Charlotte, New York City, and Others Ban Wild-Animal Acts in Circuses

Another win for animals! In a surprising move and after many pleas from North Carolina residents, the Charlotte City Council voted down a bullhook ban and instead banned wild-animal acts altogether. This victory follows years of public advocacy and vigorous grassroots action—which PETA assisted by alerting locals to take action and providing comments arguing in favor of a ban on animal acts.

Kristen Moyer, who helped champion this local grassroots effort, says, “I think the key to our success was our unwillingness to give up, our public outcry, and our insistence that the council vote on the language we had asked for.” When faced with opposition, she noted, “[W]e knew we were doing the right thing, and that we had to be a voice for the animals.”

Despite pushback from UniverSoul Circus—which promoted an alternative that would have allowed it to continue with its animal-exploiting business as usual—local animal rights activists prevailed and proved that cruel animal circuses are on their way out. Keep reading to see a more comprehensive list of localities that have passed restrictions or bans on the use of animals in circuses.

Update: May 17, 2021

Victory for animals! PETA has learned that the governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, has signed the Traveling Animal Protection Act (SB 21-135) into law. This bill, which bans the use of elephants, big cats, bears, and other animals in circuses and other traveling shows in the state, will take effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns later this year. This bill should also end dangerous animal exhibits at the Colorado Renaissance Festival, including elephant and camel rides and exotic-cat shows.

To help secure this important legislative win in Colorado, PETA supplied detailed information on traveling animal exhibitors in the state to the animal-friendly advocacy group Colorado Voters for Animals, the determined local force behind this bill’s success. We also asked our supporters in Colorado to contact their legislators in support of its passage, and our years of protesting, action alerts, and law-enforcement efforts paved the way for this momentous day for animals exploited for entertainment.

animals in circuses

The following towns, cities, states, and countries represent just some of the places that have passed restrictions or bans on the use of certain wild animals in circuses or traveling shows.

These U.S. cities and counties have existing bans or restrictions on animal circuses and traveling wild-animal acts:

These U.S. states have statewide bans on certain animal acts in circuses:

  • California—Bans the use of all animals in circuses except domesticated dogs, cats, and horses
  • Hawaii—Bans the importation of wild or exotic animals for circuses
  • Illinois—Bans the use of elephants in traveling acts
  • New Jersey—With the passage of Nosey’s Law, became the first state to ban wild- or exotic-animal acts
  • New York—Bans the use of elephants in traveling acts

These countries have restrictions or bans on animals in circuses and traveling shows:

Fight Speciesism: Stay Far Away From Animal Acts, Attractions, or Encounters at Circuses and Traveling Shows

Animals are unwilling participants in circus acts and traveling shows. Denied every opportunity to engage in natural behavior vital to their mental and physical well-being, they’re forced to perform confusing and often painful tricks under the threat of punishment. If an event features dangerous hands-on encounters between humans and wild animals, don’t buy a ticket. Support performances and venues that rely solely on the talents of willing human performers, and encourage your friends and family members to do the same.

Want to do more for animals?

Take Action for Elephants Used for Rides

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind