Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Bill to end use of wild animals in circuses unveiled at Congress

Posted: 4 November 2011

Captive wildlife specialist Veterinarian tells Members of Congress “wild animals in circuses suffer, it’s time it stopped”

Washington DC, Nov. 03, 2011 – Measures that could see an end to elephants, lions, tigers, monkeys and bears touring with circuses were unveiled yesterday at a press conference attended by TV personality Bob Barker, CSI actress Jorja Fox, Animal Defenders International (ADI), and the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

In a historic first for the U.S. ‘The Travelling Exotic Animal Protection Act’ was launched by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and will restrict the use of exotic and non-domesticated animals in traveling circuses and exhibitions.

ADI’s Veterinarian Dr Mel Richardson, who has over 40 years or experience with captive wildlife and has assisted with wild animal rescues all over the world, provided a veterinary perspective and overview of the welfare implications associated with the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.

Dr Richardson said: “From a veterinary standpoint this is clear cut – traveling circuses are no place for wild animals. These animals are suffering and it must be stopped. I can say unequivocally that these animals suffer, and it is time for the US to move forward with other countries that are now taking action and restrict the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.

“We need to bring to an end the random cruelty and neglect associated with traveling circuses and this Bill will comprehensively address the issues.”

Dr Richardson has extensive experience of the rehabilitation of rescued circus animals and the welfare impacts circus life has on these animals. Recently he was the ADI project vet on Operation Lion Ark which saw an enforcement action with the Bolivian government that closed every circus and rescued every animal. Animals rescued included monkeys and 29 lions that were airlifted by ADI to the USA. The dramatic rescue was funded by Bob Barker. Dr Richardson also worked at the PAWS sanctuary caring for ex-circus elephants.

Dr Richardson notes: “If countries like Bolivia, Peru, Austria and others are banning the use of wild animals circuses, surely the USA must ensure it is not left behind. This Bill is about progress.”

The Bill will end the keeping of animals for extended periods in temporary facilities, the cruel training and control methods employed by circuses and address public safety issues.

It will not impact zoos, aquariums or other static facilities with captive wildlife. Nor will it impact on animals in static establishments, animals taken from a facility for a filming shoot, TV or advertising (provided it is not a public exhibition), horses transported for horse racing or show jumping, rodeos, or when animals are taken to schools for educational purposes.

A new video was screened at the launch entitled ‘In the United States today...’ which featured footage from U.S. circuses including violence, confinement and deprivation. The Bill is supported by a series of Congressional ADI Briefings, which cover key issues such as ‘Public Health & Safety’, ‘Enforcement’, ‘Captivity & Transport’, ‘Control and Violence’, ‘TB’ and ‘Economics’.

Careful research and detailed ADI undercover investigations in U.S. traveling circuses have shown the welfare of animals is unacceptably compromised as the animals endure confinement, physical and social deprivation, long, arduous journeys, brutal control methods and physical violence. The training tools of the circus trade include bullhooks, electric prods, and whips.

Large animals like lions and tigers spend their lives cramped in small cages, and elephants are forced to live chained by one or more legs for hours on end. In addition, traveling circuses pose a serious threat to public safety, as the keeping of wild, stressed animals in dangerously close proximity to the public is a recipe for disaster. Incidents of circus workers and members of the public having been killed and maimed by circus animals are well documented.

Speaking at the launch philanthropist and TV host of The Price Is Right Bob Barker said: “There will be a time when people will be shocked that we ever allowed the suffering of these animals in the name of entertainment to continue so long. Elephants living in chains and being beaten, lions and tigers in small cages on trucks being whipped to perform tricks, it’s the dark ages. This Bill helps bring us out of the dark ages.”

Known to 73million CSI viewers as Sara Sidle, Jorja Fox said: “It is time to say that elephants should not be kept in chains nor lions, tigers, bears and monkeys in small cages on the backs of trucks. This Bill has the potential to eradicate considerable animal suffering and I believe it will be embraced by Americans.”

Jan Creamer, of Animal Defenders International stated: “We have been encouraged by the way that the Bill has been received, and clearly there is the political will to bring an end to the animals suffering. This is the beginning of the end of wild animals in circuses and if Congress gets behind the Bill we could have wild animals banned in circuses within a few years. Animal abuse is not a Republican or Democratic issue but an American one.”

Ed Stewart of the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) whose sanctuaries have been at the forefront of the rescue and rehabilitation of circus animals said: “We have witnessed the conditions in which circus animals live in and the physical and psychological damage they endure. Mr Barker has personally funded the peaceful retirement of numerous ex-circus animals to sanctuaries. It is time that we as a civilized nation, stop the frivolous use of exotic animals in demeaning circuses. The show must not go on!”

ADI and PAWS say there is overwhelming evidence to support the proposed legislation and that there is a growing acceptance around the world that circuses are no place for wild animals. Similar measures have already been passed in Austria, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Peru, Portugal, and legislation to end the use of wild animals in circuses is currently under consideration in the UK, Brazil, Chile and Colombia. Several US towns and cities have passed ordinances prohibiting wild animal acts.

