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Advocate Spotlight: Behind the End of Wild Animal Acts in Wilmington

Advocates Shares Her Experience Banning Wild Animal Circuses


On June 27, 2020, at an outdoor town meeting, residents of Wilmington voted to end the use of wild animals in circuses in their town. The town members voted 84-74 in favor in a standing vote, after initially had been ruled to have failed on a voice vote. The Shrine Circus has traditionally performed in Wilmington. Jenne Sindoni organized the effort. Read our interview with her, and how she was able to spearhead this effort, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are your key takeaways from Wilmington’s effort to ban wild animal circuses?

First, you need to get people there to vote. Our vote was very close. People need to realize how important it is for them to be there. It can be a long day, but it is so important for people to show up.

Second, outreach is important. I met Kathleen Bennett when I was handing out flyers and she helped with so much of the effort, including getting people there and calling for a standing vote.

Third, we worked with credible animal protection organizations that helped with drafting the ordinance, providing information, and engaging their supporters. The MSPCA, HSUS, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund all helped.

What type of outreach did you do?

We made flyers (with those organizations logos and I think that was very helpful). Our flyers got outdated because the date was changed due to COVID-19. Flyers are super important and we made sure to include an email address on it so that people could contact us. It was a short flyer and simple. If someone doesn’t want to talk to you, you can just leave them with it. It’s good to have something in your hands.

We would have done more if we weren’t doing this during the pandemic.

How hard and time consuming was this effort?

Once we had the ordinance language, getting the petition was easy – we just needed 10 resident signatures. The whole process was not a lot of work at all or that time consuming. During the outreach it became clear that people around town and on social media that I talked to didn’t want to see this anymore.

What opposition was there?

Because the Shrine circus performs in Wilmington, there was opposition from the Aleppo Shriners organization and some other people voiced concern about the scope (I was able to address) and that they didn’t want Shriner’s to lose money. Some people spoke about how they support Shriners but not wild animal circuses. The finance committee voted not to support it, so we were disappointed with that. It is helpful to try to have the town’s committee in support, but it still passed!

Any last minute tips?

At first, I was afraid to say too much when I got to the microphone, but you don’t know who is going to come up after you. It was important for me to anticipate what people opposed might say and try to address up front. After I spoke, a representative from the Shriners spoke and I felt I had already refuted many of his arguments.

It is helpful to know or have someone, like Kathleen or Hirak Shah (a finance committee member who supported the ordinance; others on the finance committee did not) with some insight about the process. Kathleen was able to ensure there was a standing vote. If that didn’t happen, there would have been a different outcome. Hirak was able to make the motion to bring the Article up and be voted on. The MSPCA, HSUS or ALDF can help connect you with these folks and help navigate the process.

Lastly, I think it is important that Wilmington residents continue to make it clear to Wilmington Aleppo Shriners that we don’t want this in town. They have given some indication that they want to revisit this next year, so we want to be very active, prevent any effort to remove the ordinance, and stop them before they even think about doing it. We want them to feel the power of all the people who don’t want this.

To watch the town meeting: WCTV Video On Demand
Video title: June 27, 2020 Annual Town Meeting
Circus ordinance at 3:16-3:43

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