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Treatment of Elephants

H. 418: An Act relating to the use of elephants in traveling animal acts

MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsor:  Representative Lori Ehrlich, Senator O’Connor Ives
Status: In House Ways & Means

This bill prohibits elephant acts in traveling shows in Massachusetts because of the misery they inflict on elephants. While Ringling closed, other Massachusetts circuses and exhibitors continue to use these majestic animals for entertainment. Use of elephants 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 electric prods and bullhooks, and kept in socially deprived conditions, elephants can become dysfunctional, unhealthy, depressed, and aggressive. This bill ensures that Massachusetts will no longer play a role in subjecting captive elephants to .

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.

Four states and more than 130 other localities have passed legislation addressing the abuse of wild or exotic animals in circuses. This includes nine municipalities in Massachusetts (Braintree, Cambridge, Quincy, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Provincetown, Revere, Somerville, and Weymouth).

In 2017, Illinois and New York prohibited the use of elephants in circuses and traveling exhibitions.

In 2016, California and Rhode Island banned the use of the bullhook, a cruel and outdated elephant training tool.

Take Action to Protect Elephants in Traveling Shows

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