Board approves wild animal show ban

E.K. Fernandez has brought tigers, lions and other wild animals to state

HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii panel has approved amended rules prohibiting “dangerous, wild animals” from entering the state for performances, carnivals or circuses.

The Hawaii Board of Agriculture voted Tuesday in favor of the rules, sending them to the state Attorney General’s office for review, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

The rules will then go to Gov. David Ige for his signature. Ige said he supports preventing the wild animals from entering the state for shows, but he declined to say Wednesday if he would sign off on the rules. He said he had not reviewed them yet.

In a statement, the Humane Society of the U.S. applauded the board’s decision. The organization has advocated for years for stopping the use of wild animals in entertainment.

“Wild animals used for entertainment are trained with pain and the fear of punishment, caged and chained in trucks and trailers, forced to endure months of grueling travel and bullied to perform silly tricks,” said Keith Dane, the organization’s Hawaii policy adviser. “They pose a public health and safety risk as well as risks to Hawaii’s natural resources. There is simply no need to involve wild animals in any form of live entertainment.”

Scott Fernandez, CEO of Oahu-based E.K. Fernandez Shows, described the board’s decision as “regulatory overreach,” saying it will likely put him out of the carnival business.

“To say I was disappointed would be a massive understatement,” Fernandez said. “They basically ripped the guts out of E.K. Fernandez. They’ve taken a piece of history from us.”

The company has brought tigers, lions, alligators, chimpanzees and other wild animals to its state fairs for decades.

But it has not brought any new animals to the state since 2015, resulting in a drop in fair attendance, Fernandez said.