Breaking news: Los Angeles to ban use of all wild animals in circuses

By on April 25, 2017 with 25 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

The city council of the nation’s second largest city – and the capital of the entertainment industry – today unanimously voted to ban the exhibition of wild or exotic animals for entertainment, including circuses, other wild animal shows, displays in public areas such as on sidewalks or parks, and rentals for house parties or events. Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu sponsored the measure, which won the support of all the council members, and HSUS National Council member Cheri Shankar and the Performing Animal Welfare Society led the external effort to pass it. This reform substantially builds on a 2014 policy banning the use of bullhooks to handle captive elephants that was instrumental in causing Ringling Bros. to no longer use elephants in their shows.

This is not the final step, but it sets the 15-member city council on a very clear path to enact this forward-looking policy in the weeks ahead.

Los Angeles was the site of an HSUS event this past Saturday night, with a roster of notables, including Pharrell Williams, Diane Keaton, James Caan, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, and a cadre of local and state elected officials in California. It was especially fitting and appropriate for the Los Angeles City Council to take action so quickly after this stirring event and to cement its place among America’s most humane cities.

Other cities that have passed similar bans in recent years include the city of San Francisco, and several counties in Idaho, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and North Carolina. But Los Angeles is by far the largest jurisdiction to enact such a ban.

Just a few years ago, Los Angeles banned the use of bullhooks for elephants, and there was a a spirited fight. But with Ringling earlier this year announcing it was shutting down its entire circus –which featured lion and tiger acts, among other wild animals on exhibition – the circus industry lost its biggest political protector. Today lawmakers approved the ban with little dissent, demonstrating how public attitudes are shifting dramatically in favor of animal protection and the lobbying force of the circus industry is now negligible.

A 2015 Gallup poll found that 69 percent of Americans are concerned about the use of wild animals in circuses and according to a November 2016 article in Forbes magazine, circus attendance in the United States has dropped an estimated 30 to 50 percent over the last 20 years. Gross revenue from circuses fell almost nine percent between 2007 and 2012.

People now understand much more clearly the physical and behavioral needs of elephants, tigers, lions, and other wild animals, and it’s painfully obvious that circuses cannot meet those needs with their constant chaining, caging, and travel schedules. Trained with pain and the fear of punishment, caged and chained in trucks and trailers, forced to endure months of grueling travel, and bullied to perform silly tricks, animals in circuses and other traveling displays are victims and not willing performers.

These spectacles are dangerous for animals and even occasionally for people. Just in the last few years, a tiger knocked down and dragged a trainer across a pen as she screamed for help at a Pensacola, Florida, fair during a performance for a children’s field trip. The tiger was beaten and the trainer required surgery for her injuries. During a photo shoot in Detroit, Michigan, a tiger got loose in a building and trainers used an electric weed whacker to get the animal out of a stairwell and eventually back into a cage. Three elephants performing at a Shrine Circus in St. Charles, Missouri, ran amok in a parking lot for 45 minutes, damaging multiple vehicles. At another Shrine Circus in Salina, Kansas, a tiger escaped during a performance and a woman narrowly escaped harm after coming face to face with the tiger in an arena restroom.

The era of wild animal acts in circuses and even in movies and television is waning. New forms of entertainment and technology will replace them, and the only question we’ll ask is, why did it take so long? Thanks to the City of Angels for helping show the way.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Uncategorized, Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Sandra Gale Bettin Wolfson says:

    Hooray and fantastic! As a child I grew up as most children during that time in a world of fantasy when the circus came to town. Circus parades went down our main town streets, were still in tents and we were awed by animal acts. My father also owned a motel right on Route 66 on the outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico which was the only place to stay near the fairgrounds where the rodeos and circuses were held. I was a privileged and excited child as everyone from cowboys and bronco riders from the rodeo to animal trainers, aerialists and clowns from the circus stayed with us and I was in and out of everyone’s rooms at will with their open and invitations. I was taught to horseback ride at age 4 on a champion palomino, Duchess, by her groom. We had seats front and center for every performance during my young years. As I got a bit older I winced at the rods and prods used to make the circus animals perform and the guns in the wild animal acts that must have frightened the animals as much as they did me. All of a sudden the circus was no longer “The Greatest Show On Earth” but somewhat sad. Because we had constant available and welcomed access to private areas I saw the elephants with their legs chained to posts and lions and tigers in cages too small for them to even stand up in and I realized that these performing animals were not pets. There was no love or respect for them. Trained, they were quite valuable and equally unhappy and it was not fun for me anymore. I knew they were feared because they were trained by fear. Animals and children as well can be “trained” by fear but “not taught” anything because fear teaches you nothing but how to behave and act in front of those watching you. You “learn nothing”. As a child you have scripted behavior and an animal becomes what it is: “An animal act”! And trained and not taught so do people. This is a great mandate for animals and for those of us who love them and a great mandate for those of us who respect them and respect ourselves.

