LOS ANGELES, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- Los Angeles could become the first major U.S. city to ban elephant acts in circuses if it passes a measure backers say will eventually be adopted "universally."
The city council is expected to vote early in the new year on an ordinance that could force the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus either to drop its annual stop in the country's second-largest city or pull one of its most popular acts, , The New York Times reported.
Paul Koretz, the councilman who sponsored the ordinance banning elephants, predicted other big cities will follow suit if Los Angeles acts.
"At some point, this will be universally banned throughout the country," he said. "The treatment of elephants in traveling circuses is one of the crueler practices, and it's time for us to stand up for them."
Elephants have been used for centuries as work animals, for military purposes and for human entertainment. The Carthaginian general Hannibal used war elephants to cross the Pyrenees and Alps and invade Italy in 218 B.C.
Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, which owns the Ringling Bros. circus, said its animals are well-treated, with regular inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He said giving people a chance to see elephants is likely to make them more concerned about conservation.