Responding to call for circus ban, group says animals have been treated properly at DuPage fairgrounds

  • The DuPage County Fair Association, which leases the county fairgrounds in Wheaton, says its works to make sure animals are treated properly during all events held on the site.

      The DuPage County Fair Association, which leases the county fairgrounds in Wheaton, says its works to make sure animals are treated properly during all events held on the site. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

The nonprofit group that leases the DuPage fairgrounds from the county says it's committed to ensuring all animals are treated humanely during events at the site.

So the DuPage County Fair Association says it's unnecessary for the county to consider prohibiting circuses from the fairgrounds in Wheaton.

"We have always monitored it," said Jim McGuire, executive manager of the fair association. "That's one of our missions -- to be advocates for good animal welfare."

On Monday, McGuire said he wants to have a discussion with county board members after some residents called on the board to ban circuses from the county-owned property along Manchester Road. The residents spoke during the May 28 county board meeting because they were upset that a traveling circus was at the fairgrounds over Memorial Day weekend.

McGuire clarified that the circus had only one animal act with four camels, one Clydesdale and one miniature horse. The animals were inspected by a veterinarian when they arrived on the grounds and were in "very good health."

"They were very good looking animals," McGuire said. "Normally, people who have animals for these types of uses care for their animals."

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And while he acknowledged there are instances where animals are mistreated at circuses, McGuire stressed that officials at the fairgrounds "keep an eye out for that."

"We make sure the animals presented at our grounds are maintained and properly treated," he said.

Still, circuses with wild animals may be prohibited at the fairgrounds when the county inks a new deal with the fair association. Some would like to see the ban extended to other traveling shows with animals.

"There are people who are saying all those shows are cruel to animals and should all be stopped," said county board member Jim Healy, chairman of the board's public works committee.

Healy said those and other issues are part of the ongoing talks between the county and fair association. The two sides are negotiating a new lease that would take effect when the existing deal expires in fall 2020.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We're trying to draft a new lease that works for everybody," the Naperville Republican said.

McGuire said the fair association has spent more than $1 million to improve the fairgrounds. Banning circuses would reduce the amount of revenue the group could generate for future improvements.

"I believe the fairgrounds is an important piece of the community," he said. "The good works that have occurred on the fairgrounds should be encouraged. We should be allowed to grow."

Healy said county officials are trying to find more ways for the fair association to make money. For example, the future lease could allow the group to charge a parking fee.

"They're going to make more from that than anything else," he said.

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