The city of Delaware might have new regulations in place the next time the circus comes to town.

The city of Delaware might have new regulations in place the next time the circus comes to town.

Delaware City Council earlier this month conducted the first reading of legislation that would allow the city to deny permits for a circus that mistreats animals or poses a threat to public safety. The proposed legislation also would require circuses to obtain $1 million in public liability insurance and $1 million in property damage insurance ahead of a performance.

The city's administration drafted the legislation after council declined to approve a permit for a circus earlier this year. Council in late March tabled a vote on a permit for Florida-based Circus Pages to perform at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.

Council members cited safety concerns and the proximity of the request to the performance date ahead of the decision to table the request. Circus Pages' request for a permit also led multiple city residents to ask council to enact a ban on traveling shows with performing animals.

City Attorney Darren Shulman said he expects council to conduct three readings of the legislation "to give people who are concerned the opportunity to bring forward information."

"One issue I think we're probably going to want to tighten up ... is how do you define cruelty to animals," Shulman said. "What kind of evidence do you need?"

Shulman said the U.S. Department of Agriculture is tasked with inspecting circuses. He said the legislation could be tweaked to reference violations from those inspections to be the standard for proving cruelty before denying a permit.

Councilwoman Lisa Keller said she was not sure federal violations are the only or best way to define animal cruelty.

"If we say 'yes,' we're basically saying the circus isn't mistreating animals," she said.

Councilman George Hellinger said council should consider a ban on performances by "lions, tigers and bears," as well as other nondomesticated animals.

"That just totally gets rid of the potential for harm," he said.

Shulman said he could write a draft of the legislation that bans exotic animals.

He said the legislation could "change a lot" over the next several weeks as council members and the public continue the discussion.

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

@TWGallick