Elephants, Big Cats, Primates, and Bears in Traveling Shows

S. 2028, H. 2934: An Act relative to the use of elephants, big cats, primates, and bears in traveling exhibits and shows

MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsors: Senators Bruce Tarr and James Welch; Representatives Lori Ehrlich and Bradley Jones
Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development

These bills prohibit the use of elephants, big cats, primates, and bears in traveling shows in Massachusetts. Wild animals pose a risk to public health and safety.

Ask your legislators to end the use of elephants, big cats, primates, and bears in traveling shows

The use of these animals in circuses, for rides, at fairs, and in other traveling shows subjects highly intelligent, social animals to cruel treatment and a life on the road where they are deprived of exercise and the ability to express even the most basic, natural behaviors.

When chained and confined in small spaces, handled with pain-inflicting devices, such as electric prods and bullhooks, and kept in socially deprived conditions, these animals can become dysfunctional, unhealthy, depressed, and aggressive. This bill ensures that Massachusetts will no longer play a role in subjecting captive elephants, big cats, primates, and bears to these cruel conditions.

While circuses are regulated by the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which is enforced by the USDA, no agency monitors training sessions where the most violent abuses occur. Further, because the AWA establishes only minimum 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. Due to inadequate resources, the weak standards of the AWA are poorly enforced. While Ringling closed, other Massachusetts circuses and exhibitors continue to use these majestic animals for entertainment.

More than 40 countries worldwide (including, Colombia, the entire EU, Iran, Singapore, and Taiwan), six U.S. states (California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island), and nearly 150 localities in 37 U.S. states have passed legislation addressing the abuse of wild or exotic animals in circuses. This includes ten municipalities in Massachusetts: Braintree, Cambridge, Quincy, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Provincetown, Revere, Somerville, Topsfield, and Weymouth. (See the language of Massachusetts ordinances here.)

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