Circuses performing in California will no longer be able to use elephants, lions, monkeys and other wild animals after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Saturday calling some of the practices “deeply disturbing.”
“We are making a statement to the world that beautiful wild animals like bears and tigers have no place on trapeze wires or jumping through flames,” he said in a statement Saturday. “Just YouTube the videos showing the cruel way these animals – often stripped from their mothers as babies – are trained to do dangerous tricks.”
California joins New Jersey and Hawaii as the only states with similar bans. Also Saturday, in another bill signed by Newsom, California became the first state to ban the sale and manufacture of new fur products.
The circus-animal ban doesn’t affect rodeos or such horse-centered circuses as Cavalia.
Only a few small tent circuses with big animals, including Culpepper & Merriweather from Oklahoma, performed in California last year, so the effect of the ban is minimal, people in the wild animal industry say.
“Basically, it’s a non issue because there were only three circuses that traveled with exotic animals into California last year and they are no longer coming to California,” because of high permit fees and other onerous restrictions, Cindi Cavallini, a former elephant circus trainer who co-manages a Texas-based, acrobat-centered circus called Cirque MonteCarlo, said Saturday.
Circuses have been declining in popularity for decades. The most well-known act, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, closed in 2017 after 146 years of performances.
The bill, SB313 sponsored by Democratic Sen. Ben Hueso from San Diego, had originally included a much wider group, including wildlife outreach organizations that were already accredited by the state’s Fish and Wildlife Department.
“It was all-encompassing and would have wiped out nature centers and other private facilities” that weren’t accredited by the American Zoological Association, said Jackie Navarro, executive director of Wild Wonders, a wildlife education center in San Diego.
The revised bill, she said, “is not an exotic animal ban. It is a circus ban and it will still allow 300-plus organizations in California to continue doing outreach programs with exotic animals.”
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