Animal Law

Animals and the Law: New York’s “Traveling Wild and Exotic Animal Protection Act”

Elephants at a Ringbling Bros. Circus, 2008.  © Hassan Abdel-Rahman/Creative Commons

Elephants at a Ringbling Bros. Circus, 2008.
© Hassan Abdel-Rahman/Creative Commons (

A proposed bill (Assembly A5407/Senate S5971) in New York State would restrict the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses and shows. It would add a new section to the New York Agriculture and Markets Law to restrict any “traveling circuses or show” from allowing the “participation of an exotic or wild animal, including a non-human primate, in an animal act if during the thirty day period preceding such participation, such animal was traveling in a mobile housing facility.”

“Exotic or wild animal” is defined here as to include: non-human primates, tigers, lions, wolves, bears, elephants, giraffes, camels, zebras, and certain other enumerated non-domesticated animals. This law would not include domesticated animals (dogs, cats, sheep, swine, cattle, horses, donkeys, mules, and goats).
Video by Pace University’s Environmental Policy Clinic. You can read the Clinic’s post about the circus law here.

Existing laws, such as the Animal Welfare Act (the federal statute governing care, treatment, etc, for certain warm-blooded animals used in research, exhibition, and commerce) and Article 26 of the N.Y. Agriculture and Markets Law (where state laws concerning animals are kept) do not effectively protect animals who perform in shows at circuses. The AWA sets the minimum standards of care, and even the USDA has admitted that there is limitations in enforcing the AWA.

I assisted on the N.Y.C. Bar Association’s report on the bill, and the following summarizes our justifications for supporting the bill:

To learn more about the physical coercion and abuse that can be involved in the training of animals (specifically elephants) for circus acts, please read this Mother Jones article, The Cruelest Show on Earth.

If you agree with me that we need this law in New York to help protect animals, please sign this petition on Show your support — especially if you are a New Yorker!


Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s circus show. Photo used under the Creative Commons License.

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