Zoo, Circus and Marine Animals

Scimitar-horned oryx

Zoos, circuses, and marine mammal parks are regulated under the Animal Welfare Act and its regulations and inspected for compliance on a regular basis. Wildlife is not regulated unless exhibited to the public or used in research or teaching.


Image of a white laboratory rabbit. Animal Welfare Act and Regulations

The Animal Welfare Act was signed into law in 1966. It is the only Federal law in the United States that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by dealers. Other laws, policies, and guidelines may include additional species coverage or specifications for animal care and use, but all refer to the Animal Welfare Act as the minimum acceptable standard. The Act is enforced by the USDA, APHIS, Animal Care agency.

Center for Zoo Animal Welfare

Detroit Zoological Society.

A resource center for zoo animal welfare knowledge, research and best practices.

Animal Welfare Act Guidelines for County and State Fairs (PDF | 36 KB)

USDA. APHIS. Animal Care.

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) requires people who exhibit animals to the public for compensation to be licensed with the USDA. The AWA also excludes certain activities from this requirement, including the exhibition of agricultural animals for the purposes of promoting agricultural arts, sciences, and production. This means that agricultural exhibits at State and county fairs are exempt. However, some exhibition activities found at State and county fairs do require the exhibitors to be licensed under the AWA.

Rhesus monkeys grooming Environmental Enrichment for Nonhuman Primates Resource Guide, 2016

USDA. NAL. Animal Welfare Information Center.

A bibliographic resource on nonhuman primate enrichment, including relevant web links, organizations, and product information.

Guidelines for Zoo and Aquarium Veterinary Medical Programs and Veterinary Hospitals (DOC | 41 KB)

American Association of Zoo Veterinarians.

These guidelines cover veterinary medical programs at zoos including staffing, medical treatment and surgery, preventative medicine, management issues, and veterinary facilities.

The Welfare of Zoo Animals

British & Irish Association of Zoos & Aquariums (BIAZA).

Summarizes animal welfare concerns for zoological parks and aquariums.

Design and Construction of Animal Exhibits

ZooLex Zoo Design Organization.

A bibliography, including links to abstracts, web sites, and full-text articles when available, on zoo design.

National Wildlife Health Center

DOI. United States Geological Survey.

Provides information on research related to wildlife disease and mortality. Publications available include current health bulletins, fact sheets, and the Field Manual of Wildlife Diseases.

Animal Diversity Web

University of Michigan. Museum of Zoology.

An online database of animal natural history, distribution, classification, and conservation biology. Provides taxonomic description of organization above the species level, such as phyla, classes, orders, and families.

Compendium of Measures To Prevent Disease Associated with Animals in Public Settings, March 2005

National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, Inc.

Multiple venues exist where public contact with animals is permitted. Persons responsible for managing these venues are encouraged to use the information in this report to reduce risk.

Animal Welfare Policy Statements

American Veterinary Medical Association.

Position statements covering recommendations on antimicrobial use, euthanasia, abuse, pain, and other important animal welfare concerns.