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Law banning traveling elephant performances takes effect amid Colorado Renaissance Festival

LARKSPUR, Colo. (KRDO) — A new Colorado law, known as the "Traveling Animal Protection Act," will officially take effect on Aug. 14, during the last week of the Colorado Renaissance Festival in Larkspur.

The festival allows people to purchase rides on elephants and also features the animals in parades.

However, Senate Bill 21-135 is looking to change that. The legislation will ban the use of exotic animals in traveling performances. That includes elephants, lions, tigers, seals, and other non-native species. Violating the act will be considered a misdemeanor, and people face a fine ranging between $250 and $1,000 per violation.

Jim Paradise serves as director of marketing for the family-run Renaissance Fest. Paradise tells 13 Investigates he’s proud of the festival his family puts on every year and the joy it brings to families across the state.

“I’m surprised that legislators have decided to take that enjoyment away from hundreds of thousands of people,” said Paradise.

The Renaissance Festival doesn’t own the elephants used in its parades and rides. It contracts a separate vendor to bring in the fan-favorite. Paradise said the elephants’ owner is responsible for getting permits for an event like the Renaissance Festival.

People who supported the bill, however, think differently.

Roland Halpern, the executive director for Colorado Voters for Animals, worked with state legislators to get Senate Bill 21-135 passed during the 2021 legislative session. The new law is a big win in Halpern’s book. However, he had hoped the Renaissance Festival might discontinue its use of elephants before the law takes effect in mid-August.

“The way that an elephant’s back is configured, people think it’s okay to ride on them,” said Halpern. “It’s not; it’s totally different than horseback. It’s actually very painful to the elephant and can cause problems for it.”

Halpern also doesn’t see it as an essential part of the festival.

The Paradise family hasn’t yet decided if it will comply with the law come Aug. 14.

“Unfortunately a violation is only a fine,” said Halpern. “It’s around $500. Sometimes people think they can make more profit and just pay the fine because it’s cheaper than money that can be brought in. We’re hoping that’s not going to be the case.”

The Traveling Animal Protection Act does not apply to livestock, horses, donkeys, mules, educational and non-mobile facilities like zoos and wildlife sanctuaries.

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Lauren Barnas

Lauren is an anchor and MMJ for KRDO and 13 Investigates. Learn more about Lauren here.


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