Today on Capitol Hill, Rep Jim Moran (D-VA) introduced the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act to Congress, a bill to restrict the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.

The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (TEAPA) aims to end the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses, due to the unavoidable suffering caused by the very nature of the traveling show: small, mobile and temporary facilities, restriction of movement, barren environments and long, arduous journeys.

The restricted facilities, and the nature of the acts the animals are forced to perform, also increases the amount of handling and control required of wild animals leading to the physical abuse that has been caught on film in circuses around the world, including in the United States.

The Bill would see the United States join almost 30 diverse countries that have already passed similar legislation including Austria, Belgium, Greece, India, Bolivia, Colombia and Panama. Others, including Great Britain, Brazil and Mexico, are currently considering legislation – with the British Prime Minister recently that promising a ban would be passed in the next 12 months.

Representative Jim Moran (D-VA) said today, “From video and photographic evidence, it’s clear that traveling circuses aren’t providing the proper living conditions for exotic animals. This legislation is intended to target the most egregious situations involving exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses. The mounting evidence of inhumane treatment and the growing public concern for these animals demands that we reconsider what are appropriate living conditions for these intelligent, social creatures.”

Animal Defenders International (ADI) has been working with Congressman Moran and is supplying members of Congress with detailed technical briefings examining evidence of cruelty, the dangers posed by keeping wild animals in temporary housing, and the economics issues.

ADI President Jan Creamer, said: “Magnificent wild animals have no place in a traveling circus, and with this bill, the US joins almost 30 countries across the world that have taken action to end the suffering. Due to the very nature of the traveling circus, wild animals cannot move around or exercise naturally, they live their whole lives chained or tied up, or in small cages that fit on the back of a truck. Our investigations have also shown that violence to control animals is part of circus culture; animals are beaten, whipped and electric shocked to make them perform tricks. This brutality has no place in modern society.”

Supporters of the Bill include legendary TV host Bob Barker and CSI actress Jorja Fox.

ADI estimates that around 300 wild animals tour the US with circuses, and cites the following recent examples:

  • Brown bears caged for 90% of their time in small cages in the back of a trailer. Dressed in costumes, muzzled and forced to ride motorcycles, walk on their front paws and play basketball.
  • Elephants routinely chained by two legs for the majority of their time, barely able to take one step forward and one back. Elephants being controlled with bullhooks and stun guns.
  • In March, three circus elephants escaped for 45 minutes from a circus in Missouri and rampaged through the parking lot, damaging vehicles. One of the elephants, Viola, had previously escaped from another circus in 2010. Such public safety hazards are frequent in traveling circuses.
  • Monkeys living in tiny cages in the back of a camper; forced to wear costumes, collars and leashes and perform tricks.
  • Bengal tigers and African lions spending approximately 22 hours a day in cages on the backs of trucks that allow on a few paces to exercise.

In the US, over 40 local ordinances have been passed in 20 states but ADI argue that it is vital the issue is addressed federally, because a circus may train animals in one state but move them between a dozen or more states during the year.

Philanthropist and legendary TV host of The Price Is Right Bob Barker said: “Americans are becoming increasingly aware that circus animals suffer from violent training techniques and severe confinement. Big, wild animals should not be part of the traveling circus and simply put, animal acts in circuses are antiquated and belong in the past, in a time when humans were ignorant about the needs of the other species who share our planet.”

CSI actress Jorja Fox, known to 73 million viewers as CSI’s Sara Sidle, said: “Congress has a responsibility to protect the welfare of animals and ensure public safety. A prohibition on the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses is proportionate, responsible, the least expensive solution to this problem, and long overdue. We call on Congress to bring to an end, once and for all, the abuse and suffering that has been exposed by ADI time and time again.”

ADI also cite the growing popularity of shows with human performers like Cirque de Soliel, as an example of how circuses can adapt and eliminate wild animal acts and at the same time become more relevant to modern audiences.

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