Wild or Exotic Animals in Entertainment, Recreation and Competition


The Regina Humane Society (RHS) is opposed to the participation of wild or exotic animals in appearances for public entertainment, recreation or competition whether taken from the wild or captive bred, and is opposed to taking animals from the wild for this purpose.

The RHS is opposed to the exhibition and display of large marine mammals in commercial venues or theme parks, and is opposed to taking animals from the wild for this purpose.

The RHS strongly opposes the further capture and captive breeding of wild or exotic animals for entertainment and is opposed to the permanent confinement of wild and exotic animals unless the Five Freedoms can be met in the captive environment. While individuals and organizations should ultimately phase out collections of these animals, in the interim, they must strive to meet the Five Freedoms at all life stages, both on and off exhibit, by employing management practices and species-specific enclosures that meet the physiological, emotional and behavioral needs of the animals.

Circumstances where non-domestic animals are currently used for entertainment, recreation and competition include, but are not limited to; zoos and aquariums, animal shows, fairs and exhibitions, animals used in film, movies and television, circuses and travelling shows, etc.


The RHS does not believe that the capture and/or confinement of wild or exotic animals can sufficiently address all aspects of the animal’s Five Freedoms. It is not possible to meet the complex physical, behavioral and social needs of wild, exotic or marine mammals in captivity. Natural habitat is difficult to simulate, both in size and comparison. Wild or exotic animals maintained in a travelling environment for entertainment purposes (i.e. circuses, travelling menageries) will also be deprived of the Five Freedoms.

Capture and transport of wild animals can cause stress, injury or death. Capture also disrupts the natural family/social units formed in the wild. Captive facilities, with logistical constraints, commercial considerations and space limitations, cannot provide adequate conditions that allow these natural social structures to form. Animals that survive capture and transport are often unable to acclimate to captivity.

Wild or exotic animals in many venues are not bred to propagate the species for return to their native habitat, but rather to provide a steady supply of animals for performances. The development of stereotypies (e.g. pacing) is commonly seen in captive environments. This can occur due to close confinement, lack of exercise and other physical requirements, inability to express natural behaviors, and/or lack of appropriate socialization and mental stimulation. Existing evidence suggests, for instance, that the welfare of captive animals with large home ranges (e.g., bears, felids, elephants) and high cognitive abilities (e.g., great apes, cetaceans) is severely compromised (BCSPCA).

The RHS believes there is no educational value in seeing wild or exotic animals perform unnatural or dangerous behaviors and from a human safety perspective, wild animals are never entirely predictable or completely under control. Large wild animals also cannot be trained without using inhumane training methods.

The RHS supports appropriate legislation to ensure greater protection for wild, exotic and marine mammals in their natural habitat. The RHS supports and encourages public education providing these efforts do not involve removing animals from or disturbing their natural environment or family groups.

Zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries, rehabilitation centers or animal reserves may be considered humane if they directly support rehabilitation efforts, scientific research, technological developments and educational efforts, and contribute to field conservation efforts that ultimately preserve wild animals in their native habitats. These organizations may rehabilitate and release, provide sanctuary for those who would not survive release, breed and reintroduce endangered animals into native environments under government sanctioned conservation or environmental protection oversight and/or conduct humane scientific animal research. Entities such as these typically provide community education outreach programs to help support their conservation and animal welfare efforts.

These facilities (if doing so) must participate in tightly controlled breeding programs and take responsibility for all animals and offspring, even when no longer under direct care. Excess young should not be permitted except to maintain appropriate gender balances and social groupings. No “surplus” animals may be sent to “canned hunts” auctions, medical research facilities, or private individuals. These facilities must be strictly managed with no hands-on human interactions, safe and hygienic facilities, natural and large enclosures with appropriate opportunities to exhibit natural behaviors as well as transparency to the public regarding practices and statistics.


Domesticated Animal: an animal, as the horse or cat, that has been tamed and kept by humans as a work animal, food source, or pet, especially a member of those species that have, through selective breeding, become notably different from their wild ancestors (Dictionary.com).

Wild Animal: an animal, such as the tiger or bear, which has not been domesticated. Wild animals may be exotic or indigenous, wild-born or captive-bred.

Exotic Animal: Species that are non-domesticated, non-indigenous wild animals, whether wild born or captive bred.

Distress: As defined by Saskatchewan animal welfare laws.

Five Freedoms: a core concept in animal welfare that originated in a UK government report in 1965 and was then refined by the Farm Animal Welfare Council. The Five Freedoms are considered applicable to all animals. It states that an animal’s primary welfare needs can be met by safeguarding the following five freedoms:

  1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor.
  2. Freedom from Discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
  4. Freedom to Express Normal Behavior – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
  5. Freedom from Fear and Distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

References and Resources:
  1. Nevill CH, Friend T.H. A preliminary study on the effects of limited access to an exercise pen on stereotypic pacing in circus tigers. Appl Anim Behav Sci 2006;101:355-361
  2. Nevill CH, Friend TH. The behaviour of circus tigers during transport. Appl Anim Behav Sci 2003;82:329-337.
  3. Price EE, Stoinski TS. Group size: Determinants in the wild and implications for the captive housing of wild mammals in zoos. Appl Anim Behav Sci 2007;103:255-264.
  4. Hutchins M, Smith B, Allard R. In defense of zoos and aquariums: the ethical basis for keeping wild animals in captivity. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:958-966.
  5. Wielebnowski N. Stress and distress: Evaluating their impact for the well-being of zoo animals. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:973-977.
  6. Moberg GP. Biological response to stress: Implication for animal welfare. In: Moberg, GP, Mench JA, eds. The Biology of Animal Stress. New York, New York: CABI 2000:1-21.
  7. Honess PE, Marin C, Brown AP, Wolfensohn SE. Assessment of stress in non-human primates: Application of the neutrophil activation test. Anim Welfare 2005;14:291-296.
  8. Literature Review on the Welfare Implications of Elephant Training. 2008. https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/LiteratureReviews/Documents/elephant_training_bgnd.pdf
  9. Elzanowski A, Sergeil A. Stereotypic behavior of a female Asiatic elephant (Elephas maximus) in a zoo. J Appl Anim Welf. 2006;9:223-232.
  10. http://www.aspca.org/about-us/aspca-policy-and-position-statements/circuses-and-traveling-shows
  11. https://www.cfhs.ca/position_statements
  12. http://www.humanesociety.org/about/policy_statements/statement_animals_research_entertainment_competition.html?credit=web_id94248401#_Wild_Animals_in_Performing_Acts
  13. http://www.calgaryhumane.ca/app/uploads/2014/07/CHS-Animal-Welfare-Position-Statements-April-2016.pdf
  14. https://www.edmontonhumanesociety.com/sites/default/files/pdf-uploads/animal_welfare_position_statements_-_final_2016.pdf
  15. http://spca.bc.ca/programs-services/leaders-in-our-field/position-statements/position-statement-animals-recreation-sport-entertainment/