Fulton Rejects Atlanta IGA without Bullhook Ban

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(APN) ATLANTA — On August 01, 2012, the Board of Commissioners of Fulton County voted down a request to enter into a new Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) to provide animal control services for the City of Atlanta.  

While the vote took place with no discussion, there was an elephant in the room, at least figuratively speaking: the City of Atlanta has failed to adopt an amendment introduced by Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9) to ban the use of the bullhook on elephants consistent with Fulton County’s animal control ordinances.

At the heart of the issue is whether elected officials in Atlanta and Fulton County will now put the wishes of Ringling Bros. circuses to include unnatural elephant tricks in their circuses, ahead of the wishes of elephants to not be tortured and the wishes of Atlantans who do not want their local governments to condone the use of the bullhook on elephants.

The IGA would have provided for Fulton County’s continuation of animal control services for the City effective July 01, 2012, through June 30, 2013.

The County has continued to provide animal control services for the City, even without an agreement in place, since the last agreement expired on July 01, 2012.  

At the July 11, 2012, Board of Commissioners meeting, the County approved the provision of those services for the City without a contract, but only until August 15, 2012.

However, August 15 is now only four days away and there is no new contract or IGA.  The City Council will not meet again prior to the 15th; however, the County will meet on the 15th.

Therefore, the County will have one more chance to decide whether to provide the services for Atlanta even without a bullhook ban in place, which would make Fulton County complicit in actually carrying out the abusive policies.  The IGA item does appear on the August 15 meeting agenda.

The August 01 vote of the Board failed for a lack of four yea votes.  Commissioners John Eaves (District 1), Liz Hausmann (District 3), and Joan Garner (District 6) voted yea.  Commissioner Robb Pitts (District 2) voted nay.  Emma Darnell (District 5) and Bill Edwards (District 7) did not vote, although present.  And Tom Lowe (District 4), while present for at least part of the meeting, was not present for the vote.

Had Lowe been there, he likely would have been the fourth vote to allow the IGA to pass without a bullhook ban; Lowe had previously opposed the ban in Fulton County when the County passed its ban in 2011.

Garner has changed positions.  While she supported the bullhook ban in Fulton County, voting for it in 2011, she voted earlier this month in favor of the County providing animal control services for the City anyway, even though the City does not ban the bullhook.

The City Council of Atlanta passed its own animal control ordinance at its June 18, 2012, meeting.

Prior to the Council’s passage of its own ordinance, the City did not have an animal control ordinance and had essentially adopted Fulton’s ordinance by way of reference.

Thus, when Fulton passed its bullhook ban in 2011, the ban applied to the City of Atlanta.

When Ringling Bros. wanted to hold its 2012 annual circus in Atlanta, it had to go to court in order to include elephants and bullhooks.  The court ruled that because there was no IGA in place between Fulton and Atlanta, and Fulton was providing a service for the City without a contract, the Fulton County laws were not enforceable in the City at the time.  Thus, the 2012 circus was able to occur.

The City’s passage of an animal control ordinance identical to that of Fulton County’s with the exception of the bullhook ban, was basically a message to Fulton County that the City did not agree with the ban.

At the June 18 Council meeting, the Council did pass an amendment by Yolanda Adrean (District 8) that was presented as if it was intended to provide even broader protections for elephants than the bullhook ban, but it did not include a specific bullhook ban.

The Adrean amendment passed 13 to 1, with Moore the only nay vote.  Moore said she did not understand why they were rushing to pass broader language with no review, when what was needed was a specific ban on the bullhook.

Adrean’s legislation bans, with regards to elephants, “deprivation of food, water, or rest; use of electricity; physical punishment resulting in damage, scarring or breaking of skin; insertion of any instrument into any bodily orifice.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals argued that the use of the bullhook would still be allowed under that language, for example, as long as it did not damage, scar, or break the elephant’s skin.

