State considers banning imported animals for carnivals, circuses

We may see a permanent change at county fairs across Hawaii.

The state is deciding if it should ban wild animals from coming to the island for circuses and carnivals.

In 2015, Gov. David Ige placed a temporary restriction on the import of wild animals, and now, the Department of Agriculture will have to decide if it wants to make that ban permanent. If the ban passes, we won’t see any more animal shows in the state.

E.K. Fernandez says this could hurt business, meaning people could see fewer or no rides at fairs and carnivals, especially on the neighboring islands.

The company’s president, Scott Fernandez, says the 50th State Fair is where he makes half of his profits, which he uses to travel to neighboring islands. But last year, E.K. Fernandez didn’t have animals and revenue dropped.

“Instead of being 50 percent of our revenue, it was 36 percent of our revenue,” said Fernandez. “If I can’t bring you through the door, again, people like to see it. People vote with their dollar, with their pocket books. They don’t like something, they don’t go. If they do like something, they come.”

It’s part of the reason why E.K. Fernandez had to cancel the Maui Carnival.

“When I get shocks to my system with Young Brothers hitting me with that large bill, I can’t take the financial shock, so we have to back up,” said Fernandez.

Fernandez said this year’s 50th State Fair could be a deciding factor for his business.

“We currently don’t have any contracts with the Maui County Fair or Hilo County Fair, so this could definitely impact them,” he said.

But the Hawaiian Humane Society stressed this is about how performing animals are treated.

“They endure days on stormy seas, get here very stressed, sometimes even ill or injured, and then they’re given no time to recover before they are forced to perform in front of crowds,” said Stephanie Kendrick, Public Policy Advocate for the Hawaiian Humane Society.

The Department of Agriculture is collecting public testimony until the end of the week.

After the testimonies have been collected and a summary made, it will be given to the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. That board will then make the final decision.

“My job is a hard job — putting up all those rides, working in the sun. But the best thing we do is give people joy, happiness, and smiles. That’s the best job in the world, but don’t take away the ability for us to do it. It’s our life’s work,” said Fernandez.

“Really, I think there is a growing distaste for making tigers jump through hoops and that sort of thing. We have gotten to the point where there are certainly plenty of other avenues for entertainment that don’t involve exploiting and harming animals,” said Kendrick.

A public hearing was held Monday on Oahu and more hearings will be held across the state this week. You can still submit written testimony until Friday.

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture is holding public hearings to receive testimony on proposed amendments to Hawaii Administrative Rules (“HAR”), Title 4, Subtitle 6, Chapter 71:

Chapter 4-71 – Plant and Non-Domestic Animal Quarantine Non-Domestic Animal Import Rules

“The primary focus of these proposed amendments is to prohibit import of dangerous wild animals for short-term exhibition and performance in circuses, carnivals, and state fairs on the basis of the potential risk to public health and safety. The proposed amendments identify certain species as dangerous wild animals that will be prohibited import for short-term circus or carnival exhibition or performance, but that may be allowed import for zoo exhibition and for short-term commercial filming, subject to permit conditions adequate to address any associated risks. The individual species subject to the above prohibition and restriction include, but are not limited to, lions, tigers, bears, elephants, non-human primates, alligators, and crocodiles. (§§4-71-2, 4-71-3, 4-71-6.5, HAR). Further amendment will be proposed to clarify the exemption that allows import for short-term commercial filming.

“The proposed amendments will also change the import list placement of two animal species: (a) the Nile tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus, currently allowed import only for research, to allow its import for aquaculture production; and (b) the house cricket, Acheta domesticus, currently allowed import for research, to allow its import as feed for various insectivorous animals at Honolulu Zoo (§4-71-6.5, HAR).

“In addition to general housekeeping changes, the proposed amendments will, among other things, do the following: (1) Specify risk to animal or public health and safety associated with import of a species as an additional basis for restricting or prohibiting import of specific non-domestic animals (§4-71-1, HAR); (2) Clarify that violation of permit conditions may result in a citation or cancellation of a permit, or both (§4-71-3); and (3) Clarify that short-term special permits for import of unlisted animals are subject to the same general safeguard requirements and maximum time periods for permit approval that apply to short term permits for import of animals on the lists of conditionally approved and restricted animals (§§4-71-3, 4-71-4.1, HAR).

