Stop Circus Suffering

Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (TEAPA)

Grassroots push for federal legislation

We are lifting the tent flap to expose the horrible and cruel secret hiding under the big top of American traveling circuses.

Our Break The Chain network of local campaigners are out in the media to challenge animal circuses everywhere. But that is not all – we can lobby in our districts for the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (H.R. 3359).

Country after country is ending this suffering – in this issue alone you’ll see Greece, Paraguay and Ecuador have now banned and Great Britain and Colombia have moved closer.
It must be time for America!

November 2nd, 2011 marked the beginning of the end for exotic animals in circuses in the U.S.A. That was the day Representative Jim Moran unveiled the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (TEAPA) at a packed Congressional press conference attended by award-winning TV host Bob Barker, CSI actress Jorja Fox, ADI and PAWS.

Fast forward five months, and the list of cosponsors continues to grow; Break The Chain (BTC) campaigners are out in their districts, publicizing the suffering when the circus comes to town and lobbying their representatives to support TEAPA.

Thanks to our BTC campaigners, we now have 23 co-sponsors on the bill including Representatives Bob Filner (D-CA), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Barbara Lee (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Jared Polis (D-CO), Nick Rahall (D-WV), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Fortney Stark (D-CA), Christopher Van Hollen (D-MD), Sam Farr (D-CA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), William Owens (D-NY), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), William Keating, (D-MA), Dale Kildee, (D-MI) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA).

ADI had a fantastic TEAPA Week of Action of outreach to Congress in March. We were joined by PAWS, PETA, In Defense of Animals and dozens of grassroots organizations mobilizing supporters to contact their Representatives about the bill. Stay tuned for more of these outreach events coming up!

Roll Call, ‘the newspaper of Capitol Hill’ recently ran a story about the Ringling Bros Circus going to Washington DC and the accompanying protests. The article mentioned TEAPA and quoted ADI: “keeping elephants in chains, confining wild animals like lions and tigers in small cages and using physical violence to make them perform unnatural tricks for the sole purpose of human amusement is increasingly difficult to justify.”

Media awareness of the issue is growing. Hats off to Jay Kirk for his brilliant editorial in the Los Angeles Times, “End the circus of cruelty” where he championed TEAPA and traced abuse in U.S. circuses back to 1882, when P.T. Barnum crated and shipped Jumbo overseas to New York City. Kirk detailed how the tradition of abusive training hasn’t changed in as many years and highlighted ADI investigations.

Even more significant was Dan Murphy’s opinion piece “Three ring sideshow” in Drovers Cattle Network, an agribusiness journal, which discussed TEAPA. Murphy concluded, “Given the exemptions provided and given the reality that opposition to this bill would be all too easy to characterize as irresponsible, the industry’s best course might be quiet support.” A clear indication that the growing consensus, worldwide, that the abuse of wild animals in the name of entertainment is unacceptable, has a very broad base.

The evidence

The success of the ADI global circus campaign is based on evidence. The reason we send you desperate pleas to keep our field officers out there gathering the evidence, is because ultimately that’s what changes laws and saves lives. This is backed up with intense, painstaking research in the scientific journals and other sources.

Every section of TEAPA is referenced with full copies of these sources provided on our website –

The empirical and scientific evidence is outlined in our special briefings for legislators, both federal and local.

YOU CAN HELP – take our federal circus bill pack to your Member of Congress in their district office. Ask to talk to them about it (we can help).

YOU CAN HELP – help ADI to campaign for a local ordinance where you live – we can visit your local representatives with you, and give them our local briefings. Local bans save animals, and are an important part of the drive for federal legislation.

Animal Welfare in Traveling Circuses

Animal welfare is not only assessed by basic needs of food, water, shelter, and freedom from fear and distress, but also by an animal’s ability to have some control over its environment, to express natural behavior and exercise its body and mind. ADI’s observations of traveling circuses show that most if not all of these welfare needs are restricted. Large cats such as lions and tigers spend between 75-99% of their time in cages on the backs of vehicles in severely restricted space. Elephants spend 58-98% of their time chained by at least one leg, and more commonly both a front and a hind leg, only able to take one step forward or back. The mobile nature of the traveling circus means that husbandry cannot be significantly improved.

Captivity and Transport

Constant travel and confinement cause stress. Studies have shown that during transport, animals suffer increased heart rate, raised hormone levels, lowered immunity to disease, weight loss, aggression and stereotypic behaviors. We have found no evidence that familiarity with transport can necessarily ease stress; in fact some experts think the opposite may be true.

Because the animal facilities have to be taken down and put back up in every town, time spent in vehicles by animals often far exceeds the actual trip. For example, ADI investigators tracked elephants in a trailer for 19½ hours for a 5-hour journey.