    • Angie says:

      Thank you for sharing and educating those who are ignorant to the abuse & neglect of these magnificent creatures. They belong free as nature intended.

    • hanne frederiksen says:

      I am shrilled to pieces by the news. As children we didnt know what went on behind the curtains, but today we know and we need to stop also this kind of animal abuse.

    • Cj says:

      This is terrible, wildlife rehabilitation professionals do educational shows to find their needed work using non releasable wildlfie, owls at birthdays fund the recovery of wildlife from human animal conflict. Will the people of Los Angeles use their tax dollars? I don’t think so, they will just shut down rehabbers and non profits who use animals to educate.

  2. Micky Rively says:

    all circuses with animals MUST BE CLOSED DOWN..all the handlers MUST BE ARRESTED and spend some time in jail

  3. Micky Rively says:

    All circuses with animals MUST BE closed down…all the owners and handlers MUST GO TO JAIL

  4. Lynn says:

    Could not be happier!

  5. Lynn says:

    Could not be happier, made my day!

  6. Angie says:

    Please stop this vile act your n wildlife! Set them free as nature intended! I’m tired of greedy humans making money while animals suffer in a cruel, abusive & neglect in captivity!

  7. Odile harroch says:

    Assez de faire souffrir des animaux bande de laches!putes

  8. Beverley fordyce says:

    Brilliant news

  9. Joao Paulo Soares says:

    Wonderful news – to be shared worlwide!!!

  10. Keith Lupton says:

    Why just “wild” animals? They were all wild once. Does that mean horses and dogs can still be enslaved and exploited?

  11. hanne frederiksen says:


  12. Chris Biro says:

    This article is written by someone with a clear agenda but who lacks actual understanding of the care of the animals being discussed. The way these animals lives are described is so blatantly biased it is laughable, except the topic is not funny at all. Instead now the public will rarely get to experience exotic animals, including parrots. What a travesty this is. So much for the land of the free. This is NOT forward thinking as the article claims. This is backward thinking on so many levels. Conservation of many of these animals relies heavily on the captive populations that will now longer have reason to exist. Without these captive populations there won’t be any animals for breeding to release their offspring back into the wild. They just won’t exist anywhere. The public won’t come to love and cherish these animals due to their interactions or experiences with them because they won’t get to have these experiences. And a broad range of behaviors and animals will be included that don’t even come close to applying to the so called “problem” being “resolved.” Educational freeflying parrots at the LA County Fair will not longer captivate the fairgoers while teaching them about parrots as pets or parrots in conservation programs. That is gone now. Fairs hire shows the public want. Animals shows where the animals are treated well and respected and are the pets of the owners are popular with the public for a reason. Now those shows are gone also, all based on rhetoric built by people who do not actually work with these animals. This is not good for the species or for the public. Short sighted socialism is all it is.

    • Denni A says:

      well here’s a test for you, pretend you’re an elephant for one month. chain yourself to pole 24/7 and allow yourself to be prodded and bull-hooked
      or stay locked in a cage where you can stand up. come back to us in a month and let us know how “captive” and exhilarating it all was.

      we have no business breeding animals for captivity, they should live their lives as designed by nature, just like YOU DO.

      • Fur baby loving Daddy says:

        So you think everyone should let their cats and dogs run out the door and be free on the streets instead of being in a nice warm dry house where in most cases they are treated as a part of the family.

      • Chris Biro says:

        Humans do not live as “designed by nature” and have not for the past couple hundred years or more. Since the invention of agriculture (about 10,000 years ago) humans have been steadily separating themselves from the nature world. And here you are enthusiastically adding to that by eliminating yet another set of experiences with animals from people’s lives.

