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Fact Sheet:

Tigers Suffer in Circuses and Traveling Acts

Tigers continue to be exploited for entertainment in circuses and traveling big cat acts, including those that appear at county fairs and other events. They are subjected to intensive confinement, constant travel, cruel training, and deprived of anything natural to them. As a result, tigers suffer terribly.

Intensive confinement and travel

Shows with tiger acts travel hundreds to thousands of miles each year, confining the animals in cages so small they can barely stand and turn around. At venue sites, tigers are mainly confined in small cages; time spent in “larger” performance cages is brief.

FACT: Tigers are the world’s largest cat. A small home range for wild tigers is 6-8 square miles – the largest is over 500 square miles. Depending on species, they can roam 4-12 miles a day.

Violent training methods

Captive tigers don’t perform because they choose to. Handlers use fear, force, and punishment to control tigers and ensure they perform consistently and on cue. They may whip, strike, prod, or use an electric shock device to force a tiger to comply with commands. The public never sees this aspect of the animals’ lives, which exhibitors keep well hidden.


Sterile, unnatural conditions

Tigers in traveling shows are biologically the same as their wild relatives – yet they are deprived of everything natural to them. Cages and holding areas are barren, preventing any opportunity to engage in natural behaviors. Social needs often are ignored, resulting in tiger injuries and deaths.


FACT: Tigers are found in a variety of rich and complex habitats, including temperate, tropical, or evergreen forests; mangrove swamps; and grasslands. They are primarily solitary animals.


Poor health and welfare

Tigers may endure foot problems and become obese due to confinement in cramped cages. The additional stress of travel, abusive handling, noise, and the presence of spectators also threatens their health and welfare. Tigers are known to develop health problems, such as gastroenteritis, as a result of ongoing exposure to loud sounds.


Abnormal behaviors

Tigers in traveling shows frequently display abnormal repetitive behaviors, such as pacing back and forth, which are a sign of poor welfare. These behaviors result from the stress of coping with an unnatural and impoverished environment.


FACT: In the wild, tigers do not display abnormal repetitive behaviors.  


The truth about white tigers

All white tigers are the result of inbreeding (the pairing of closely related animals), which is associated with serious and lifelong health and welfare problems. Exhibitors often claim to be conserving white tigers, however, there is no such thing as a white tiger population in the wild. White tigers are a novelty with absolutely no conservation value.

Captive tigers are not domesticated

The tigers you see in traveling acts are not domesticated – they remain wild animals. Even if born in captivity they retain their predatory instincts and reflexes. No amount of training, affection, or discipline can make these dangerous predators safe for human contact. Tigers have attacked, injured, and killed even the most experienced circus trainers.

FACT: Wild tigers are highly efficient and deadly predators who play an important role in maintaining ecological balance by hunting prey species.

Lack of protection

Animal exhibitors must be licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which enforces the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). However, this is not evidence of compliance with the AWA or that the animals are receiving adequate care. The AWA has very minimal requirements, allowing exhibitors to subject animals to inhumane conditions and treatment and still be in compliance with the law.

Public safety risk

Traveling shows rely on temporary caging and they frequently move tigers between holding cages and performance areas, creating a recipe for disaster. Tigers have escaped their cages, threatening members of the public, and animal handlers have been maimed and killed. Children and adults have been traumatized after witnessing tigers attack their trainers.

No education or conservation value

Tiger acts distort the public’s understanding of these animals – who are broken, dominated and forced to perform – and their imperiled status in the wild. Seeing tigers in an entertainment context actually harms conservation efforts, giving the impression that tigers are plentiful enough to be exploited for frivolous tricks when in fact they are in serious danger of extinction.

FACT: Tigers are globally listed as endangered. Fewer than 5,000 tigers remain in the wild today. The greatest threats to tigers are poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation, lack of prey, and human-wildlife conflict.

You can stand up for captive tigers!

  • Never attend a circus with tigers or other wild animals.
  • Avoid tiger acts at fairs and other events.
  • When a circus or tiger act comes to your city: (1) Write a letter to the editor of your local paper opposing the event; (2) Post your opposition on social media, including the event’s social media pages; (3) Contact event organizers and let them know you oppose the show and why. Ask them to leave out tiger and other wild animals acts in the future.
  • Share what you’ve learned about tigers exploited for entertainment.
  • Support tiger conservation in the countries where tigers live. 
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