Moore introduced a separate amendment that would specifically ban the bullhook.  Moore, Natalyn Archibong (District 5), and Joyce Sheperd (District 12) supported the ban.

Adrean, Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large), Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11), CT Martin (District 10), Howard Shook (District 7), Carla Smith (District 1), Alex Wan (District 6), Aaron Watson (Post 2-at-large), Lamar Willis (Post 3-at-large), and Ivory Young (District 3) voted against the ban.

Thus, while many of the Council Members claimed to support Adrean’s amendment because it was even broader than the bullhook ban, when it came down to supporting such a ban by itself, they showed their true colors.

To at least some extent, the Adrean amendment was driven by the Mayor Kasim Reed Administration.  Atlanta Progressive News witnessed David Bennett, Senior Policy Advisor to the Mayor, showing Adrean documents prior to the Council Meeting, and Adrean saying, “Oh, PETA will like that.”  Of course, PETA was not pleased.

The IGA that Fulton has so far rejected was approved by the Council on July 16, 2012.  The important feature of the IGA is that it directs Fulton to enforce Atlanta’s new ordinance, which currently does not contain the ban.  However, if Moore’s amendment passed in the future, thus changing the ordinance, it would be incorporated in the IGA by reference.

At the July 11, 2012, Commission meeting, Darnell criticized the City of Atlanta.

“I think that on the bullhook issue… I for one appreciate the fact that this Board has done a lot to try to keep this service going in the City of Atlanta.  However, I think we get to a point where we’ve got to request that we receive the same kind of consideration from Atlanta that we are extending to Atlanta,” Darnell said.

“This staff has been kind of chased around a little bit.  I’ll hold my comments about the ordinance they passed.  It’s not helpful when City officials make the statement that they have no intention of adopting Fulton County’s bullhook ordinance, that they will seek other contractors.  That’s not helpful and that has been in the press,” Darnell said.

“Why is it always that we have to wait for people to comply with us?  We’re a million people, the biggest county in the State of Georgia, most populous.  We continue to let people dictate to us.  And now you want an extension?” Edwards said.

“What in the word, we’re sitting here allowing someone to dictate to us, we got fifteen thousand calls on dogs [in a year].  Somebody let the dogs out over there.  And we’re waiting for someone to tell us what they’re gonna do?  Do your own thing.  Take your fifteen thousand dogs and do whatever you’re gonna do with em,” Edwards said.

“We need to protect this house… I’m gonna protect this house and I’m not gonna let somebody hold me hostage for something I’m doing for you.  Atlanta is in Fulton County.  Fulton County is not in Atlanta,” Edwards said.

Edwards also questioned why Fulton County continued to provide services for Atlanta without a contract and what Atlanta would have done if the roles were reversed.  “I guarantee you the City Attorney would have cut you off if you had no contract.”

At the June 18 meeting of the Council, Moore spoke eloquently in favor of her amendment banning the bullhook in Atlanta.

“I was not aware of this issue… I got on the computer… I [now] know a lot more about this issue than I wish I ever knew.  I feel like the day my brother took me in the basement to show me where the toys were hiding and Santa Claus wasn’t real…  I feel the same way about circuses,” Moore said.

Moore showed the Council a two minute PETA video showing abuse of elephants by circus trainers with the bullhook.

“I think that Fulton County got it right when they decided to institute this bullhook ban… I’m not swayed by the monetary value of it… slavery was an economic issue as well, that did not make it right…  I’m not any animal rights activist person, I never just thought about it.  When I was a kid I went to the circus and saw them spin around on the tubs… and was amazed, and never thought of how they were having to be being conditioned,” Moore said.

“What I do up here, I put the sleep test, and if I can sleep well at night based on the decisions I’ve made then I’m doing all right.  I couldn’t sleep well at night on this one.  I’m not gonna have any little baby elephants screaming in my dreams.  I’m voting on this ban on the bullhook,” Moore said.

(END/2012)

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