The Clearwater City Council has to deal with a lot of weighty issues these days. Falling revenues. Staff cuts. Beach redevelopment. A struggling downtown. Parrots.
Yep. With everything going on these days, Clearwater's council members had to take time out the other day to deal with parrots — or one particular parrot, and whether it should be banned from Clearwater Beach. Oh, and monkeys, too. But in the end, they decided it isn't their job to manage the wild kingdom. They have enough to do managing the human population.
Here is the crisis that was brought to the City Council's door:
Clearwater Beach has a nightly festival called Sunsets at Pier 60. There are various vendors and entertainment acts there each night to entertain the crowds. A few of those acts included animals. There were two monkeys that would show off, take the quarters people offered them and slip the money into their owner's pocket. Another animal act featured Tequila, a bright green parrot that has been a fixture at the sunsets festival for a long time. For tips, Tequila will pose on your arm while someone takes a picture.
There was no evidence that any of the animals were being harmed in any way. But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals thought the vendor who had the monkeys was stationed too close to a booth across the sidewalk where spray paint was used to create artwork. (We note here that human beings walked along that sidewalk all the time, but no group showed up to defend them against exposure to paint fumes.)
PETA and other animal lovers began asking questions of city officials and seeking copies of public records. The city Parks and Recreation staff estimates it spent 50 to 70 hours dealing with animal rights groups before it got fed up and proposed an ordinance banning all animal acts from the sunsets festival.
When the ordinance came to the City Council for a vote, the owners of Tequila the parrot showed up and begged to be exempted. Tequila is a happy bird, they said. She's never bitten a soul, they said. She visits elderly people in nursing homes and perches gently on the suntanned arms of small children at Pier 60. Heck, she gets to go to the beach every evening. Who wouldn't be happy?
The council debated a while, more or less seriously, before Mayor Frank Hibbard grumped, "I'm tired of so much regulation. All we do is regulate everything."
And just like that, the council decided to let the people who manage Sunsets at Pier 60 decide when and where animal acts are appropriate for the festival.
Which is how it should have been all along.