CVMA | Documents | Use of Animals in Entertainment and Recreation – Position Statement

Use of Animals in Entertainment and Recreation – Position Statement

July 30, 2010


“The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) accepts the use of animals in entertainment and recreation only when the animals’ physical, social, and behavioural needs are being met. The CVMA opposes activities, contests, or events that have a high probability of causing injury, distress, or illness.”


1. The CVMA recognizes that concerns surrounding the use of animals for the purposes of entertainment and recreation may arise if the physical, social, or behavioural needs of animals are not being met (1-5).

a. Examples of animal use for entertainment and recreation include, but are not limited to, zoos, aquariums and other animal exhibitions; animals used for media purposes, circuses, rodeos; and equestrian and other competitive sporting events involving animals.

b. Animals performing, or on display in a traveling or static environment, may receive inadequate attention to their physical, social, and behavioural needs.

i. This can occur due to close confinement, lack of exercise and other physical requirements,  inability to express natural behaviours, and/or lack of appropriate socialization and mental stimulation.

ii. The development of stereotypies is an outcome of such impoverished environments or conditions.

2. In all areas where animals are kept or used, humane and ethical treatment must be paramount, and animals must be portrayed and utilized with respect (1, 6, 7).

a. Entertainment and recreational activities should use animals that are appropriately bred, raised, habituated, and trained.

b. Animals should not be forced to perform actions or tasks that result in physical or mental distress or discomfort.

c. Activities that portray or force animals to perform in ways not characteristic of the species should be discouraged, so as not to harm the animal or mislead the public as to the true nature of the animal.

d. Training methods should be based on positive reinforcement, utilizing natural behaviours.

3. The CVMA recommends that all animals used for entertainment or recreation receive appropriate veterinary care by suitably experienced veterinarians.  A veterinarian should be responsible for overseeing any competitive events where animal injury is possible.

4. The indiscriminant use of performance-enhancing drugs, or procedures that alter the conformation or function of animals for the purpose of competition is unacceptable. 

5. The CVMA strongly supports the development of species appropriate indices of animal health and welfare during sporting and entertainment usage (7-13).

6. The CVMA advocates for the development and adoption of national standards for the management, husbandry, and transport of animals used for entertainment or recreation.


  1. Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums. CAZA Position Re: Use Of Wild or Exotic Animals for Performance, Shows or Acts.  2008. Available from,2008.pdf [last accessed April 29, 2013].
  2. 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
  3. Nevill CH, Friend TH. The behaviour of circus tigers during transport. Appl Anim Behav Sci 2003;82:329-337.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Schilder MDH, van der Borg JAM. Training dogs with the help of the shock collar: Short and long term behavioural effects. Appl Anim Behav Sci 2004;85:319-334.
  7. Jones AC, Josephs RA. Are we dog’s best friend? Predicting canine cortisol response from human affiliative and punitive behaviors. In: Mills D, Levine E, Landsberg G, et al. eds. Current Issues and Research in Veterinary Behavioral Medicine. Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue Univ Pr, 2005:194-197. 
  8. Desmecht D,  Linden A, Amory H, et al. Relationship of plasma lactate production to cortisol release following completion of different types of sporting events in horses.  Vet Res Commun 1996;20:371-379.
  9. Wielebnowski N. Stress and distress: Evaluating their impact for the well-being of zoo animals. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:973-977.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Korte SM, Olivier B, Koolhaas JM.  A new animal welfare concept based on allostasis. Physiol Behav 2007; 92:422-428.
  13. Wasser SK , Hunt KE, Brown JL, et al. A generalized fecal glucocorticoid assay for use in a diverse array of non-domestic mammalian and avian species. Gen Comp Endocr 2000;120:260–275.

(Revised July 2010)