Wilmette Approves Permit for District 39's Circus Fundraiser

Wilmette School District 39's Educational Foundation plans to host a circus fundraiser on Sept. 28.

Wilmette trustees approved a temporary use permit Tuesday for 's Educational Foundation to hold a circus fundraiser on September 28. 

The sixth biennial Kelly Miller circus fundraiser will be held behind the Mikaelian Education Center, 615 Locust Rd. The fundraiser will include a 150-inch circus tent, activities, concessions, and animals such as elephants, llamas, camels, ponies and dogs, according to village document. 

Wilmette resident and animial behaviorist Valerie Chalcraft objected to the permit approval, telling trustees that an elephant attack may be likely, given the brutal training methods circuses use, including the use of bull hooks.

Resident Concerned About Elephant Attacks 

These methods are not regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or seen by the general public, Chalcraft said. Such training could lead to tragic results in which elephants go berserk, attacking circus workers and audience members, she said. 

"The bull hook only serves to remind the elephant of past punishment. Fear is not an appropriate safety barrier upon which to rely, as fear underlies most types of aggression in most species,” Chalcraft said. “Pairing fear with frustrated, unfulfilled needs is an unpredictable, dangerous combination in wild animals." 

Tracy Kearney, president of District 39 Education Foundation, said such fears are unwarranted. 

The circus is regulated and licensed by the USDA, and trained personnel are on hand to supervise the staff and patrons at all times, Kearney said. 

Circus has Clean Record

“We’re very careful about choosing our fundraisers and are sensitive to the residents of Wilmette,” Kearney said of the event, which has taken place every other year since 2002. “Our experiences with the Kelly Miller Circus to date… have been entirely without incident.” 

Trustee Alan Swanson said he is convinced the circus is a closely regulated operation. 

“I do not see any negative land use impacts from this,” Swanson said. 

The next Village Board meetings are scheduled for July 10 and the 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall. 

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Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Wilmette Public School District 39 will be hosting the circus fundraiser. It's been updated to reflect that it's the school district's Educational Foundation that will be hosting the fundraiser.

