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

H. 3245An Act relative to the use of elephants, big cats, primates, giraffes, and bears in traveling exhibits and shows


Take action now to help pass this legislation!


MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsors: Senators Bruce Tarr and Adam Gomez; Representatives Carole Fiola and Bradley Jones
Status: Released favorably from the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development to the House Committee on Ways and Means. (H.3245 carrying S.2197 and S.2189)

Hearing was held on July 24, 2023. Read the hearing press release.

This legislation prohibits the use of elephants, big cats, primates, bears, and giraffes in traveling shows in Massachusetts.

In September of 2019, an elephant named Beulah, who was being exhibited at The Big E Fair in West Springfield, died. In February of 2020, we learned that she died of septicemia from a painful uterine infection called pyometra. Beulah was born in the wild in 1967, captured as a baby, and sold to the Commerford Zoo when she was 6 years old. She spent most of her 54 years in captivity and in chains. Commerford has been cited by the USDA over 50 times for failing to adhere to the Animal Welfare Act.

Wild animals pose a risk to public health and safety. Hundreds of people, including scores of children, have been injured by exotic animals used in circuses and traveling shows. See a comprehensive database of incidents on Born Free’s website. Additionally, elephants can carry tuberculosis (TB), a zoonotic disease that can spread through the air, which puts anyone near an infected animal—elephant or human—at risk of contracting the disease. TB carried by elephants once used in the circus was linked by the CDC to an outbreak affecting 13 people in Tennessee, only one of whom had had direct contact with infected animals. Similarly, according to the CDC, in 2013, eight employees at the Oregon Zoo became infected after contact with an infected elephant.

The use of these animals in circuses, for rides, at fairs, and in other traveling shows subjects intelligent and social animals to abusive treatment and a life on the road, deprived of exercise and the ability to express even the most basic, natural behaviors. When chained and confined in small spaces and handled with pain-inflicting devices, such as electric prods and bullhooks, these animals can become dysfunctional, unhealthy, depressed, and aggressive.

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 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. Due to inadequate resources, the weak standards of the AWA are also poorly enforced.

More than 40 countries (including, Colombia, the entire EU, Iran, Singapore, and Taiwan), eight U.S. states (California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island), and more than 175 localities in 37 U.S. states have passed legislation addressing the abuse of wild or exotic animals in circuses. This includes 15 municipalities in Massachusetts: Amherst, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Mendon, Northampton, Quincy, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Provincetown, Revere, Somerville, Topsfield, Weymouth, and Wilmington. Read an Advocate Spotlight on our website with Martha Sanders, the citizen advocate behind the successful Topsfield campaign.

This legislation ensures that Massachusetts will no longer play a role in subjecting captive elephants, big cats, primates, bears, and giraffes to inhumane traveling show conditions, and also demonstrates that the Commonwealth is serious about protecting public health from zoonotic diseases.

In the Headlines

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Co-Sponsors

State Senators:

Name District/Address
Bruce E. Tarr First Essex and Middlesex
Adam Gomez Hampden
Edward J. Kennedy First Middlesex
Michael O. Moore Second Worcester
Patrick M. O’Connor First Plymouth and Norfolk
James B. Eldridge Middlesex and Worcester
Brendan P. Crighton Third Essex
Rebecca L. Rausch Norfolk, Worcester and Middlesex
Susan L. Moran Plymouth and Barnstable
Joan B. Lovely Second Essex
John C. Velis Hampden and Hampshire
Sal N. DiDomenico Middlesex and Suffolk
John F. Keenan Norfolk and Plymouth
Jason M. Lewis Fifth Middlesex
Walter F. Timilty Norfolk, Plymouth and Bristol

State Representatives:

Name District/Address
Carole A. Fiola 6th Bristol
Bradley H. Jones, Jr. 20th Middlesex
John Barrett, III 1st Berkshire
Hannah Kane 11th Worcester
Steven Owens 29th Middlesex
Lindsay N. Sabadosa 1st Hampshire
Joseph D. McKenna 18th Worcester
Patricia A. Duffy 5th Hampden
Brian W. Murray 10th Worcester
Paul J. Donato 35th Middlesex
Jack Patrick Lewis 7th Middlesex
F. Jay Barrows 1st Bristol
Jessica Ann Giannino 16th Suffolk
Vanna Howard 17th Middlesex
Paul A. Schmid, III 8th Bristol
Thomas M. Stanley 9th Middlesex
Ruth B. Balser 12th Middlesex
Steven George Xiarhos 5th Barnstable
Brian M. Ashe 2nd Hampden
Natalie M. Higgins 4th Worcester
Angelo J. Puppolo, Jr. 12th Hampden
David Henry Argosky LeBoeuf 17th Worcester
Adrian C. Madaro 1st Suffolk
William C. Galvin 6th Norfolk
Michelle M. DuBois 10th Plymouth
Paul McMurtry 11th Norfolk
Tricia Farley-Bouvier 2nd Berkshire
Denise C. Garlick 13th Norfolk
Samantha Montaño 15th Suffolk
David F. DeCoste 5th Plymouth
James C. Arena-DeRosa 8th Middlesex
David Allen Robertson 19th Middlesex
Josh S. Cutler 6th Plymouth
Angelo L. D’Emilia 8th Plymouth
Patrick Joseph Kearney 4th Plymouth
Kate Lipper-Garabedian 32nd Middlesex
James K. Hawkins 2nd Bristol
Rodney M. Elliott 16th Middlesex
Tram T. Nguyen 18th Essex
Kimberly N. Ferguson 1st Worcester
David Paul Linsky 5th Middlesex
Marcus S. Vaughn 9th Norfolk
Kate Donaghue 19th Worcester
Adrianne Pusateri Ramos 14th Essex
Simon Cataldo 14th Middlesex
Carmine Lawrence Gentile 13th Middlesex
William J. Driscoll, Jr. 7th Norfolk
Margaret R. Scarsdale 1st Middlesex
James Arciero 2nd Middlesex
Mathew J. Muratore 1st Plymouth
James B. Eldridge Middlesex and Worcester
Jennifer Balinsky Armini 8th Essex
Kevin G. Honan 17th Suffolk
Tommy Vitolo 15th Norfolk
Christine P. Barber 34th Middlesex
Tackey Chan 2nd Norfolk
Natalie M. Blais 1st Franklin
Michael P. Kushmerek 3rd Worcester
Aaron L. Saunders 7th Hampden
David T. Vieira 3rd Barnstable
Marjorie C. Decker 25th Middlesex
Mike Connolly 26th Middlesex
Smitty Pignatelli 3rd Berkshire
Kristin E. Kassner 2nd Essex
Rob Consalvo 14th Suffolk
Mark J. Cusack 5th Norfolk
Kay Khan 11th Middlesex
Judith A. Garcia
11th Suffolk
Daniel J. Ryan 2nd Suffolk
Sally P. Kerans 13th Essex
Estela A. Reyes 4th Essex
Jay D. Livingstone 8th Suffolk

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