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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 Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and the passage of statewide bans on the use of wild animals in traveling acts in New Jersey, Hawaii, and California.

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 six 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 December 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.

Current bills we support: 

Massachusetts has reintroduced a state bill (S.2251/H.3376) to ban the use of big cats, bears, primates, elephants, and giraffes in all 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 taken action against the use of wild animals in circuses, or in some cases, where ban regulations are still being debated politically around the world.

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, Ketchum
  • Illinois: Statewide ban on the use of elephants in traveling shows
  • Indiana: Beech Grove, Bloomington, Munster, Whiting
  • Iowa: Ames, Burlington, Roland
  • Kansas: Olathe, Wyandotte County
  • Kentucky: Grant County, Kenton County, Louisville
  • Maine: Bar Harbor, Portland
  • Maryland: Montgomery County
  • Massachusetts: Amherst, Braintree, Cambridge, Mendon, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Provincetown, Quincy, Revere, Somerville, Topsfield, Weymouth, Wilmington
  • Michigan: 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
  • North Carolina: Asheville, Chapel Hill, Orange County
  • Ohio: 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
  • 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 1. January 2022.
  • Denmark: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • England: General ban on the use of wild animals as of 2020.
  • 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: A bill that would ban using wild animals in travelling circuses is in the political voting process.
  • 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: In November 2017, the Italian Parliament adopted a ban on animals in circuses and traveling exhibitions. The ban is not implemented yet.
  • Latvia: General ban on the use of wild animals.
  • Lithuania: General ban on wild animals is due to come into force on 21. November 2021.
  • 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: The Ukrainian government is preparing for a ban.
  • Wales: General ban on the use of wild animals.

Other countries

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Ecuador
  • England
  • El Salvador
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Greece
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Iran
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • Macedonia
  • Malta
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Scotland
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • Taiwan

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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