New York City celebrates landmark ordinance to prohibit wild and exotic animals in circuses

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New York City celebrates landmark ordinance to prohibit wild and exotic animals in circuses 

JULY 28, 2017, NEW YORK, NY— Animal Defenders International (ADI) celebrated last night with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the passage of a landmark ordinance to ban wild animal circus acts in this world-renown city. The ban is now law, though it goes into effect October 2018. Council Member Rosie Mendez worked tirelessly on this issue for 11 years, and thanks to strong local voices, Mayor de Blasio, and Council Member/Committee Chair Corey Johnson, New York City leads the way for humane entertainment.

ADI worked with Council Member Mendez and city attorneys on this ground-breaking animal protection measure for America’s largest city. NYC joins other world-class cities such as Barcelona, Bogotá, Rio, San Francisco, and Singapore, and 37 diverse nations around the world that have taken a stand against cruel circus acts. The Los Angeles City Council appears ready to do the same, having unanimously approved the drafting of a similar ordinance earlier this year.

Council Member Rosie Mendez stated: “It has been a little over 11 years that I first introduced legislation that would ban the display of wild or exotic animals. We had our first hearing on October 20th, 2016 and since then Council Member Corey Johnson and I worked with NYC Council attorneys to address issues raised in the hearing. Intro 1233 is and always has been about the safety and security of animals, as well as human beings. This legislation will ensure that animals are in their natural state, not confined in small boxcars and/or treated in other inhumane ways. Equally important, human beings will be safe from animals that may act ferociously.”

ADI President Jan Creamer said Animal Defenders International thanks Council Member Mendez for her years of dedication and determination to protect wild animals and the public. ADI has repeatedly documented the suffering and abuse of wild animals in circuses and applauds the New York City Council for its leadership in prohibiting these cruel and dangerous acts.

Contrary to circus industry claims, the physical and psychological health of animals in circuses is inevitably compromised. Animals in circuses are routinely subjected to brutal training methods and violence; wherever ADI has conducted undercover investigations around the world, we have documented acts of abuse. Animal circuses do nothing to teach people about animals’ real needs and the way they live; circuses have no role in education or conservation.

In the US, ADI worked closely with Congressional Representatives Ryan Costello (R-PA) and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) to introduce the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA/ H.R.1759), which seeks to end to the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling shows throughout the US.

ADI recently rescued over 100 animals from circuses and the illegal wildlife trade in Peru and Colombia, including lions, bears, tigers, monkeys, and others. ADI collaborated with the governments of Peru and Colombia for the unprecedented Operation Spirit of Freedom campaign. ADI rehabilitated and rehomed the animals, and continues to fund most of their care.

Join the global campaign to Stop Circus Suffering:

Background – worldwide movement to end the use of wild animals in traveling shows the evidence that the suffering caused to wild animals by the constant travel, severe restrictions on movement and unnatural lifestyle has prompted authorities and governments around the world to end their use.

In the United States, >70 jurisdictions in 27 states have taken action to restrict wild animals from traveling circuses. Hundreds of local ordinances are in place around the world, including in the UK, Europe, and South America.

National restrictions on performing animals in travelling circuses, either wild or all animals, have been enacted in 37 countries – Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Iran, Israel, Latvia, Malta, Mexico, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, Sweden, Taiwan, and The Netherlands.  Similar laws are under discussion in the UK, USA, Brazil and Chile.
 Whether it is a traveling circus, or travel from county show to county show, the confinement for the animals is the same:

  • Traveling circuses cannot meet the physical, psychological or behavioral needs of wild animals, due to severe confinement, physical and social deprivation, long periods of time in transporters, with brutal control methods and physical violence.
  • It is a myth that wild animals are trained with kindness and reward; the tools of the trade include stun guns and other electric prods, metal bars, whips, bullhooks (a heavy bar with a sharpened point and hook), deprivation of food and water and intimidation.
  • Keeping stressed, large, and dangerous wild animals close to the public in lightweight, temporary enclosures has proven disastrous. Workers and members of the public have been killed and maimed; lions, tigers and elephants have all escaped.
  • It is estimated that around 12% of Asian and 2% of African elephants in North America have tuberculosis (TB), a disease transmissible from elephants to humans.
  • Because of the traveling nature of the circus, animal welfare officers have difficulty protecting the animals, making inspections, despite significant associated time and costs. This justifies a restriction, for the protection of the animals and the public.
  • Circuses must change with the times. Human only circuses are thriving. Cirque du Soleil now has 19 shows in 271 cities, generating an estimated $810 million a year, whereas wild animal traveling shows are experiencing declining ticket sales.

Circus workers perform multiple roles; staff can be retrained, so jobs need not be lost. Circus Vargas removed their animal acts and their business continues. Surveys have shown that a decline in animal circuses can be matched by a rise in circuses with human performers.


Animal Defenders International (ADI) is active worldwide to end the suffering of captive animals in commercial use: animals used in entertainment – film, television, advertising, circuses, and sport or leisure such as hunting, or for products such as fur, bone wine, or vanity items; replacement of animals in scientific research; and funding and promotion of non-animal advanced methods. ADI investigates, produces evidence, and reports on the scientific, legal, and economic issues for each case study, recommending solutions. Information is distributed to the media, public, and officials. Where ADI’s evidence has been a catalyst for change, we collaborate with governments to conduct large scale seizures or rescues of wild animals in captivity and relocate them to forever homes – back to their natural habitat wherever possible.

Animal Defenders International: Ending the suffering of animals in captivity and protecting wild animals and their environments

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