Ellie June 28, 2012 at 01:18 PM
I guess Kelly Miller Circus forgot to mention to Tracy Kearney about the tigers who escaped from their cages in July 2011, they bit a horse before being captured 30 minutes later the USDA violation report at this link. https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:JUnZxAB7ye4J:www.aphis.usda.gov/foia/enforcement_actions/2012/January/Animal%2520Welfare%2520Act/7060s/NY11379-AC,%2520Natalie%2520Cainan,%25207060_Redacted.pdf+USDA+violations+%22Natalie+Cainan+%22&hl=en&gl=ca&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjxT9k59IEPBepIGNBn3jF1N3D7JZlR_7-UdWyAC8JTWwxLsWYzJKxxIm9zJijOvusne7NNFR0f3Ohra2F_DJE9IibpzuyH5V9_oc4tPlXAlebMx-7HtOAEVWjiXc6pz6X1qnBV&sig=AHIEtbR3frOfpuO6m1aibNNkgSdd56rslg Since Kelly Miller Circus will be providing elephants rides, I guess they didn't mention that on October 7, 2011 the USDA cited Carson & Barnes performing as the Kelly Miller Circus, with a direct violation of the AWA for failure to have an experienced animal handler in direct control of a dangerous animal during public elephant rides. The USDA inspector also cited the circus for having only one handler for two elephants during rides. http://acissearch.aphis.usda.gov/LPASearch/faces/CustomerSearch.jspx;jsessionid=7f00000130d9d29ba5d134f743e68724964dd452ceb5.e38Obx8Sb3yQby0LbN8SaxmRc3eSe0 If I can find out about these dangerous USDA violations how come District 39 missed them? Do they just take the circus's word that all is well?
Empathize with other animals June 29, 2012 at 10:35 PM
The Village and the Foundation have been provided with a long list of safety incidents involving wild animals in circuses, and Ellie's comments show that Kelly Miller is no exception. Kelly Miller was also cited for rusty gates and transport trailers. Rust doesn't build up overnight - there has been ongoing neglect. Thorough "vetting" must go beyond asking the circus owners about safety and animal cruelty - of course they will downplay concerns in order to retain business. My points at the meeting were that the brutal training NOT SEEN BY THE PUBLIC combined with confinement and travel the animals experience lead to fear, frustration and unpredictable behavior. No regulations address these issues. It is short-sighted to think that since no one sees abuse or safety incidents in Wilmette, per se, that there is no reason for concern. We shouldn't wait for something bad to happen in order to care. Deerfield and Glencoe no longer invite back the Kelly Miller Circus. Many cities, states, and countries ban wild-animal circus acts due to animal cruelty and safety concerns. The American Zoological Association is no longer allowing the type of free contact with elephants that circuses allow. Please don't attend the Kelly Miller Circus. Instead ask the School District and Foundation to promote a safe non-controversial event. The Circus of the Kids teaches community kids aerial acts for a show, building teamwork, self-esteem, and bigger audiences. http://www.circusofthekids.com/
Janie June 30, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Our village should not be associated with the shameful inhumane care and treatment of animals in circuses. The tricks that animals are forced to perform, night after night, are frightening, unnatural,and even painful. Standard circus industry practice is to use bull hooks and other objects to poke, prod, strike, shock, and hit animals in order to "train" them all for a few moments of human amusement. Elephants in the wild don't eagerly stand on their heads and tigers don't naturally jump through hoops. Bears, elephants, tigers, and other animals do not voluntarily ride bicycles, balance on balls, or jump through rings of fire. They don't perform these and other difficult tricks because they want to; they perform them because they're afraid of what will happen if they don't. Animals in circuses spend about 11 months of the year traveling. Constant travel means that animals are confined to boxcars, trailers, or trucks for days at a time in extremely hot and cold weather, often without access to basic necessities such as food, water, and veterinary care. Having a circus at a school fundraiser or anywhere in our community is a bad lesson for kids. We need to teach our children to respect animals and treat them humanely. Our kids should not grow up thinking this is ok. Janie Jenkins
gina sendef June 30, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Supporting a Circus is supporting Animal Abuse and now you've decided to teach that to children. How we treat animals is a reflection of our character, what do you think this decision is saying about yours?
lindsey pearlman June 30, 2012 at 03:13 PM
i'm embarrassed to be from the north shore. how can a town that prides itself on great education allow something so stupid, so vile, so blatantly cruel to enter their territory and allow children to gleefully witness this barbaric treatment of animals? children who attend circuses are taught it is perfectly fine to force other living creatures to do things that are painful and unnatural, all for the sake of human entertainment? isn't bullying in our schools a prevalent issue right now? this message is so disgustingly mixed. the thread of comments above speak nothing but the truth, and all it takes is a simple youtube search or google search to see the overwhelming evidence - circus animals live a lifetime of misery and pain. this has to stop. if the reality of circuses were part of the show itself, no one would ever mistake it for "entertainment".
Barbara Wieland June 30, 2012 at 03:59 PM
I am shocked that the village of Wilmette would allow such a circus! I have no plans to attend any event (or patronize any business) in a place where village trustees are so short sighted and selfish as to allow animal cruelty as a form of "entertainment".
Nadine Rozowsky July 02, 2012 at 03:37 AM
This is disgraceful!!!!! Wilmette is sending a message that animal abuse / cruelty is OK. One would hope that an educated community would be more responsible.
Rebecca Fribush July 02, 2012 at 04:45 AM
I am shocked and horrified that what is normally such an upstanding community and beautiful place to live would support a circus as a fundraiser. There are so many better options that are both humane and safe. This is such a disgrace to both the Mikaelian Education Center and the village of Wilmette.
JANET BOYD July 02, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Not being a resident of Wilmett, I now have a very different opinion of your town. I am shocked to hear you are having a CIRCUS in your town, and even worse, being associated with a school fundraiser. Just what are your trustees and your school district thinking? Is there nothing more important to you than the all-mighty dollar? You need to leave the animal abuse (that is DOCUMENTED) from the Kelly Miller circus OUT of Willmett, and find another fundraiser. I will not be attending your circus, nor will I be patronizing any Willmett business if you have this circus in your town. Please look up the USDA violation which show negligence and cruelty. There is no other way to train elephants or tigers other than with pain being inflicted on them. Your vote to allow this is just plain selfish!
Jim Devereux July 03, 2012 at 03:02 PM
There's really no reason to have a live animal circus these days. It's cruel, it teaches bad ideas to children. The goal should be to educate children, not ingrain centuries of misguided habits. And there are plenty of other fundraising options out there.
Empathize with other animals September 02, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Publicity and ticket sales for the circus will soon be starting. Please continue to talk to your friends, neighbors and children's teachers, including preschool teachers, about the safety and humane issues involved with such an inappropriate fundraiser. As you know, the circus is co-sponsored by District 39 and the Educational Foundation. Instead of spending money for circus tickets people can make a donation to the Foundation if they wish to do so.


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