Breaking news: New Jersey becomes first state to adopt a sweeping ban on wild animals in circuses

By on December 14, 2018 with 22 Comments

New Jersey has made history by becoming the first state in the country to ban the use of numerous wild animal species, including elephants, tigers, lions, bears and primates, in circuses and traveling shows.

Governor Phil Murphy today signed into law a measure that recognizes both the animal welfare concerns and the public safety dangers posed by such shows. The bill passed the state Senate unanimously in June, and the General Assembly in October.

To date, four states and close to 150 localities across 37 states have passed laws governing the use of wild animals in circuses and traveling shows and many more are in the process of considering legislation. In 2016, California and Rhode Island banned bullhooks, a cruel elephant training tool. In 2017, Illinois and New York banned the use of elephants in traveling shows. In Hawaii, we await the signature of Gov. David Ige on a regulation enacted by the board of agriculture to ban dangerous wild animals, including tigers, lions, bears, primates, elephants and crocodiles, from being brought into the state to perform in circuses, carnivals and other public exhibitions.

But New Jersey’s law – named “Nosey’s Law” in honor of an arthritic elephant who last year was seized following an Alabama court order and who now enjoys life at a Tennessee sanctuary — goes a step further by banning virtually all wild animals commonly used by circuses and traveling shows.

Globally, too, there’s a trend toward ending wild animal acts in entertainment. Bolivia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, Colombia, El Salvador, the Netherlands and India are among at least 45 countries that have passed laws banning the use of wild animals in circuses. The United Kingdom has pledged to ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses by 2020.

These reforms sweeping the country and the world have been a long time coming. Wild animals used in traveling shows are subjected to prolonged periods of extreme confinement in dark and unventilated trucks and trailers as they are hauled from venue to venue for months at a time. When they are not performing, elephants are chained or confined to small pens and big cats are kept in transport cages that typically measure approximately four feet by seven feet – barely bigger than the animals themselves. The animals are routinely deprived of adequate exercise, veterinary care, or even regular food and water by exhibitors whose primary concern is heading out of one town to set up in the next.

Last year, a tiger was spotted on an interstate in Atlanta, Georgia, along a school bus route, and then in a residential area where she was ultimately shot and killed by police after she jumped a fence into a backyard and attacked a dog. The tiger was one of 14 big cats in a circus act who was being shipped back to Europe after having performed for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for several years. The tiger escaped from the truck carrying the cats as it passed through Atlanta and her escape went unnoticed by the transporters until they arrived at their destination in Tennessee.

Wild animals are not willing performers. Elephants have no desire to balance on their front legs, tigers don’t freely leap through fiery hoops and bears have no interest in riding bicycles. Through cruel training methods, the animals learn that they must perform on command or they will suffer the painful consequences.

An HSUS undercover investigation of a tiger act that performs for various Shrine circuses found that the eight tigers featured in the act were trained and handled through the violent use of whips and sticks, forced to perform tricks that could lead to physical ailments, left in cramped transport cages when not performing, and fed an inappropriate diet. The tigers exhibited classic signs of fear and behavioral stress. They squinted, flinched, flattened their ears back, sat with hunched shoulders, snarled, cowered, moaned in distress, and swatted at Ryan Easley, the trainer, or the abusive training tools he used.

The closing of Ringling Bros. showed that the marketplace has to a great extent ruled against animal acts, and it’s proper for public policy to follow suit. We applaud the states and localities that are respecting their constituents’ wishes and embracing a compassionate way forward. New Jersey’s bill was originally introduced in 2016 by now-retired New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak who was a tireless advocate for animal issues during his 40-year state legislative career. We are grateful to him and to the key sponsors of the bill this session, including Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez, and Assembly Members Raj Mukherji, Andrew Zwicker and Jamel Holley. We also thank Gov. Murphy for signing the bill into law today. And we thank you for supporting our long campaign to bring an end to the suffering and neglect that wild animals have for so long endured in circuses and other traveling shows.

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

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  1. Michele OBrien says:

    this is such welcome news and as a New Jersey resident it’s nice to see Governor Murphy FINALLY do something worthwhile.

  2. Elizabeth. Forrester says:

    These are wild animals not pets or not to play with.Their wild.
    They should be in a sanctuary ,so they can name their freedom.
    This is cruel.

  3. Lorraine Winson says:

    Fantastic news.

  4. GPC says:

    Kudos to the Governor and all advocates who helped accomplish this success.

