The Traveling Exotic Animal & Public Safety Protection Act

A brief Introduction for Members of Congress

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Traveling Shows Cannot Meet the Needs of Wild Animals

Evidence and studies over the past twenty years makes it clear that, even with the best of intentions, traveling circuses simply cannot provide wild and exotic animals with the facilities they need to maintain health and welfare.

Traveling shows are constantly on the move and therefore, out of necessity, animal accommodations must be small, lightweight, collapsible, and easy to transport. For the animals, this means restrictions on space to move around, and barren environments with nothing to interest or engage them, resulting in abnormal behaviors.

Under this business model, the animals endure long periods of confinement in small spaces; physical and social deprivation; boredom; brutal control methods, and physical violence. Additional stressors for animals in shows include noise; lights; careless positioning of prey animals in sight of predators, inappropriate social groupings, and public contact.

The levels of stress suffered by wild animals in traveling shows is exhibited in abnormal, stereotypic behaviors, such as repetitive pacing or swaying or bobbing heads. These abnormalities indicate that an animal is not coping with its environment, and such behaviors are not seen in the wild.

There is no conclusive evidence that animals in circuses habituate to travel, and the stress of constant travel can be exhibited in ways that are not immediately apparent.

No life worth living

Captivity does not alter the nature of wild and exotic animals in circuses, and they can be unpredictable and dangerous. Although all animals in circuses suffer, ADI studies note the
heightened levels of violence toward wild animals, often linked to their unwillingness to comply, and workers’ fear when handling them.

It is a myth that circus animals are trained with kindness and reward. The tools of the trade include whips, goads, shovels, pitchforks, iron bars, bull hooks (heavy bars with a sharpened point and hook), and electric shock devices; most anything will suffice as a weapon. This is evidenced in studies, reports, and videos.

In 2016, a comprehensive report analyzed the latest science and industry worldwide (consulting 658 experts/organizations), to conclude: “Life for wild animals in travelling circuses and mobile zoos does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living’.” (Harris, The Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses, University of Bristol (2016)). A 2017 report presented evidence of the public safety risks associated with wild animal circus acts, concluding: “incidents involving animals in circuses occur regularly and frequently, causing varying degrees of public disorder or even the injury or the death of people” (Eurogroup for Animal Welfare, 2017)

Safety and Regulatory Oversight:
Time consuming, expensive, unworkable

Placing large, chronically stressed wild animals in close proximity to audiences in temporary, collapsible accommodations also risks public safety and has proven disastrous. Circus workers, and members of the public, including children, have been killed and maimed by circus animals, and lions, tigers, and elephants have all escaped.

Federal oversight of traveling animal acts is costly, problematic, and unmanageable. The Office of the Inspector General has reported that difficulties of oversight include: inspector deficiencies; inadequate follow-up compounded by difficulties over circus travel itineraries; failure to consult animal experts, and an educational approach that has proved ineffectual (USDA APHIS Audit Reports, Office of Inspector General (2014, 2010)). These failings leave animals, workers, and the public unprotected.

No Jobs Lost With Animal Circus Bans

  •  Like all American businesses, circuses need to change with the times to stay relevant and profitable.
  •  An educated public prefers to see humane entertainment; around 20 human-performance circuses tour the US and while animal circus attendance is in decline, human-performance shows are growing.
  •  Human-only performance shows create jobs without exposing citizens to stressed and abused animals. Most workers already fulfill multiple roles and staff can be redeployed.
  •  Studies have shown that of a two-hour show, typically wild animals appear for less than 15 minutes.

Local and National Action

  • Over 90 US jurisdictions (across more than 30 states) have some form of ban or restriction on wild animal acts; New Jersey and Hawaii have banned such acts statewide.
  •  More than 2/3 of Americans say they’re “concerned” by the use of animals in circuses. (2015 Gallup poll, at
  •  Worldwide, 45 nations have banned or restricted the use of either all, or wild animals in circuses, including:

Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Taiwan, The Netherlands, and Ukraine. Similar laws are under discussion in a number of other countries.


Animal Defenders International
Located in the US, UK, Peru, Colombia and South Africa: ADI is an international education and animal rescue organization with a commitment to securing progressive animal protection legislation around the globe. ADI is internationally recognized for providing detailed reports with evidence of behind-the-scenes suffering supported by scientific, industry, and economic research. ADI has assisted governments in Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Guatemala with the enforcement of circus prohibitions, confiscating and relocating animals including to the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa.