A 16-YEAR ban on circuses performing with domestic animals on Wycombe District Council land should be lifted, bosses at the local authority say.

Officers say new legislation means the welfare of animals such as ponies and dogs can be protected and the ban should go.

A circus which pressed for the move welcomed the news as there was no evidence that acts such as horses rearing on two legs was harmful.

But the RSPCA hit out and said no animals should perform at the events.

A council officer reports says it is a “widely held” view that the 2006 Animal Welfare Act will “ensure that the welfare of the animals will be more than adequately protected”.

It adds: “Other local authorities have removed band to allow circuses with domestic animals to operate in their area.”

The report says: “The performances by the domestic animals will be no different to the acts performed in dog and horse shows that currently take place within the district with less regulation.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs “is not aware of any viable concerns” that domestic animals should not be used in circuses the report says.

Circuses “could” be inspected by the council it adds – and a complaint would “usually” lead to an inspection.

But Buckinghamshire RSPCA spokesman Sophie Wilkinson said: “We are opposed to the use of any animals in circuses.

“The nature of circuses certainly can’t provide a suitable environment for animals.”

Performances were not “natural behaviours” for the animals, she said.

However, Martin Burton, founder and director of Zippos Circus, said: “I am constantly amazed because we know it is one of the horsiest areas in the country but we have not been able to get back there.”

He said the firm had lobbied the council every year to lift the ban for the show, which features three ponies, four horses, eight budgerigars and a Jack Russell dog.

Mr Burton said the animals provided “contrast in the programme so that it is not just one human athlete after another”.

He said: “There is absolutely no scientific evidence to suggest that animals should not be used in circuses.”

The regulatory and appeals committee will be asked for its view on Monday night at 7pm at the council’s offices in Queen Victoria Road, High Wycombe.

It will need approval by the council’s cabinet and then all members.