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bans on circuses 

Countries, states, cities and towns have started restricting the use of wild animals in circuses 

Over the years, there has been growing public disapproval about the use of wild animals in entertainment. This concern is shown by the impact of the film Blackfish and the decline in SeaWorld attendance after its release, the closing of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and the passage of statewide bans on the use of wild and/or exotic animals in traveling acts in several U.S. states. 

The public's desire for animal-free entertainment is so widespread that Ringling Brothers now plans to relaunch the circus in 2023 and will feature only human performers - a move FOUR PAWS applauds. 

Lions, tigers, bears, and elephants are wild animals – sensitive species whose needs as mammals no circus can meet. This inability for circuses to properly care for these animals has been recognized in over 40 countries around the world, where (some or all) wild animals have become prohibited for use in circuses and other traveling acts; in Canada, there are local bans on the use of animals in circuses in over 33 municipal jurisdictions.

In the U.S., there are currently eight states and over 150 localities (cities, towns, and counties) in 37 states that have passed various restrictions or bans involving the use of wild animals in circuses. 

U.S. Timeline

In 2016, Rhode Island banned the use of bullhooks, a cruel elephant training device resembling a fireplace poker.

In 2017, Illinois and New York banned the use of elephants in traveling shows. 

In 2018, New Jersey became the first state in the nation to ban the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling shows, and less than a week later Hawaii passed a similar groundbreaking rule. 

In 2019, California banned the use of all animals in circuses, except for dogs, cats, and domesticated horses.

In 2021, Colorado banned the use of elephants, big cats, bears, and other animals in circuses and other traveling shows.

In 2022, Kentucky banned the use of both endangered species in circuses and exotic animals in county fairs, including a ban on elephant rides.

Current bills we support: 

Massachusetts (S.2251/H.3376) and Connecticut (HB 5293) have both introduced state bills to ban the use of wild animals in traveling exhibits and shows. 

On the federal level, the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 263) is a federal bill that would ban public contact with big cats and restrict private ownership of big cats. 

Below, FOUR PAWS gives you an overview of U.S. states and other countries that have already passed restrictions or bans on the use of all or certain wild animals in circuses and traveling shows.

UNited States

  • Arkansas: Eureka Springs
  • California: Statewide ban on the use of all animals in circuses (except for dogs, cats, and domesticated horses)
  • Colorado: Boulder, Loveland, Timnath
  • Connecticut: Bridgeport, Stamford
  • Florida: Citrus County, Destin, Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, Margate, Mary Esther, Miami Beach, Okaloosa County, Panama City, Pompano Beach, Sebring
  • Georgia: Baldwin County, Coweta County, Fulton County, Union City
  • Hawaii: Statewide ban on importing dangerous wild animals for circuses or carnivals
  • Idaho: Blaine County, Boise, Ketchum
  • Illinois: Statewide ban on the use of elephants in traveling shows
  • Indiana: Beech Grove, Bloomington, Munster, Whiting; statewide ban on public contact with big cats and bears
  • Iowa: Ames, Burlington, Roland
  • Kansas: Olathe, Wyandotte County
  • Kentucky: Grant County, Kenton County, Louisville
  • Maine: Bar Harbor, Portland
  • Maryland: Gaithersburg, Montgomery
  • Massachusetts: Amherst, Braintree, Cambridge, Mendon, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Provincetown, Quincy, Revere, Somerville, Topsfield, Weymouth, Wilmington
  • Michigan: Ferndale, St Clair Shores
  • Minnesota: Minneapolis
  • Mississippi: Statewide ban on temporary exhibits allowing public contact with most wild animals; Biloxi, Brandon, Clinton, Crystal Springs, D'Iberville, Flowood, Gulfport, Horn Lake, Jackson, Meridian, Ridgeland, Southaven, West Point
  • Missouri: Richmond
  • Montana: Missoula
  • Nebraska: Bellevue
  • New Jersey: Statewide ban on the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling shows
  • New Mexico: Las Cruces, Santa Fe
  • New York: Statewide ban on the use of elephants in entertainment acts, statewide ban on public contact with big cats and with endangered or threatened species, including elephant rides; NYC ban on wild animals in circuses
  • North Carolina: Asheville, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Orange County
  • Ohio: Cincinnati, Delaware
  • Oklahoma: El Reno, Mustang
  • Oregon: Benton County, Clatsop County, Multnomah County
  • Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh
  • Rhode Island: Statewide ban on the use of bullhooks or other similar pain inflicting devices on elephants
  • South Carolina: Aiken County, Edgefield County, Spartanburg
  • Tennessee: Germantown, Oliver Springs
  • Texas: Aransas Pass, Austin, Corpus Christi, Denton, Killeen, Marion, Nolanville
  • Utah: Helper, Huntington, Layton City, Salt Lake County
  • Vermont: Burlington
  • Virginia: Charlottesville, Fairfax, King George County, Manassas, Manassas Park, Prince William County, Richmond, Salem, Spotsylvania County
  • Washington: Darrington, Port Townsend, Redmond, Snohomish, Spokane
  • Wisconsin: Dane County