        The comment you post had nothing whatsoever to do with what I posted. You clearly did not hear anything said. Instead you recycled some more rhetoric about how terrible captive animals lives must be. But if you ever actually worked with these animals you would know that is not true. The animals are happy and have meaningful relationships with many of their caregivers and trainers. There will always be bad eggs out there. Even PETA supporters and members have been caught stealing animals from people’s yards and euthanizing them. Does that mean all people who support the ethical treatment of animals behave like these criminals? Of course not. Exaggerating the claims of poor conditions animals in captivity live does not make it true across the board. Eliminating animals from captivity does not make their lives better. Have you ever actually considered what it is like to live in the wild? Nobody grows old. There are not retirement centers or nursing homes. When you start to get a little weak, due to illness or age, you’re on the menu and someone has you for dinner. That is how life in the wild works. Baby scarlet macaws are not fed unless they are the first born, chick #2 has 45% chance of surviving, chick #3 has only 5% chance of surviving. Chick #1 is the one that matters, the others are just an insurance policy. That is life in the wild. In many other species only about 10% survive to their first birthday. Life in the wild is no picnic. Most animals living with humans have a far less painful and stressful life than humans. Boredom is probably their worst problem, which is an issue I personally work to teach people how to avoid with freeflight trained pet parrots.

  13. Debbie Goodrich says:

    I’m sorry, but animals, under the Animal Welfare Act, and MORE, when it comes to public display with entertainment, are more positively reinforced than most children and adults alike. Stopping the use of being able to see an exotic animal educational display for the purpose of making money will end people knowing or caring about animals as well. This ban is universal, not just circuses and “people beating animals to make them perform” which DOES NOT HAPPEN or that institution is shut down with people not supporting it without the need for a law or ban. I’m a travelling parrot show and my birds and I can now no longer perform in Los Angeles when they work hard for what they do and love what they do just as much as the audience who witnesses them. HSUS, you are shooting yourself in your own foot by removing animals from people. I’m tired of the cadre that animals are only abused by people. Only by people who lack any form of education or empathy, that is true. How can you develop empathy to conserve an animal by a documentary or only by animal skins vs. seeing real animals before us? That is where all of this is headed. My animals will become home-bound with nothing to do just as those poor orcas have had happen to them when you attacked SeaWorld. Which, by the way, loses money for the animals to receive the best care. You think release Keiko worked? NO ORCA HAS EVER DIED ALONE. EVER yet Keiko did. He clearly wanted human interaction in Norway, but your very confused organization did not care about his personal welfare and he DIED before his time, alone, following a boat that was not allowed to interact with him. That is the worst way a whale can die. What your organization has done for animals and education/conservation and protection from euthanizing unwanted pets has been pathetic at best. Now, add to a roster of animals that will no longer be able to perform when they want to. It’s sad your organization does nothing at all to help local shelters and equally does nothing to save the species you are so worried about being in a show. NOTHING, not one cent goes to the wild to help wild elephants, tigers and more. Instead, all you care about is removing them from public viewing. When public viewing is the number one route conservation is working.

    • Robyn says:

      Thank u. I feel the same.

    • Denni A says:

      large exotic wild animals and carnivores do not belong in cages for entertainment. they are deprived of the most basic rights to exist. no one is saying you can’t show your pets for entertainment, parrots or dogs. we are talking about Elephants, Orcas, Lions, Tigers, animals that have their own social structures and emotional awareness. if you can’t see that too bad.

      • Chris Biro says:

        The ban does not apply just to circuses. It applies to exotic animals including parrots, chinchillas, etc. The survival of many of these species depends on there being captive populations. Without them, these species will most certainly go extinct in the near future. With a healthy genetically viable population it remains possible to repopulate their previous habitat with the offspring of these captive raised animals, but only if we have an existing captive population to work with. The blind acceptance of exaggerated claims of poor animal care and poor quality of life of animals living with humans is only harming the chances of these species continued existence. I find it interesting how many people I know that work with captive animals every day also work to help animals in the wild. These animals and their care and species survival are their passion. Yet I have not yet met a single person who claims captive animals are routinely abused by living with humans that actually lifts a finger to help these species survive in the wild. I think that says something important about WHY people are passionate about these issues. For the people who work with animals the animals are what matters, not just having a cause to get behind.

  14. karen says:

    The kicker here is that the circus and other animals on display are


  15. Denni A says:

    there is no excuse today for people to continue supporting these exploitation industries. the information is everywhere in this day of social media and internet technology on the plight of animals used and abused for human folly.

    the time is long overdue, stop BUYING puppies, stop patronizing rodeos, circuses, resort areas and vacation spots that advertise animals as their main attraction…the list goes on.

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