House of Representatives
The Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA), introduced by Representatives Ryan Costello (R-PA) and Raúl Grijalva (D-NM), prohibits the use of exotic animals in traveling shows. H.R. 1759 has exemptions for accredited zoos, wildlife sanctuaries, certain films and ads, and rodeos; builds upon a growing public concern for animals used for entertainment; and provides a sensible restriction on cruel shows.
Animal Welfare Implications
The tigers, monkeys, elephants, and other animals used in circuses are deprived of nearly everything that is important to them. They are confined in small cages, denied the opportunity to express their physical and social needs, and forced to spend endless hours in transit inside cramped trailers and train cars. Their training often involves punishing methods, and their handlers may beat, restrain, and sedate them. In addition to physical manifestations of abuse and poor care, animals kept in such conditions frequently display stereotypic behaviors such as rocking, swaying, pacing, and self-mutilation. This “zoochosis,” as it is called, indicates extreme mental distress stemming from severe deprivation. Unlike human entertainers, animals do not choose to perform; they are kept imprisoned and forced to take part in the show. These are wild animals with natural instincts and they deserve the freedom to express their natural behaviors.
Public Safety Implications
The inhumane conditions that wild and exotic animals endure in traveling shows are compounded by the threat their presence poses to public safety. Wild animals are inherently unpredictable and incapable of being tamed, and such close proximity to the public creates a serious risk. There have been many instances of attacks and injuries to both humans and other animals. For instance, in Poughkeepsie, NY, an elephant in the Hanneford Circus escaped from the ring and charged toward the crowd, injuring three people. A chimpanzee with the Hadi Shrine Circus in Evansville, IN, bit a circus guest during a pre-show picture event. Two baby zebras jumped the fence of a traveling circus while in Brownsville, TX, kicking and injuring a police officer and an onlooker. Tory and Mary, two elephants performing with the Shrine Circus in Menomonie, WI, bolted out of the circus tent during the show, scattering crowds and injuring a child. These are just a few of many tragic incidents and serve to illustrate that exposing the public to wild animals can be very dangerous.