Animals performing in circuses may be banned in Wandsworth if a new council proposal is approved.

Residents have four weeks to take part in a consultation on whether to allow zebras, elephants, snakes and other non-domestic animals to perform.

Animal rights groups welcomed the move while a circus industry body said a blanket ban was outrageous.

Malcolm Grimston, leisure and environment cabinet member, said: “Use of animals in circuses is a contentious issue.

“We have a broad view that it’s a thing of the past and no longer appropriate but we want to know what people think.”

Battersea Park already bans non-domestic animals in circuses, but these rules do not apply to other parks and commons in the borough.

The council realised the discrepancy when the Great British Circus was refused use of Battersea Park and sought to make a borough-wide policy.

Under the proposal non-domestic animals in circuses would not be allowed on council land or property.

A spokesman for the RSPCA urged residents to support the move and said laws regulating circuses did not safeguard animal welfare.

She said: “Due to their mobile lifestyle, a captive circus animal’s life is impoverished.

“Their accommodation consists of beast wagons and temporary pens, social groupings are often unnatural, they are frequently transported, subjected to loud stressful noises. Animal circuses provide no conservation or educational benefit.”

But a report submitted to the Government last year found there was "little evidence" that animal welfare in travelling circuses was worse than in other captive environments.

The Association of Circus Proprietors in Great Britain has an animal welfare code of practice and members in breach face penalties such as trade sanctions.

Organisation secretary Malcolm Clay called for circuses to be judged on a case by case basis, and said he supported stricter legislation protecting circus animals.

He added: “A lot of people love to see performing animals in the knowledge they have been trained by kindness and live in acceptable conditions.

“The council can’t base a policy on inaccurate and emotive claims. Before they make a decision they should look at what’s happening in the circus industry.”

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