Proposal to ban exotic animals in traveling circuses referred to ag committee that Tipton is on

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenJanuary 1, 2012
Elephants dancing in skirts, bears riding tricycles and lions leaping through flaming hoops could become distant memories if a bill U.S. Rep. Jared Polis is co-sponsoring gains traction in Washington.

The Boulder-based congressman and 12 other representatives are pushing legislation that would effectively end the use — and documented abuse — of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses.

“Congressman Polis is a strong supporter of animal rights and is concerned about the treatment of animals in circuses,” Polis spokesman Chris Fitzgerald told the Colorado Independent.

H.R. 3359 would amend the Animal Welfare Act to restrict the use of exotic and non-domesticated animals in traveling circuses and exhibitions. The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act, as it is known, specifically aims to outlaw all exotic and wild animals from performing if, within 15 days of a show, they had been traveling in mobile shelters. Rodeos would be exempt under the law, as would “outreach programs for educational or conservation purposes by an accredited zoo or aquarium, if the animal used for such purposes is not kept in a mobile housing facility for more than 12 hours a day.” It would not apply to film, television, or advertising so long as there is not a live public display.

Incorporating wild animals into circus acts has long been controversial. Whips, bull hooks, electric prods, food deprivation and other forms of physical abuse are among the tools and techniques trainers employ to coerce creatures into performing unnatural tricks under the Big Top. Severe confinement and lack of free exercise during animal captivity and transport have led to devastating behavioral, health and psychological consequences. A recent yearlong Mother Jones investigation revealed 8,000-pound elephants spent much of their lives in chains and on cramped trains while under circus care. The magazine article took particular issue with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which is charged with overseeing the circuses but up until recently has done little enforcement. Following the Mother Jones probe, the USDA charged circus operator Feld Entertainment $270,000 for violations — the largest fine in the Animal Welfare Act's history.

“Based upon publicly available research, including video and photographic evidence, it is clear that traveling circuses cannot provide the proper living conditions for exotic animals,” Rep. James Moran, D-Va., said when he introduced H.R. 3359 last month. “This legislation is intended to target the most egregious situations involving exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses.”

The proposed bill additionally contends that “animals in traveling circuses pose an additional risk to public safety because such animals have wild instincts and needs and have demonstrated unpredictability; the use of collapsible, temporary facilities in traveling circuses increases the risk of escaping exotic and non-domesticated animals seriously harming workers and the public; [and] traveling circuses bring people dangerously close to exotic and non-domesticated animals by displaying animals in inappropriate, uncontrolled areas ... not suited for ... such animals.”

Some communities have already taken it upon themselves to prohibit exotic and wild animals from traveling circuses, including Boulder, Colo.; Encinitas, Pasadena and Corona, Calif.; Stamford, Conn.; Hollywood and Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.; Takoma Park, Md.; Provincetown, Quincy, Braintree, Revere and Weymouth, Mass.; Greenburgh, N.Y.; Burlington, Vt.; and Port Townsend and Redmond, Wash. Madison, Wisc., is currently considering a ban.

If the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act were to pass, it would take effect nationwide and circuses would have one year to comply with the new rules spelled out in the bill. The proposal has been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture, of which Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., is a member.

comments: 2 Comments on "Proposal to ban exotic animals in traveling circuses referred to ag committee that Tipton is on"

Bunny – Jan. 02, 2012, at 12:18 a.m.

This is wonderful news. I hope the Bill gets through - wild animals do not belong in circuses.

Chris Biro – Jan. 04, 2012, at 12:06 p.m.

This bill is a very bad idea and your article is completely biased toward animal rights extremist ideas. Food deprivation and coercion are NOT commonly used in training animals in the modern world, regardless of what the extreme animal rights groups claim. Contrary to what is suggested, the owners of these animal shows provide a great deal of knowledge and skill that has helped wild animals around the world. Elephants are only able to be bred in captivity or saved as orphaned wild babies because of the know how that came from captive animals in shows, not zoos. Zoos are highly bureaucratic and not good at innovation. Zoos are really good at somethings, but breeding animals is not one of them.

If this bill passes it will effect many other organizations besides circuses. The Pirate's Parrot Show, and others like it, will also be effected. I have done this show for over 20 years without a single animal complaint ever - of course now that I say this I will probably become a target of AR groups. Zero complaints is unheard of in the animal show world. Yet without there being one complaint against my show, I could be shut down by this law. Most of my birds fly freely throughout our 6 hour work day. They are loose to come and go as they please as they fly around the grounds and at the end of the day they are eager to go into the motor home housing they think of as home. At home they often spend the entire day loose flying around our property or live in a 3000 sq ft aviary.

Because of my passion and love of my animals and the skills and knowledge I have acquired over the past 20 years doing this show, I am actively participating in parrot conservation. You can read about our conservation work and see videos of the birds flying freely on my website None of this would have happened if this law existed previously nor will it happen again if this law passes.

It is time this country realizes that government micromanaging equals over regulation and is directly counter to the concept of a free society. The more restrictions put on keeping animals, the fewer people will be exposed to how wonderful animals are and the less connection society will have with animals. The result will be less support for conservation of animals in the wild or the places they live. Chris Biro

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