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Circuses are NO Fun for Animals!


Circus animals live in small cages-4 feet by 5 feet by 6 feet. Barely able to move, they are forced to eat, sleep, urinate, and defecate in the same small space.

Because circuses depend on travel, the animals are routinely kept in these cages, traveling thousands of miles, for upwards of 50 weeks a year.

Animals perform out of fear. Standard training methods include burning bears' front paws in order to get them to dance on their back legs and muzzling and chaining bears and big cats in order to break their spirits. Sometimes, animals' teeth are removed in order to make them more 'trainable,' further contributing to confined animals' helplessness. Animals are often intentionally kept unhealthy and miserable; a trainer with Royal Hanneford Circus admitted to the USDA that he keeps chimps in solitary confinement so they will be more 'motivated' to perform when let out.

Training tools include bull hooks, metal pipes, hotshots, and whips, jagged wooden sticks, electric shock collars, as well as fists, elbows, and knees. Because these are wild animals, they will never be completely predictable when performing these unnatural stunts, so trainers use brute force to maintain a position of dominance through fear. An undercover video of Carson & Barnes circus showed trainers attacking elephants with electric prods and bull hooks until they screamed; trainers are instructed to sink the pointed hook into the elephant's flesh until they scream in pain, but to conceal the beatings from the public.

Repetitive and often destructive behaviors such as obsessive swaying, bobbing, chewing, sucking, weaving, rocking, and licking are common in circus animals, and are manifestations of their extreme stress and boredom.

Arthritis and other joint problems are very common in circus animals, caused by their forced immobility. Stress-based ailments such as ulcers also plague circus animals.


Abusive training techniques, lack of socialization and other stimuli, and constant confinement often causes animals to become so stressed that they become dangerous, lashing out at trainers and spectators. Deaths and injuries from such incidents are not uncommon. Since 1990, elephants alone have killed 65 people and injured over 130 more. Other animals have also been responsible for injury and death (and the animals are usually shot or otherwise killed after they attack). The statistics since 1990: captive big cats (51 human deaths, 170 injuries, 82 cats killed because of the attacks), bears (14 human deaths, 8 of which were children, 40 injuries, and 26 bears), and primates (2 human deaths, 140 injuries, and the killing of 450 offending primates). Click here for more information on Circuses & Public Safety.

Animals are leased seasonally by circuses, constantly being transported and 'broken in' by new trainers, perpetuating the cycle of fear and violence even further. Many circuses do not provide routine veterinary care, and animals that are too old or disobedient to be useful to the circuses are permanently relegated to cages, sold to zoos, roadside attractions, game farms to be hunted for their meat, research laboratories, or private individuals, often continuing their abuse.

The Animal Welfare Act provides legal protection for circus animals, but these standards are minimal and rarely enforced. It does not prohibit any kind of training method, including the use of whips, bull hooks, electric prods, or other devices that cause suffering. The Animal Welfare Act mandates that animals have enough room to stand up and turn around, but violations of even this basic standard are commonplace. In a two-year period, Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus was cited for 65 violations of the AWA.

City Won’t Rent Space in Center to Circus, Albuquerque Journal, July 25, 2003
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Animal Protection of New Mexico, Inc. (APNM)
P.O. Box 11395, Albuquerque, NM 87192
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