AWI Supports Bill to Prohibit the Use of Performing Exotic Animals

Photo from Flickr by Tim Evanson
Photo from Flickr by Tim Evanson

Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) supports the reintroduction of the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA). Sponsored by Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and David Schweikert (R-AZ), this bill would amend the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit the use of exotic animals in traveling shows.

“Exotic animals used in circus acts endure immense suffering,” said Cathy Liss, president of AWI. “They are confined in small cages, denied the opportunity to meet 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. These acts are exploitation, not entertainment, and the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act would put an end to the abuse.”

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.

The inhumane conditions that wild and exotic animals endure in traveling shows are compounded by the threat their presence poses to public safety. Circuses bring the people dangerously close to incredibly strong, stressed, and unpredictable wild animals, often with little or no effective barriers between. There are numerous documented instances when animals have escaped or run amok, sometimes causing property damage, injury, or even death.

To date, five states and more than 135 municipalities have passed legislation to address the cruel treatment of circus animals or to ban exotic animal acts entirely, and many other localities are considering similar measures. TEAPSPA would unify this patchwork of laws and bring clarity to the types of performances that are allowed to take place nationwide.

According to Liss, “With respect to circuses that use animals, there are alternate forms of entertainment that deliver the same family fun, but require neither exploitation nor exposing the public to potential injury. These are wild animals with natural instincts and they deserve the freedom to express their natural behaviors. It’s time to end this arcane form of performance.”


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