Tiger in circus in Germany

Advocating for circus animals in massachusetts

FOUR PAWS staff testifies at the State House in Boston


On July 24, FOUR PAWS’ Research and Campaigns Officer, Melanie Lary, testified at the State House in Boston, Massachusetts in support of a bill that would prohibit the use of elephants, big cats, primates, giraffes, and bears in traveling exhibits and shows in MA (H.3245 and S.2197/S.2189). 

The testimony was given at a hearing before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development. FOUR PAWS is part of a coalition of state and national animal welfare organizations who are supporting the passage of this important bill, which includes MSPCA-Angell, Animal Rescue League of Boston, Zoo New England, The Humane Society of the United States, and Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Prior to this hearing, FOUR PAWS joined these same organizations in hosting a briefing at the MA State House in June, where we spoke in more detail about the bills and the need for a ban to MA legislators and their staff.

Tiger Sahib within a cage before his rescue from a circus

Tiger Sahib before his rescue from a circus in Germany


Sahib at TIERART Wild Animal Sanctuary in Germany

Tiger Sahib after his rescue at our TIERART Wild Animal Sanctuary in Germany


Read Research and Campaigns Officer, Melanie Lary's, testimony in support of MA bills S.2197/S.2189/H.3245, An Act Relative To The Use Of Elephants, Big Cats, Primates, Giraffes, And Bears In Traveling Exhibits And Shows

Good morning and thank you to Chair Domb, Chair Mark, and the Committee members for your time. My name is Melanie Lary, Research and Campaigns Officer with FOUR PAWS USA, and I am speaking today in support of these bills and focusing on the rescue and sanctuary care of wild animals from circuses and traveling shows.

FOUR PAWS is an international animal welfare organization that has 11 sanctuaries and years of expertise concerning the rescue, rehabilitation, and sanctuary care of big cats and bears rescued from terrible conditions in captivity. 

We support these bills because the keeping, training, and transportation of wild animals like big cats, bears, elephants, primates, and giraffes in traveling shows involve some of the saddest forms of captivity and cruelty. Stuck in inhospitable conditions, these wild animals are brutally forced to adapt to abnormal surroundings and perform unnatural behaviors. 

Through our work, we’ve witnessed first-hand the physical and psychological trauma and extreme confinement these animals endure for entertainment. Common problems include malnutrition, cracked teeth, tooth decay and missing teeth, chronic pain from non-existent veterinary care, arthritis from ongoing repetitive movements, abnormal behavior, and psychological stress resulting in fear or aggression towards people and new environments.

And while we’ve seen the cruelty and suffering they’re experienced for entertainment, we’ve also seen the amazing recoveries they can make when they are given the opportunity to act as normal bears and big cats.  

Take for example, a tiger named Sahib, who is currently 17 years old and lives at our TIERART Wild Animal Sanctuary in Germany. Before he and his half-sister Jill were rescued by FOUR PAWS, they spent most of their life being forced to perform in a circus in Germany. 

When we rescued Sahib, his teeth were in terrible condition. All his canines were extremely worn down, which is common when animals are constantly biting the bars of their cages from boredom or stress. He also didn’t receive the necessary medical care needed, which left him living in constant pain, so after he was rescued, he needed several root canal treatments due to exposed and damaged teeth. A few incisors had to be removed as well. Sahib also had kidney problems and Jill had advanced kidney disease, both of which can result from poor nutrition.   

At our sanctuary, Sahib and Jill enjoyed for the first time a large enclosure with a swimming pool, trees to climb, natural vegetation, proper nutrition, and quiet places to retreat to when needed. In sanctuary, they could just be tigers who loved being in the water, sleeping in the sun, and determining their own daily routine to their heart's content. And while Sahib is still with us, his half-sister Jill sadly succumbed to her chronic kidney disease and died in 2022.

Their story helps illustrate all the trauma these animals go through before they're rescued and the ongoing, lifetime care required afterward to give them the proper lives they deserve, even if they are only in our care for a short while. 

When in a safe, species-appropriate environment, these animals experience dramatic improvements in their physical and mental health and display less stereotypic behaviors (like pacing) that are indicators of stress and anxiety. These recoveries show us it’s never too late to offer these captive wild animals a better life over their continued exploitation for entertainment. Thank you.

Jambolina performing in a circus before her rescue

Bear Jambolina performing in a circus before her rescue


Jambolina at Arosa Bear Sancutary in a meadow

Bear Jambolina at Arosa Bear Sanctuary after her rescue


What can you do to help? 

If you are a resident of Massachusetts, please ask your State Representative and State Senator to support An Act Relative To The Use Of Elephants, Big Cats, Primates, Giraffes, And Bears In Traveling Exhibits And Shows (H.3245, S.2197, S.2189). You can look up your legislators here

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