10 Reasons to Support the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA)

The reasons why a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses in the US should be supported

Animal Welfare

1. Traveling circuses cannot meet the complex needs of wild animals. Animals in traveling circuses endure confinement, physical and social deprivation, long, arduous journeys, brutal control methods and physical violence. Keeping elephants in chains, confining wild animals like lions and tigers in small cages, and forcing them to perform unnatural tricks for the sole purpose of human amusement is increasingly difficult to justify in our advanced society.

2. The tricks that these animals are forced to perform require extreme physical coercion and violence. It is a myth that wild animals are trained with kindness and rewards. Years of undercover investigations reveal that the training tools of the trade include fists, boots, metal bars, whips, clubs, brooms, pitchforks, tent poles, electric shock devices and bullhooks (a heavy bar with a metal hook), as well as withholding food and water. Large, potentially dangerous and often unwilling wild animals are routinely the subject of abuse by trainers who demand compliance using pain and punishment. Circus workers who lack expertise about the species they are handling resort to screaming, punching, kicking and beating animals

3. Wild animals in traveling circuses are suffering. Objective measures that determine the well-­being of a wild animal and a review of the scientific literature reveals that, even with the best of intentions, the traveling circus cannot provide an environment that meets the basic welfare needs of exotic animals. Traveling circuses deprive animals of space, exercise and the ability to move around and perform their natural behaviors – which are all necessary to maintain mental and physical health. Abnormal, stereotypic behavior, such as tigers pacing endlessly in their cages, or elephants repeatedly swaying or bobbing their heads, are common behavioral abnormalities in circus animals, which indicate that they are not coping with the environment in which they are being held. They suffer mentally and physically as a result

Safety, Health and Oversight

4. Traveling circuses pose a serious threat to public safety. Keeping wild animals confined, under duress and in dangerously close proximity to the public in lightweight, temporary enclosures 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.

5. Diseased animals pose public health risk at traveling circuses. An estimated 12% of Asian and 2% of African elephants in North America have a tuberculosis (TB) infection, a contagious disease that can be passed from elephants to humans. Documented cases have confirmed transmission of TB from elephants to humans.

6. Enforcing the Animal Welfare Act is fraught with difficulties. The transient nature of traveling circuses, where both animals and their handlers constantly change, combined with continuous travel across the country, makes law enforcement difficult. The practical difficulties of maintaining standards, inspecting, gathering evidence and ensuring compliance with animal welfare legislation justifies the restriction on the use of wild animals in traveling circuses. And no amount of costly government oversight can prevent accidents and physical abuse, or protect wild animals traveling for months on end in small, temporary accommodations.


7. Constituents want to see wild animals protected. Circuses, like all American businesses, have to change with the times to stay relevant and profitable. An educated public prefers to see humane entertainment and human only circuses are thriving. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, more than two-thirds of Americans are troubled by the use of animals in traveling shows. The closure of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus and the move toward human-only performance highlight the shift in public tastes and are seen by campaigners as showing the time is right for federal action.

8. The show, and jobs, will go on. Recent studies have shown that of a two-­hour show, wild animals appeared for less than 15 minutes. So circuses can re-­tool. Research into working practices at circuses show that most circus workers have multiple roles, and staff could be retrained as the circus evolves away from exotic animal acts so jobs are not lost. Circus Vargas removed their animal acts and the business continues, as it can for any circuses traveling in the U.S. that wants to keep pace with their patrons’ growing preference for cruelty-free entertainment.

9. TEAPSPA will likely be good for the economy and save money. A survey in the UK established that a sharp decline in animal circuses was matched by a steady rise in human-­only circuses, and a comparison in the U.S. of ticket prices at both circuses with, and without animals, show that removing wild animal acts could actually increase the circuses’ bottom line. Ringling Bros. Circus, in a landmark settlement with the USDA, paid out an unprecedented $270,000 penalty related to alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act based on inspections and complaints dating back four years. Costly fines and animal care expenses will be eliminated with TEAPSPA. Taxpayer money dedicated to costly USDA inspections will be saved for use elsewhere and Americans will no longer have to pick up the tab for government licenses and expensive inspections of these animals. Please support the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act.

10. TEAPSPA is a narrowly focused and well-reasoned step forward for animal protection and public safety.Globally, over 40 countries have already passed national prohibitions on the use of animals in circuses, putting the US behind countries like Bolivia, Peru, Greece, and the Netherlands. Recent years have seen increased action in the US, with 92 circus animal prohibitions in 32 states, including cities such as New York and San Francisco, and wild animals banned in circuses statewide in New Jersey and Hawaii and similar bans are under consideration in multiple other states. No amount of expensive regulation will protect a wild animal in a traveling circus from a life of ongoing deprivation, such as an elephant chained by the leg for hours on end or a tiger confined for months to a tiny cage. A life that is punctuated by moments of physical violence delivered by a frustrated handler or a trainer who demands compliance for the same old, tired tricks. TEAPSPA is an important animal protection measure that will relieve an enormous amount of suffering, will save resources and protect people.

Please support the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act.