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Animals in sport and

The RSPCA is opposed to the use of animals for entertainment or in sport, where animals are placed at high risk of injury, suffering or distress. The RSPCA believes all animals should be afforded the Five Freedoms and based on this, we campaign to improve welfare standards for animals used in a variety of ways in sport and entertainment. This includes elephants in zoos, horses used for carriage rides, cows and horses used in rodeos as well as racing events featuring greyhounds and horses.

  Zoo elephants

Carriage horses    Circus animals    Greyhounds

Rodeos   Jumps racing   

Elephants in zoos

In general, the RSPCA is not opposed to the keeping of animals in government-endorsed zoos where:

  • The behavioural, social and physiological needs of the captive animals are met.
  • Documented animal management plans are kept and minimum husbandry standards are enforced. 
  • Resources are invested in captive breeding programs for endangered species, where animals are released back into natural habitat.

Unfortunately, the specific needs of elephants cannot be adequately met in a captive zoo environment and as a consequence, the welfare of elephants kept in zoos is severely compromised. Potential causes for poor welfare includes restricted space and opportunity for exercise, unsuitable climate, extended periods of confinement, hard or wet flooring, inappropriate diet, small social groups, lack of stability in social groups, lack of opportunity to exhibit natural behaviours and exposure to aversive stimuli in training and handling.

In addition, zoos cannot mimic the social structure that elephants need to thrive. Elephants in the wild can exist in herds numbering up to 58 animals. When elephants are held in captivity, moved and separated from their herd, this causes unacceptable levels of distress and the breakdown of these family groups, especially for females who are intensely social.

The RSPCA was pleased to hear that Zoos Victoria is hoping to relocate the elephants from Melbourne Zoo to Werribee Open Range Zoo by 2020. This move will allow their elephants to express more normal behaviour, improving the welfare of these animals significantly.


Take action
Ensure Zoos Victoria relocate their elephants to Werribee:

E Email Zoos Victoria
P 03 9285 9300
M Zoological Parks & Gardens Board
    PO Box 74
    Parkville VIC 3052

Carriage horses

The use of carriage horses for entertainment in Melbourne has always been a concern of the RSPCA. Carriage horses are often forced to contend with trams, pedestrians, buses, cars and extreme weather in the depths of winter and summer. Until recently, they also did not have any standards in place to protect their welfare, including such things as agreed maximum working hours.

In recent years, the RSPCA harnessed community outrage to pressure the Melbourne City Council for introduced minimum standards for carriage horses. Although not all of the RSPCA's concerns were addressed, we were pleased that some changes were implemented, including improved license requirements to ensure easy identification of offenders.  Melbourne carriage horse operators now operate according to a respective Code of Practice.

These changes have helped improve the welfare of these horses but there is still work needed. We encourage the community to keep a watchful eye to ensure these horses are treated with respect and kindness. If you have any concerns for the health and safety of these horses - take action and contact our Inspectorate. Timeliness and recording as much detail as possible is critical - capture the following details:

  • Date and location
  • Description of the horse and carriage (colour, company name, permit plate number)
  • Description of the driver
  • Description of the animal welfare concern
Only with continued pressure on the operators of carriage horses will we see more improvements in welfare for these horses.

Take action
Report cruelty to our Inspectors
P 03 9224 2222
Report online

Contact Melbourne City Council
Remind council they have an obligation to protect carriage horses:

CEO, Melbourne City Council
90-120 Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3001
P 03 9658 9658
E Email council

Circus animals - Latest news

Stardust Circus will be in Bayswater from 1 - 17 March.  This circus prides themselves on being the largest animal circus in Australia, shame on them! 

Imagine being subjected to performing acts that do not come naturally to you.  Imagine being caged and not being able to exhibit natural behaviours and live with your own kind as nature intended.
Imagine the life of a circus animal.

RSPCA is urging the public to take a stand against exotic animals used in circuses by not attending the Stardust Circus.

Circus animals

Over many years, the RSPCA has campaigned to stop the use of exotic animals in circuses. These animals are not able to express normal behaviour, often chained, caged and transported in cramped and unsuitable accommodation.

The RSPCA's greatest concern is the disparity between the conditions imposed on wild animals by circus life and the environment that these animals need for their well-being. Life in the wild cannot be replicated on the back of transportation trucks or at circus sites around the country.  These animals often endure continuous transportation, ongoing confinement, lack of socialisation with their own kind and are not permitted to roam freely.

