It appears circus animals aren’t immune from the perils of French bureaucracy and in particular its labyrinthine visa system.
Four tigers, four panthers and two cheetahs from a Russian circus troupe have been stuck for five days in a Polish car park after French authorities denied them entry, due to “insufficient documentation", French daily Le Parisien reported on Monday.
The animals were to be one of the star attractions at the renowned Massy International Circus Festival, which starts on Thursday in the southern Paris suburb, but now they will likely miss the show.
“The animals’ passports say they were born in captivity, but an expert from the Paris National Museum of History refuses to grant them a visa. They are demanding the passports of the animals’ grandparents!,” show organizer Didier Richard told Le Parisien. “It’s an abuse of the law,” he said.
Richard told the Parisien that in 22 years of putting on the festival, this is the first time he’s had this kind of bureaucratic mess. He noted the animals' files had been checked by the vet and the big cats were legal to participate in the show.
Massy had prepared everything for the arrical of th cats but instead organizers are going to send them food at the car park where they’re being kept in a heated lorry, “without water, or caretakers,” Le Parisien reported.
Massy’s Mayor Vincent Delahaye told the Le Parisien he stepped in and tried to secure entry for the animals, but to no avail. He said he had total faith in the organizers and believed the problems must stem from an “overzealous” application of the rules.
According to festival organizers 17,000 spectators are expected during the show’s four-day run. Show organizers, believing the missing animals will hurt attendances, plan to seek compensation from the French state.
The use of wild animals in circus shows continues to be surrounded by controversy.
Last year the Spanish region of Catalonia launched a bid to ban circus shows that used animals.
Lawmakers proposed a bill in the regional parliament to "modify the animal protection law and include a ban on using animals in the circus," said one of the deputies, Jordi Rull.
"Circuses can be attractive and do different and fascinating things that draw adults and children, without needing to use animals," he said, adding that the number of animal circuses had declined in the region.