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Born Free USA's Expertise: A Resource for Legislators

Traveling Shows and Circuses

Performing animals such as elephants, lions, tigers, bears, and zebras endure years of physical and psychological suffering in traveling acts — all for the amusement of audiences who remain ignorant of the animals' natural behavior. Animals used in circuses and other performing acts may travel thousands of miles each year, often without water, in railroad cars or trucks that may lack appropriate air conditioning or heat. Elephants may be forced to stand in their own excrement, chained to a post for hours at a time. To date, no state has passed legislation prohibiting animal circuses or specific species from performing within its borders. In recent years, there have been several attempts to prohibit specific animals from performing within a state. Fifteen states do regulate some aspects of the display of captive wild animals, such as photo opportunities, public contact with animals, or notification requirements. And more than twenty-five cities and counties have passed ordinances prohibiting the display of exotic animals in traveling shows or circuses.

We have introduced traveling show and circus legislation in Maine and Massachusetts as well as in a number of cities and counties across the United States. We have summarized the state and local laws related to the exhibition of exotic animals and have crafted model language that can be used in your state.

Additional Issues

We also have expertise in a variety of other issues that may be of concern in your state. We would be happy to assist you with legislation in any of the following areas:

  • Regulating roadside zoos and menageries
  • Other animal-related issues

Please contact our Legal and Government Affairs Department by emailing legislation@bornfreeusa.org.