garden Bros. include electrically shocking elephants and causing them to bleed through the use of hook-like tools, citing a former employee as a source of a Sept. 5, 2017 news release.

Davis said the group has a clean track record and that their animals “see doctors more than I do.”

The group, he said, is also subject to monthly inspections by certified veterinarians to ensure the animals are not injured, malnourished or mistreated. Davis added that these veterinarians also perform surprise inspections occasionally.

“Every month, we get a clean bill of health,” Davis said.

Davis claimed that arenas the circus travels to receive between 1,500 and 3,000 emails each day attempting to pressure groups out of hosting performances.

“What they do is strictly terrorism,” Davis said.

After reaching out to city aldermen Wednesday, Davis said he hopes the two sides can resolve the situation. If not, he still plans to bring the circus to town.

“If nothing else, we’ll be parked at the auditorium and just wave to people and tell them to thank their aldermen that you can’t (see the show) because they jumped the gun,” Davis said.

Davis also said he hopes neither side has to resort to litigation.

Natchez City Attorney Bob Latham said he would check with the board to see how they wanted to handle the situation given Davis’ comments.

“We will have to have some communication with them just to see what issues are out there and see how the board feels about it, if indeed they are just bringing some performers and there are no animals (performing),” Latham said.