Mel concluded: “Everyone now has a chance to end this suffering. People should contact their Member of Congress today urging them to sign the Bill. Congress has a responsibility to protect the welfare of animals and ensure public safety. A prohibition on the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses is proportionate, responsible, the least expensive solution to this problem, and long overdue.”


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Note to Editors: Video footage, visuals and interview opportunities are available upon request.

For further information please contact:
Gary Smith
Evolotus PR

Animal Defenders International
With offices in Los Angeles, London and Bogota, ADI campaigns across the globe on animals in entertainment, providing technical advice to governments, securing progressive animal protection legislation, drafting regulations and rescuing animals in distress. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing the behind-the-scenes suffering in industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport. ADI rescues animals all over the world, educates the public on animals and environmental issues.

Performing Animal Welfare Society
PAWS operate three captive wildlife sanctuaries in California, providing lifetime care for hundreds of exotic animals. Having worked inside the performing animal industry and now specializing in the care of abused, abandoned or retired performing animals, the PAWS founders are acknowledged experts on the impacts on these animals and the suffering they endure in the name of entertainment. They provide expert testimony in criminal and agency investigations and also provide expertise to wildlife agencies, Congress, State Legislatures, and city and county hearings across the United States.

  • ADI estimates (conservatively) that there are currently around 300 exotic/wild animals with US circuses.
  • There are currently around 18 non-animal circuses (human-only performances).
  • City/county ordinances that restrict animals from traveling circuses:

CA: Corona, Encinitas, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Marin County, Pasadena, Rohnert Park, Santa Ana; CO, Boulder; CT, Stamford; FL, Hollywood; Pompano Beach; Tallahassee, Clearwater; IL, Collinsville; GA, Fulton; MA, Braintree, Quincy, Revere, Somerville, Weymouth; MO, Richmond; NC, Orange County, Chapel Hill; NY, Greenburgh, Southampton; SC, Chester; TX, Simonton; VT, Burlington; WA, Port Townsend, Redmond; WI, Green Bay.

ADI celebrity supporters include:
ADI’s ‘Stop Circus Suffering Campaign’ has attracted celebrity support and endorsement in the U.S. from Jorja Fox, Bob Barker, Corey and Suzy Feldman, Alicia Silverstone, Belinda Carlisle and Kim Basinger, and further afield from Ricky Gervais, Sir Paul McCartney, Brian May and Twiggy. ADI’s investigation of traveling circuses in the U.S., produced a report entitled ‘Animals in travelling circuses’ (2008) and received widespread support, encouraging many local municipalities to restrict animal circuses from their jurisdiction.

Recent incidents in the US demonstrate that travelling circuses pose a serious threat to public safety:

  • In February 2010, a zebra escaped from Ringling Brothers in Atlanta and ran into the city. Police had to chase it for 40 minutes until it was recaptured on a busy interstate. A few weeks later, the animal was euthanized. Two weeks earlier, during a pre-show at the same circus in South Carolina, an elephant broke through a main door and ran into the arena. It was reported that there were about 100 people on the floor.
  • April 27, 2010/Lynchburg, Virginia: An elephant named Viola escaped from the Cole Bros. Circus. She bolted directly past a line of people waiting to buy tickets, sending some running toward the parking lot. Viola injured her shoulder and broke a toenail when she slid in the mud and fell into a steep ravine. She was on the loose for approximately 30 minutes.
  • April 9, 2010/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania: An animal handler with the Hamid Circus was kicked and thrown about 20 feet by an African elephant named Dumbo at Irem Shrine Circus. The handler died at the scene from multiple traumatic injuries. The elephant had been leased from Joe Frisco’s Wonderful World of Animals.
  • On November 4, 2009, an elephant escaped from the Family Fun Circus in Enid, Oklahoma and was struck by an SUV on US Interstate 81.
  • February 6, 2010/Columbia, South Carolina: According to The State, “A startled elephant took a wrong turn backstage and broke through the main prop door leading into the Colonial Life Arena during the afternoon pre-show for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus …. . . . About 100 spectators on the floor watching the pre-show saw the elephant break through the door toward them and rumble around the performance area, just a few feet away.”
  • March 7, 2009/Indianapolis, Indiana: At least 15 children and one adult were injured when an elephant who was being used to give rides at the Murat Shrine Circus became startled, stumbling and knocking over the scaffolding stairway leading to the elephant ride. People on the elephant’s back and others standing on, under, and around the scaffolding were injured. Their injuries were treated on the scene. The Shriners had leased the elephant from exhibitor Will Davenport, dba Maximus Tons of Fun.
  • March 13, 2009/Fruitland Park, Florida: A spider monkey named Reggie escaped from the Liebling Family Circus
  • In March 2008, three zebras with Ringling Brothers Circus in Baltimore escaped from their temporary enclosure and ran onto the traffic lanes.
  • A lifelong animal trainer was clawed by a tiger during a performance at Hadi Shrine Circus in Indiana in November 2006. The trainer suffered serious injuries to his hand and leg.

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