Hawaii Moves To Ban Wild Performing Animals

Hawaii likely will become the first U.S. country to ban the use of elephants, bears and other exotic wild animals for amusement purposes.

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a proposed rules change that would define “dangerous wild animals” and prohibit the import of such animals “for exhibition or performance in public entertainment reveals such as circuses, carnivals and state fairs.” The regulations make exceptions for commercial filming in television or movies and in government zoos.

Animals listed in the proposal include big cat, primates, elephants, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, bears, hyenas and crocodiles.

The move comes simply three days after “Tyke Elephant Outlaw, ” a documentary about a circus elephant that went on a deadly rampage in Honolulu two decades ago, attained its Hawaii premiere.

Tyke, a 20-year-old female African circus elephant, escaped from the Neal Blaisdell Center after trampling a groomer and killing her trainer during a performance with Honolulu’s Circus International on Aug. 20, 1994. She charged down Honolulu streets before being gunned down by police.

“You could see blood and bullet pits, ” Tyler Ralston, a witness, recalled in an interview with The Huffington Post.

In October 2014, the Humane Society of the United States and several other organizations petitioned the country agriculture department to add dangerous wild animals to its list of proscribed species.

Inga Gibson, Hawaii senior country director for the Humane Society, told HuffPost the issue is not only one of animal welfare, but also public health and safety. And in Hawaii — a nation well known for its spirit of aloha and values of respect for the environment — the ban is a “long time coming, ” she said.

“We’re hoping of course that Hawaii will define two examples for other the countries to take the next step, ” Gibson said.

Several countries and 50 municipalities in 22 U.S. countries have implemented partial or full outlaws on circus animals. No U.S. nation, however, has taken any steps, in agreement with the Humane Society.

“We have a golden opportunity to lead the way, ” said Ralston, who worked with the petitioning groups.

With Tuesday’s preliminary acceptance, the issue heads to statewide public hearings. Agriculture department spokeswoman Janelle Saneishi told HuffPost in an email that the proposed rules must still be reviewed by the Hawaii Attorney General’s office and approved by Hawaii Gov. David Ige.

Ige backed the idea earlier this year, when he pledged to stop issuing permits for wild animal exhibits or performances. Gibson said she expects the new rules to go into effect as soon as early in 2016.

Not amazingly, project proposals is generating opposition from fair and circus advocates. As the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday, the Circus Fan Association submitted written testimony in which it characterized proponents of the measure as “animal rights extremists” who wrongly claim that the animals are mistreated.

Warning: The video below is extremely graphic and depicts footage from Tyke’s deadly rampage and public demise .

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