VIDEO: CA Senate Lawmakers Approve Bill to Ban Use of Animals in Circus Acts

Ameera Butt
May 21, 2019 - 3:11 pm

(KNX 1070) - Seeing circus animals could be no more.

State lawmakers have taken a big step towards imposing a ban on the use of animals in circus acts.

A measure from San Diego County Democratic lawmaker Ben Hueso was passed unanimously in the California Senate. 

Senate Bill 313 states the bill "would prohibit a person from sponsoring, conducting, operating, or participating in a circus, as defined, in this state that uses any animal other than a domestic dog, domestic cat, or horse. The bill would authorize the Department of Fish and Wildlife to assess a civil penalty against a person who violates this prohibition of no more than $25,000 for each day the person is in violation of the prohibition."

The bill states "the term “circus” means a performance before a live audience in which entertainment consisting of a variety of acts such as acrobats, aerialists, clowns, jugglers, or stunts is the primary attraction or principal business."

"We have more species in California than any other state in the country. There is no need here or anywhere to support traveling animal acts that take these precious animals out of their natural habitat," Hueso said.

Hueso amended the bill to change language, which would have extended the ban to animal sanctuaries and rodeos.

Rachel Matthews, Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), joined KNX In-Depth Tuesday afternoon and says circuses that use wild animals teach kids all the wrong lessons. She said they teach kids it's okay to take animals away from their families and homes and abuse them for so-called entertainment." 

She said circuses in California have been ahead of the game.

"There are currently, as far as we know, there are no circuses that are still using animals covered by the law," Matthews said. "The circuses that come into California really do have a choice: they can stop using animals or go out of business. If they stop using animals, which they need to do, we hope they will be retired to reputable sanctuaries."

"The circus industry has been, as far as I've seen, pretty darn silent about the Circus Cruelty Prevention Act, and that's probably because circuses based in California have already evolved to meet the public's demand for entertainment that doesn't involve lifetime abuse for animals," she said.

She says "there are a maybe about dozen circuses around the country that still use wild animals and a few more that still also use domestic animals but there is a huge number of circuses that perform without wild animals or any animals at all, and they focus on human performers who are free to go home at the end of the day and retire whenever they like." 

Hueso said it's an overdue measure because animals are exposed to cruel treatment. 

A few years ago, Ringling Brothers aka "The Greatest Show on Earth" closed its tent doors after lengthy legal battles with animal rights activists over the use of elephants.

The legislation now moves on to the State Assembly.

Forty-five countries around the world have banned the use of wild animals.