May 1, 2014
Thursday was the first day of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus in Charlottesville for the weekend.
Dozens of people crowded the sidewalks outside of the John Paul Jones Arena not to see the animals, but to save them.
Voices for Animals organized the protest, which was to voice their opposition to animal-based circuses and to ask JPJ to stop hosting them.
"If you're thinking on the surface about animal-based circus, you think it's a good time, animals riding on tricycles, how cool! When you think further -- how does that happen? How do they get a tiger to jump through fire? You have to really dig a little deeper and find out how that does happen. That's nothing innate or instinctual to these animals. It's not by choice," said Stacey Norris, co-president of Voices for Animals.
They met circus-goers with signs, banners and more information about the brute force they say is used to train the animals. Protestors want to send a message to JPJ management that that kind of entertainment is not welcome here.
The group has been circulating a petition asking JPJ to stop hosting animal-based circuses. They have collected more than 2,500 signatures, the majority of them local.
The group plans to present that petition to JPJ and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.
"We want them to bring on board the same ordinances that exist in Charlottesville city that don't allow animal-based circuses in town," said Norris.
Norris says a few circus-goers they encountered decided to ask for a refund on their tickets after learning more about what the group was protesting.
They will hold another protest near JPJ on Saturday from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Voices for Animals, which is based in Charlottesville, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Over the last several years, Voices for Animals has focused on humanely controlling the feral cat population in the community.
To view the petition, click HERE.