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Circus needed variance to legally stage event

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A boxing match between a kangaroo and a human scheduled for this weekend in Columbus cannot take place because the organizers failed to file the proper paperwork, according to a city official.

The match, organized by Stardust Circus, had raised the ire of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, which had filed a complaint with the National Guard, which was to host the match at its armory in Columbus.

Kevin Konetzka, animal care services manager for the city of Columbus, said anyone who plans to bring a wild animal into the city has to request that an exception be made to a local ordinance that forbids wild animals “to be kept, owned, harbored, boarded, sold or let for hire within the city.”

Konetzka said neither the National Guard nor the circus had filed for an exception, which must happen at least 14 days before the event. The Board of Works approves or rejects those requests.

He said the city typically receives about two such requests per year but never has received one for a kangaroo. He said Utopia Wildlife Rehabilitators has requested to be allowed to bring in birds of prey for educational purposes, and two years ago a magic act was allowed to bring in two leopards.

Kontetzka, who has been with the city for 30 years, said that in the 1980s the city did not allow any wild animals to be brought in. City officials changed the ordinance in the early 1990s to make an exception for events that have an educational component.

Even if the organizers of the boxing match had been allowed to bring the kangaroo into the city, the event might have violated a different local ordinance that bars “combat between animals, or between animals and humans.”

City Attorney Kelly Benjamin said Thursday morning that she did not have enough information about the event to determine whether it would have violated that ordinance.

PETA had filed a complaint with Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard, to ask him to forbid the event.

Delcianne Winders, director of captive animal law enforcement at PETA, said boxing matches are extremely stressful to the kangaroo, because the animal would rather flee than fight and has to be bullied into participating.

“It really is cruel to them,” she said.

She said such events are anachronistic and belong to the period of “freak shows.”

Winders said PETA is pleased the event will not take place in Columbus. However, she said a similar event still is scheduled for this weekend for Natchez, Miss.

Lt. Col. Cathleen Van Bree, public affairs officer for the Indiana National Guard, said the agency has nothing to do with the Columbus event itself, but was merely allowing a circus to rent the armory facilities.

She said the armory’s contract with renters requires that all laws be followed.

Van Bree also said that the National Guard had received the complaint from PETA, but as of Thursday afternoon had not responded yet.

The circus could not be reached Thursday for comment.

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