Often the RSPCA's concerns are not directed at the treatment of these animals by individual keepers. When our Inspectors visit circuses, they often find no breaches to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and that they comply with the recommended National Circus Standards.

The RSPCA's policy is based on the fact that no circus, no matter how well managed, can provide an appropriate environment for wild animals. The life of a circus animal leads to stress, boredom and often results in abnormal behaviours, such as repetitive pacing or swaying.

Elephants and primates are highly intelligent, complex, and very social. They require a high level of stimulation to prevent them from becoming bored in a captive environment. In the wild, elephants occupy very large home ranges and will cover tens of kilometres every day moving from one feeding location to another and spending long periods of time foraging and eating. Captive big cats also require regular stimulation and show severe signs of boredom and frustration when kept in the restricted environment of a circus pen.

Take action today and don't attend a circus using exotic animals. Send a clear message that this activity is no acceptable. Also ask your local council to join more than 35 others around Australia who have banned circuses with caged wild animals from performing on council-owned land.
Take action
Boycott circuses
Don't support any visiting circuses using exotic animals and encourage your friends to do the same.

Campaign your local council
Does your local council grant permits to circuses with exotic animals? Contact your local council to express your concern.

Gather support for a ban
Gather signatories on a petition from your local community in support of a ban and present them to your local Mayor.

Greyhound racing

Greyhound racing involves dogs chasing an artificial lure around a race track. As with any sport involving animals, there is the potential for the animals involved to experience poor welfare or suffer injury, pain or distress as a result of training or competition. There are also significant welfare concerns beyond the racing track.

Although there has been excellent progress in Victoria to improve the welfare of racing dogs, the RSPCA is still concerned about some aspects of greyhound racing:
  • Lack of comprehensive regulation of greyhound racing (including breeding, rearing, training and competition) to eliminate practices that cause injury, suffering or distress.  
  • High level of over-breeding and oversupply of greyhounds in the industry, including a high number bred but not fit for competition, or those leaving the industry due to illness or injury. Sadly many of these dogs are euthanased.
The RSPCA supports initiatives to reduce the over breeding and re-homing problems within the greyhound racing industry. We commend Greyhound Racing Victoria on their active work to educate breeders, reduce the number of greyhounds bred by 1,000 puppies per year since 2009 and their successful  Greyhound Adoption Program which provides second chances for retired races. There is still tireless work to be done to improve the welfare of greyhounds used in racing however and the RSPCA will continue to influence the industry for improved welfare standards.

Take action
Give a retired racer a second chance - view RSPCA greyhounds available for adoption.

Learn about the Greyhound Adoption Program.

  Take action


The RSPCA is strongly opposed to rodeos due to the potential for significant injury, suffering, distress or even death to the animals involved. Where rodeos are permitted to be conducted, the RSPCA advocates the adoption of compulsory registration and licensing. Compliance with national standards for the management, housing and transport of rodeo animals must be made a condition of licensing.

Rodeos have been banned in the UK since 1934, in Holland and several other European jurisdictions. It is also banned in some parts of America, where it originated. Rodeos are opposed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) , the Royal New Zealand (SPCA) and RSPCA Australia. Additionally, most Canadian animal welfare organisations oppose rodeos, including the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the Humane Society of Canada.

Did you know?
  • Horses and bulls have broken their necks or backs in bucking events.
  • Cows have broken their legs in roping events.
  • Rodeos often involve a variety of events including animal roping, bucking and steer wrestling, all of which are cruel and cause distress to animals.

Your support to ban rodeos in Victoria is greatly needed. Please email your Member of Parliament requesting a ban on rodeos or donate now so that we can continue campaigning on this important issue.


    Types of rodeos 

    Take action
    Find out how you can make a difference today.


    Jumps racing

    Jumps racing is an extremely dangerous sport in which horses must jump high fences, at high speed. Jumps races, which are normally run over greater distances than flat races and are ten times more dangerous than flats racing.  The very nature of jumping during a horse race places both the jockey and horse under immense pressure. 

    In a jumps race there is a one in 10 chance of injury and high risk of death for the racehorse. In Victoria and South Australia where jumps racing continues, horses die during races every year.

    The RSPCA is campaigning for a ban on jumps racing in Victoria. It’s only a matter of time that key decision makers, namely the Victorian State Government and Racing Victoria, face the reality that jumps racing is unacceptable.

    View detailed jumps racing information and ways you can help stop this cruelty.

    Take action
    Visit our jumps racing section to learn about ways you can take action.

    Jumps racing
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    Duck shooting
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