Animal Control and Violence

Living in temporary facilities, meeting show deadlines and forcing animals to perform requires a very high level of control. Many of these animals are large and dangerous, and workers can become anxious, especially when the animals are in public. These are the flashpoints, when the animals must be in the ring, get on trailers, or get ready for rides, to a schedule. Often, poorly paid circus workers who lack expertise about animals resort to screaming, punching and beating them.

Pictured: Jan Creamer, Matt Rossell, Jorja Fox, Tim Phillips and Dave Wenhold hit the lobbying trail at Congress.

During training sessions we have seen lions, tigers and elephants brutalized and subjugated with beatings, food deprivation, social isolation and even electric shocks. In public the mere presence of a bullhook, or even a similar looking stick, is a reminder for an elephant of what to expect if it doesn’t obey.

Public Health and Safety

Traveling circuses pose a serious threat to public safety. Keeping wild animals closely confined, stressed and in dangerously close proximity to the public in lightweight, temporary enclosures has proven disastrous. Circus workers, and members of the public, including children, have been killed and maimed by circus animals, and lions, tigers and elephants have all escaped.

Diseased animals pose a public health risk at traveling circuses. An estimated twelve percent of Asian elephants and two percent of African elephants in North America are infected with tuberculosis (TB), a contagious disease that can be passed from elephants to humans. Documented cases have confirmed transmission of TB from elephants to humans.


The transient nature of traveling circuses, where both animals and their handlers regularly change, combined with continuous travel across the country, makes law enforcement difficult to impossible. Local animal control officers are frequently faced with attempting to protect the welfare of species with which they are unfamiliar. Even husbandry changes from week to week depending on the site.

Gathering evidence of compliance with local restrictions can be difficult and often a circus has moved on before action can be taken. Costly oversight arrangements cannot prevent accidents and physical abuse, nor protect wild animals traveling for months in small, temporary facilities.

Economics and jobs

Every country that is ending the use of animals in traveling circuses is faced with the same issue: whether a restriction on animal use will put people out of work. Many of these countries face enormous economic and employment challenges. Yet they are realizing that as well as being the right thing to do, banning traveling wild animal acts makes economic sense, too. Circuses with just human performers grow as animal circuses decline.

TEAPA is a reforming measure. As Congressman Moran noted at the launch, it addresses the most egregious aspects of the industry. It doesn’t stop circuses, it will not even stop all animal acts (horses, dogs and other domestic species will still be allowed) but it will end and enormous amount of suffering and address a range of health and safety issues.

Worldwide, animal circuses are in decline whereas human shows continue to grow.

Cirque du Soleil has grown from one show in 1990 to 19 shows performing now in 271 cities generating an estimated annual revenue exceeding $810 million.

In sharp contrast Piccadilly Circus, which still uses wild animals, recently canceled shows across Southern California due to poor ticket sales.

No circuses are solely reliant on wild animals, which normally represent less than 50% of the showtime.

Furthermore, research into working practices shows that most circus workers have multiple roles, and staff can be retrained as the circus moves away from exotic animal acts. Circus Vargas removed their animal acts and the business continues, as it can for any traveling circus that wants to keep pace with their patrons’ growing preference for cruelty free entertainment.

Next steps

The bill is now in the House Agriculture Livestock Dairy and Poultry subcommittee, awaiting a hearing.

Pictured: Tiger at Shrine Circus.

Help – speak to your Member of Congress at their district office; give them a BTC briefing pack; ask them to cosponsor.

Help – even if you have already contacted your Representative, please keep the friendly dialogue going and take every opportunity to reach out. Update them. Let us know when you get a response, so we can track national progress.

Help – let us know when a circus is coming to your town; we can help with demos and publicity.

Help – us to propose a local ordinance about wild animals in traveling circuses in your area. Contact us.

Share information about this bill with friends and family, and urge them to contact their Member of Congress as well.

Join our BTC network, be inspired by others!

What you can do:

Contact your Member of Congress today – ask for their support for TEAPA (HR 3359). See the details and talking points on our grassroots

Sign up for Break the Chain alerts – contact our Los Angeles office at 323-935-2234 or

Get Break the Chain text alerts – text the word CHAIN to 55678. (Standard text message rates apply).

Hand out our Break the Chain leaflets, in school, work, college, to neighbors – never be without something you can hand out!

Get our Congressional Briefing pack – have the answers at your fingertips; ensure your representative has what they need to support HR 3359.

Get our Local Circus Ordinance Pack – work with us to get a local ordinance on wild animals in traveling circuses – help to break the chain of circus suffering!

Get in touch with our Los Angeles office today–

Click here to donate now and help us campaign against the use of animals in entertainment.

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