What rights do performing animals have?

“With a circus in town again, I cannot but wonder whether there is any protection for the animals that have to perform in the circus. I’m not saying they are being mistreated, but surely their treatment cannot be left only to the discretion of the circus owners?”

A circus is a show that often features live animal performances. Our legislature has long recognised that these animals need protection and already in 1935 promulgated the Protection of Performing Animals Act (“PAPA”) to regulate the exhibition and training of performing animals. At the beginning of this year amendments to PAPA were published which seeks to amend sections 2 and 3 of PAPA which were declared constitutionally invalid as they allowed Magistrates to consider and issue licenses under PAPA. The amendment act has however not yet commenced in order to provide Government the opportunity to establish a national licencing authority that will issue licences for the exhibition or training of animals.

In terms of PAPA, any person involved in the exhibition or training of animals (such as a circus owner) must obtain a valid license in terms of PAPA to do so. To obtain such a licence, very specific guidelines for the treatment of animals must be followed and the licence will only be issued if these guidelines are complied with and the applicant is deemed fit and proper to obtain such a license. 

The premises where the performing animals are kept may also be inspected for compliance with the terms and conditions of the licence. Any non-compliance or failure to possess a licence may result in an offence leading to a fine or imprisonment for up to 12 months.

As with all things, the protection measures are there, but it is also the responsibility of the public to be wary of any abuse and report such to the authorities who can take the necessary measures to ensure protection of vulnerable animals that cannot do so for themselves.

March 8, 2017
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