  5. Maria martinez says:

    Thank you Jesus prayers answered, put them where they belong and let them be themselves thank God?

  6. Kayla says:

    This is great news ❤️❤️ very happy to hear this!

  7. Maria G Matus says:

    This is absolutely great news. Let’s hope that other states decide to do the same.

  8. Dorothy Sisk says:

    I personally would like to see the day in my lifetime, that all wild animals would be left in the wild! No circuses,no zoos, and especially no animals used for testing purposes!! No animals allowed to private owners.No animals used for fenced kills and trophies! No animals killed for horns,ivory or any other ridiculous sex enhancement or medicinal purpose! God created these animals for a free life in the wild as the natural order of things! Only man has abused these animals mercilessly and for what??? Greed!!!

  9. Jeffery Termini says:

    Awesome news NJ! The League of Humane Voters of NYS, of which I’m the Legislative Director, championed the passage of the Elephant Protection Act in 2017. Through extensive research over a period of years, Pace University grad students came to the conclusion that confining the world’s largest land mammal in small trailers and train cars is simply no life for these beautiful majestic animals. Nor is the physical abuse these poor creatures are forced to undergo to perform painful and unnatural acts. Nonhumans have their own lives to live. They don’t have to spend it entertaining us!

  10. Linda Mooney says:

    WOW, that is big !!Thank you for setting a New standard for circus across the U.S. Wild animals animals are finally getting the recognition not to be used as circus prefromers . Congratulations to New Jersey!

  11. Gail says:

    Yes let’s all thank governor Murphy lest we forget he lied to us about stopping the bear hunt! Governor Murphy promised he would stop the bear hunt, but instead he only banned it on state land. Guaranteed he does something going forward that will modify or stop this ban on ‘some’ circus animals.

  12. Phillip says:

    This will ultimately be the death of environmentalism and wildlife protection. Extremism always has unintended consequences. Today’s generation is already loosing interest in nature thanks to the distraction of technology. Appreciation of something long term requires contact.

  13. Patrick Battuello says:

    While this is indeed great news – moral progress defined – what about horseracing, HSUS? Thousands of horses are killed or die at US tracks every year; multiple thousands more – 15,000 Thoroughbreds alone – are brutally slaughtered once their so-called careers have come to an end. And yet, the HSUS is not only not philosophically opposed to racing, but is actively trying – through legislation – to help it. It is, in short, an unconscionable betrayal of exploited animals. And all, for lousy $2 bets. Learn the truth at

  14. Robin Vitulle - Save Nosey Now, Inc. says:

    The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has done tremendous work with Noseys Law. Working along side with Brian Hackett in New Jersey, I learned so much and was a wonderful experience. The involvement and dedication he has for the welfare of MANY species of animals is truly remarkable and we are lucky to have him fighting for them in our state of New Jersey!
    All of us at Save Nosey Now, Inc. are incredibly grateful to Senator Raymond Lesniak for naming this LAW after Nosey, who we have been advocating for several years. She was rescued and sent to a wonderful sanctuary where she now thrives…💗🐘💗.
    All of our hard work has paid off in New Jersey! We now continue our advocacy so that other elephants suffering in captivity all across America get to enjoy a life of Freedom and no more abuse and suffering, just like Nosey. ♥️
    We need legislators like those in New Jersey everywhere!
    Special thanks to;
    Senator Ray Lesniak
    Senator Nilsa Cruz Perez
    Assemblyman Raj Mukherji
    Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker
    Assemblyman Jamel Holley
    Governor Phil Murphy
    HSUS Brian Hackett
    ADI – Christina Scaringe
    Elephants DC – Jen Samuel
    Save Nosey Now, Inc. Admins –
    Michelle Weirich and Adrienne Possenti
    So much has been accomplished and so much more work to be done.
    We will NEVER STOP advocating for animal welfare.

  15. Anne Hastings says:

    Thank you all!!😊

  16. Frisbee says:


  17. Antje says:

    How Europe is so advanced this is already a long time,we don’t like this crulity to this beautiful animals

  18. Frances raia says:

    Thank you Governor Murphy……this is absolutely welcoming news …an all of the states throughout United States she do the same. These animals have endured enough pain an suffering

  19. Vivienne Parker says:

    Thank you, New Jersey! I have boycotted the circus my whole life because it was plain to see that the animals lived confined, miserable, unnatural lives. Who needs to see a tiger doing tricks anyway. The wildlife is oppressed…

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