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Animals in Traveling Shows


The Show Must Not Go On!

Ending the use of exotic animalsin traveling circuses.

Today there is strong support for banning the use of elephants, lions, tigers, bears and other wild animals in traveling shows. In circuses, animals are chained, confined in cramped cages, forced to travel throughout the year in cramped semi-trailers and train cars, and subjected to brutal training and physical violence.

Seeing wild animals perform in circus acts sends the wrong message to children, cultivating disrespect and the illusion that the animals would willing engage in these behaviors. In reality, the animals are whipped, beaten and harassed into performing for the public.

Due to the nature of traveling circuses, where animal accommodation must be small, lightweight, collapsible and fit on the back of a trailer, circuses simply cannot provide animals with the space and the environment they need to maintain physical and mental health.


Traveling circuses cause suffering

to exotic and wild animals:

Limited space. The animals' living spaces are always small and the animals’ ability to move around is severely restricted.

Extended hours inside vehicles. Not only are circus animals forced to travel great distances, but they must also be loaded well before the circus is packed to travel to the next location.  The animals must then wait in their vehicles while the circus is set up, before they can be unloaded. Set up time can take as long as 24 hours, even on short journeys.

Lack of free exercise and restriction of natural behaviours. Circuses may pitch their show in any spot they can find – on roadsides, in fields, on a concrete parking lot. The animals’ needs are not taken into consideration.

Stress from abnormal conditions. Solitary animals are housed alongside other animals; prey species are kept in sight of predators; family group animals are isolated. Any of these circumstances can cause psychological suffering, and sometimes even insanity.

The tricks these animals are forced to perform require extreme physical coercion and violence, including the restriction of food and/or water, use of bull hooks, stun guns and other electric shock devices, as well as metal bars, whips, and intimidation.

These conditions cause the animals to be prone to health, behavioral and psychological problems. The extreme levels of stress that circus animals endure can make an already dangerous animal, even more dangerous, a scary thought when you consider their close proximity to the public. These situations have resulted in human injuries and even deaths.


A prohibition on the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses is proportionate, responsible, and even economical.

The monitoring of animal welfare, and enforcement of regulations in the United States, as in other countries, is expensive!

For example: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspected the Carson & Barnes Circus 42 times from 2007 to 2010. The average cost per inspection was $1,363, for a total cost of $57,246 to taxpayers.


Worldwide, it has been found that licensing and inspections for animal circuses is costly. In the UK, for example, the Department of the Environment estimates that the annual cost of inspecting the country’s four animal circuses (with only 30 animals) would be  $12,665.96 – $18,965.96.


Resources available for download:

Sample letters to your Congress Member

Download: Sample letter

If you would like to write your own letter, here are some ideas to get you started.

Congressional Briefing: Wild Animals in Circuses
Congress is urged to protect non-domesticated (exotic/wild) animals
in traveling circuses and make public safety a priority.

Congressional Briefing: Public Health & Safety
Public health and safety issues associated with the use of exotic
and non-domesticated animals in traveling circuses.

Congressional Briefing: Enforcement of Animal Welfare Act

The practical difficulties of maintaining standards, inspecting,
gathering evidence and ensuring compliance with animal welfare

Congressional Briefing: Captivity & Transport
The scientific evidence of the effects of captivity and transport
on animals and their use in traveling circuses.


Congressional Briefing: Animal Control & Use of

Animal control and potential for conflict associated with the use
of exotic and non-domesticated animals in traveling circuses.


Animal Free Circuses!

View our list here.







It's official! Governor Brown signs California ban on the elephant bullhook!

Read here




View current list here.



Pat's message about traveling animal shows is as relevant today as it was in 2011 when wrote it!



One dangerous lesson learned from the Ohio Exotic Animal Farm tragedy in 2011, was how vulnerable a community can be when chaos is unleashed.

To expect our first responders to be able to deal with dangerous wild animals at large is not only naive, but puts an unnecessary burden on their already overworked, and under-budgeted public safety departments.

Traveling shows come to our towns and park their transport cages and trailers in areas of close proximity to schools, shopping centers, churches and community parks.

We must ask ourselves: How realistic is it to expect these traveling shows to conduct regular psychological evaluations on each of their animal handlers and workers who have access to locks, cages and chains?

The PAWS sanctuary houses a number of animals whose former owners were involved in criminal activities.




Show Business Is No Business For Elephants

After viewing Animal Defenders International's undercover video showing the brutal training methods used by Have Trunk Will Travel, a company whose elephant was used in the movie "Water For Elephants", PAWS' cofounder, the late Pat Derby wrote  this article, "Show Business Is No Business For Elephants." Click on the link to read.

To view the video footage Pat was referring to, click here.




Performing Animal Welfare Society
PO Box 849, Galt, CA 95632

209/745-2606 office/sanctuary
209/745-1809 fax

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