Federal Circus Bill Would Ban Use of Exotic Animals

Animals in traveling circuses are subjected to physical violence, insufficient living space, and other stressors. A newly reintroduced federal bill would protect these exotic and wild animals.
Kerry Lengyel
Published: April 01, 2017
Animal rights activists are applauding the reintroduction of the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act, which would end the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling circuses.
 
Back in November 2011, Rep. Jim Moran unveiled the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act, marking the beginning of this bill’s journey.
 
Then, the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act was introduced in the House of Representatives in November 2016 by Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ). The last action taken on that bill was in December when it was referred to the subcommittee on livestock and foreign agriculture by the House Agriculture.

Grijalva recently reintroduced the bill with the help of Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) to make sure it does not go unnoticed by Congress.
 
“Caging exotic animals for entertainment is cruel to the animals and dangerous for their audiences,” Grijalva said. “Traveling circuses treat the mental health and well-being of living creatures as expendable, and they turn a blind eye to the danger of bringing the public into close proximity of wild animals under duress. It’s time to end this practice once and for all.”

[RELATED: Activists Praise Ringling Bros. For Shutdown

The new bill would amend the Animal Welfare Act and join the other 34 nations and 27 states in the United States that already prohibit the use of animals in circuses.
 
The bill’s reintroduction was timed perfectly with the release of a new short film “The Reluctant Entertainers,” which features actors, musicians, and directors supporting the bill and discussing why a federal ban is necessary.
 

 
Among the actors featured in the video is Jorja Fox, who has starred in the TV hits CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The West Wing, and ER. “Congress has a responsibility to protect the welfare of animals and ensure public safety,” Fox said. “A prohibition on the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses is proportionate, responsible, the least expensive solution to this problem, and long overdue.”
 
 Animal Defenders International (ADI), which works on various animal welfare and conservation issues, has provided evidence and assistance on the bill since its introduction. According to the organization, two-thirds of Americans are troubled by the use of animals in traveling shows.
 
“Documented findings raise serious concerns about the systemic inhumane treatment and basic welfare violations of wild and exotic animals in traveling circuses,” Costello said. “Our legislation will work to protect these animals from activities that are detrimental to their health, well-being, and general public safety.”
 
Besides the inhumane treatment, monitoring the welfare of circus animals and enforcing regulations is very costly. The Department of Environment in the United Kingdom estimates that the annual cost of inspecting the country’s 4 animal circuses ranges from $13,000 and $19,000. The United States does not break down the cost of circus regulation and inspection, but similar expenditures in America—which has about 6 times as many circuses and 38 times the land mass of the United Kingdom—would likely be far greater.
 
“The captivity of exotic animals has proven over the years to be torturous to some of the most majestic creatures on Earth, and downright dangerous for the people who come to see them,” Grijalva said. “A growing public understanding of the detrimental impacts on animals and the risks posed to attendees has already changed the face of circuses in America.”

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