“The proposed amendments will also amend §4-71-6.5, HAR, titled “Permitted introductions”, to do the following: (1) Allow government agencies to import animals on the List of Conditionally Approved Animals, which are currently allowed import for individual possession, businesses, and institutions; (2) Expand the purposes for which animals on the List of Restricted Animals (Part B) may be imported from currently allowed purposes (i.e., private and commercial use, including zoological parks, or aquaculture production) to include government use; (3) Replace the term “municipal” zoos with the broader term “government” zoos; (4) Clarify that, in addition to universities and government agencies, other institutions may import restricted list animals for research, and that universities and government agencies may import restricted list animals for medical and scientific purposes as well as for research, as determined by the Board of Agriculture (Board); (5) Clarify that permits may be approved by the Board chairperson, as well as by the HDOA branch chief or Board, as specified by rules; (6) Clarify that site approval is required prior to the issuance of any permit issued for import of animals on the restricted lists and unlisted animals; and (7) Clarify that when a permit to import a restricted list or unlisted animal allows for transfer or sale, a proposed transferee must satisfy conditions for transfer and obtain a permit for possession of the animal.

“Effect of Certain Amendments on Small Business: (1) The proposed amendment to ban import of dangerous wild animals for short-term circus-type performance or exhibition will apply to any potential importer of these animals for live performance or exhibition in a carnival or circus, whether the importer is a small business, big business, or government (county fairs), because of the inherent risk to public health and safety in the live entertainment situation. This proposed import ban may affect potential importers, including small business importers, in a potentially adverse way. Animals that are not “dangerous wild animals” can still be imported for live entertainment at events like the 50th State Fair. (2) The proposed amendments to change the import list placement of the Nile tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus, to allow its import for aquaculture production, do not adversely affect small business and are strongly supported by small aquacultural businesses. (3) The proposed amendments to change the import list placement of the house cricket, Acheta domesticus, to allow its import as feed for various insectivorous animals at Honolulu Zoo do not adversely affect small business.”

Click to view each proposed rule change:

The following is the schedule of public hearings:

May 01, 2017, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Conference Room, Department of Agriculture
1849 Auiki Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96819

May 02, 2017, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Conference Room, Department of Agriculture
4398A Pua Loke Street
Lihue, Hawaii 96766

May 03, 2017, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m,
Conference Room, Department of Agriculture
635 Mua Street
Kahului, HI 96732

May 04, 2017, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Hilo State Office Building #101
75 Aupuni Street
Hilo, Hawaii 96720

May 05, 2017, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
West Hawaii Civic Center
74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Highway
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96740

The proposed rule amendments may also be reviewed in person at any of the following Department offices during normal business hours of 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, until May 5.


  • 1428 South King Street, Honolulu Phone: (808) 973-9600
  • 1849 Auiki Street, Honolulu Phone: 808-832-0566

Hawaii Island

  • 16E Lanikaula Street, Hilo Phone: (808) 974-4141
  • 95 Akahana Street, Room 9, Hilo Phone: (808) 961-9393
  • 73-302 Kupipi Street, Kailua-Kona Phone: (808) 326-1077


  • 4398A Pua Loke Street, Lihue Phone: (808) 274-3071


  • 635 Mua Street, Kahului Phone: (808) 873-3556


  • 801 Puupeehua Ave., Hoolehua Phone: (808) 567-6891
  • Molokai Irrigation Office

All interested persons may attend the public hearings and submit comments orally or in writing. Those persons desiring to submit written testimony may do so via postal mail to the Plant Quarantine Branch c/o Department of Agriculture at 1849 Auiki Street, Honolulu, HI 96819 or via FAX at (808) 832-0584 or via e-mail at Please include the word “testimony” and the subject matter when submitting testimony by e-mail.

Those persons desiring to present oral testimony at the public hearing are asked to register with staff prior to the convening of the hearing. If possible, submit five written copies of the testimony to staff prior to the meeting. Testimony will be accepted up to the close of the last public hearing.

Persons requiring special modifications, e.g. sign language interpretation, large print, taped materials, accessible parking, at the hearing may call the Department at (808) 832-0566 or write to one of the addresses above at least five days in advance of the hearing.

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