Treatment of Animals in Traveling Shows

An Act relative to the Use of Elephants, Big Cats, Primates, and Bears in Traveling Exhibits and Shows  HD 576, SD 588

MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsor:  Representative Lori Ehrlich, Senator Bruce Tarr, Representative Bradley Jones, and Senator James Welch
Status: Filed for the 2019-2020 session

These bills prohibits 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.

New Jersey, Illinois, Hawaii and New York 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 In 2016, California and Rhode Island banned the use of the bullhook, a cruel and outdated elephant training tool.

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