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Exotic animal regulation moves ahead

Marion Blackburn
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Marion Blackburn speaks at to the City Council urging them to ban exotic animals. The Council voted for city staff to draft and ordinance banning the commercial use of exotic animals in the city.

Amy McMahon

By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Greenville City Council voted unanimously on Monday to proceed with drafting a ban on the exhibition of exotic animals in the city. 

The decision was in response to concerns about an exhibition in May near the Greenville Mall. Residents said the event, which featured caged tigers, kangaroos and an elephant, exploited and harmed the animals. The decision to approve permits for such events damages the city’s reputation, speakers said Monday. 

District 4 City Councilman Rick Smiley said he was approached by several Greenville residents about the situation, and he asked City Attorney David Holec to look into how other cities handled such cases. Holec provided examples of ordinances in Charlotte and Asheville as they related to exotic animals. 

After discussion, Smiley made a motion for the city to draft an ordinance similar to Asheville’s, which bans the commercial use of exotic animals within city limits but provides exemptions for accredited museums and zoos, animal preservation groups and research groups, such as East Carolina University. The ordinance would continue to allow for the private ownership of exotic animals by permit.

Based on unanimous approval from the council for Smiley’s motion, Holec is now tasked with preparing an official ordinance reflecting those parameters. He is expected to finalize an ordinance and present it in the coming months. Council may make a final vote on the ordinance at that time. 

Marion Blackburn, a former District 3 councilwoman and animal rights advocate, spoke before the council at Monday’s meeting urging members to ban the exhibits. She said after the vote she was proud to see the city come together to stop animal abuse. 

“It was just sad to really directly experience those animals suffering,” Blackburn said after the meeting. “To know tonight that Greenville says that is not acceptable in our community, that is a great, great feeling. To know that this community wants to help animals, and when we help animals we help people. I think this sends a powerful message that we are a compassionate city.” 

Blackburn said she was extremely grateful for city staff and Councilman Smiley for being receptive and helpful in making progress toward the ban. 

The council also gave unanimous approval to a request from the North Carolina Department of Transportation to partner in the upgrade of more than 300 sidewalk ramps at city intersections.

Greenville will pay 20 percent of the total project cost, and funding is expected to provide upgrades to about 335 ramps. The total cost of the project is estimated at $930,000. Greenville’s share would be about $186,000.  

The ramps will be located mostly downtown and adjacent areas to the east and west. Some of the suggested ramps are on East Howell Street. Construction is expected to begin soon and should be completed in about six months. 

During the meeting’s public comment period, the wife of a veteran firefighter asked council members to investigate working conditions within Greenville Fire-Rescue. Amy McMahon told council members that experienced people like her husband were leaving the department at an alarming rate because of poor leadership.

“Our area departments are rejoicing because they’re hiring these people,” McMahon said. “Make no mistake, these reputable places are scooping up these resources.”

She said her husband will be leaving the department in January after 20 years of service, allowing her to speak freely about the situation. 

“That's actually the only reason that I can stand here, because the risk of retaliation is very strong,” said McMahon.

Contact Seth Gulledge at sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579