EuropE

  • Austria: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Belgium: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina: General ban on the use of all animals.
  • Bulgaria: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Croatia: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Cyprus: General ban on the use of all animals.
  • Czech Republic: Ban on the use of newly born apes, seals, whales (excl. dolphins), rhinoceroses, hippopotami, giraffes. From January 2022, ban on all individuals of wild animal species born, donated, or bought after January 2022.
  • Denmark: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • England: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Estonia: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Finland: Ban on the use of apes, predators, elephants, hippopotami, marsupials, rhinoceroses, seals, crocodiles, predatory birds, ostriches, wild forms of ruminant or equine animals.
  • France: Ban on the use of lions, tigers, and bears in circuses and ban on live dolphin shows. 
  • Greece: General ban on the use of all animals.
  • Hungary: Ban on the use of elephants, rhinoceroses and primates. Ban on the use of newly captured animals from the wild. Ban on the use of species mentioned in Appendix I of the CITES Convention.
  • Ireland: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Italy: Ban on animals in circuses and traveling exhibitions. 
  • Latvia: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Lithuania: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Luxembourg: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Malta: General ban on the use of all animals.
  • North Macedonia: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Netherlands: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Norway: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Portugal: Ban on the use of Great Apes. Breeding ban on whales, primate, wolves, bears, big cats, pinnipeds, elephants, manatees, rhinos, hippos, flightless birds, reptiles, constrictors. General ban of wild animals as of 2024.
  • Poland: Ban on the use of wild animals that were born in the wild.
  • Romania: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Scotland: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Serbia: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Slovakia: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Slovenia: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Sweden: Ban on the use of apes, predators, rhinoceroses, giraffes, kangaroos, hippopotami, seals, predatory birds, ostriches, crocodiles, fallow deer, elephants and sea lions.
  • Ukraine: Ban on taking photos with wild animals on the streets, and a ban on keeping of animals in restaurants and other places of entertainment.
  • Wales: General ban on the use of wild animals.

WorLdwide

  • Bolivia: General ban of wild animals and domesticated species.
  • Costa Rica: General ban of wild animals.
  • Ecuador: Nationwide ban on the use of native wild animals; restrictions on the use of exotic animals; ban on the import of both native and exotic wild animals with circuses.
  • El Salvador: General ban of wild animals.
  • Guatemala: General ban of all animals.
  • Honduras: General ban of all animals.
  • India: General ban of wild animals.
  • Iran: General ban of wild animals.
  • Israel: General ban of wild animals.
  • Columbia: General ban of wild animals.
  • Lebanon: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses.
  • Mexico: General ban of wild animals.
  • Panama: Nationwide ban prohibiting 'entry of wild animals for use in static and travelling circuses and similar shows'.
  • Paraguay: General ban of wild animals.
  • Peru: General ban of wild animal.
  • Singapore: General ban of wild animals.
  • Taiwan: Nationwide ban on the import or export of protected wildlife for circuses.

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