During this stay-at-home time, many people have turned to the Netflix docu-series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness for entertainment. Though the bizarre cast of characters takes center stage, the cringe-worthy scenes of animal mistreatment are hard to miss. Did you know that there are more tigers living in captivity, like those in Tiger King, than living in the wild? This is a sad fact, made all the more sobering when you learn the abuse these animals face – bred just to have their babies taken away at birth, made to do dangerous tricks, and then put on a truck and brought all over the country to perform.
We hear all the time that, “this type of thing doesn’t happen in Massachusetts.” But the truth is that it does. One of the people in this series, Doc Antle, brought his traveling tigers to Massachusetts for over 30 years to perform at King Richard’s Faire in Carver, MA. He has been cited over 40 times since the 1980s for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act, and yet he was still legally able to bring his animals into our state. How can this be? While traveling acts using exotic animals are regulated by the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which is enforced by the USDA, it only establishes minimal standards and fails to incorporate modern husbandry practices. A facility can be in compliance with the federal law, yet the animals can still be subjected to grossly inhumane conditions. And due to inadequate resources, the weak standards of the AWA are also poorly enforced, and a facility can accrue hundreds of citations before being closed down.
This is why we need strong laws in Massachusetts against traveling exotic animal acts, like Doc Antle’s tiger show. Legislation pending at the Massachusetts State House will prevent big cats, as well as primates, bears, elephants, and giraffes, from being brought into Massachusetts to perform. You can help by calling your state legislators and asking them to support H. 2934 and S. 2028. More info can be found here: mspca.org/circus-bill
At the Federal level, the Big Cat Public Safety Act (S. 2561, co-sponsored by Senator Markey, and H.R. 1380, co-sponsored by all nine members of the Massachusetts delegation), would ban the possession of big cat species like tigers and lions by unqualified individuals and would prohibit poorly run animal exhibitions from allowing public contact with big cats, thereby halting the endless breeding of big cats for this harmful practice.
The MSPCA supports this state and federal legislation, as these types of shows and exhibits—using dangerous animals—are not only detrimental to animal welfare, but also present a public safety risk. Together, we can stop this kind of abuse and exploitation in Massachusetts.
Please email MSPCA Advocacy at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, and join our Animal Action Team at mspca.org/jointheteam to stay updated on this legislation and other animal protection issues across the Commonwealth.