States and Cities Opting Out of Circus Animal Acts

Two states and several local governments joined a growing list of jurisdictions acting on behalf of wild and exotic animals exploited by circuses and other traveling exhibitions this past year. In Los Angeles, Councilman David Ryu, who sponsored that city’s new ordinance prohibiting “the exhibition of wild and exotic animals for entertainment or amusement,” stated, “Treating animals in this manner has taught generations of people that it is okay to view wild and exotic animals as toys. Los Angeles must take action to make clear that exhibiting animals in this way is no longer in line with our City values.”

New York City also banned the use of wild or exotic animals in circuses, with the goal of ensuring public safety and animal welfare. Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the bill on July 28, tweeting, “We are banning exotic animals from circuses in NYC because we’re looking out for New Yorkers big and small, furry and tall.” And in Portland, Maine, the city council’s vote to prohibit circuses and other traveling shows that display wild and exotic animals was endorsed by its Health and Human Services Committee, which stated, “Animals have long been displayed for human entertainment but acceptance of this practice is shifting, and those performances are now often viewed as acts of cruelty to the captive animals involved.”

Illinois became the first state to ban the use of elephants in circuses and other traveling exhibits when Governor Bruce Rauner signed SB 1342. In a statement, bill sponsor Senator Linda Holmes said, “Traveling circuses are not able to properly care for elephants and as a result, elephant exhibitions in Illinois have been found to be in violation of the Federal Animal Welfare Act several times. Allowing these inhumane practices to continue would be irresponsible and poor stewardship of such impressive animals.” Not long after the Illinois action, the New York General Assembly passed the Elephant Protection Act, prohibiting the use of elephants for circuses and other performances throughout the state.

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