HONOLULU - A ban on bringing circus animals into the state heads to the Hawaii Board of Agriculture again.

Under the new rules, lions and tigers and bears as well as other wild, dangerous animals like elephants and alligators, will be permanently kept from being shipped to Hawaii for future fairs, exhibits or circus performances.  

Hawaiian Humane Society's public policy advocate, Stephanie Kendrick, said this needs to happen for two reasons: animal welfare and public safety.

"In a lot of respects this is another issue where Hawaii should have been at the forefront," she said. "The change here is more than 20 years overdue."

She's referring to the 1994 rampage of circus elephant Tyke. During a show at the Neal Blaisdell, Tyke killed her trainer and hurt her groomer before Honolulu police fatally shot her.

Details of Tyke's mistreatment by her handlers came out later and prompted years of debate over the shipment of these animals across the pacific.

Hawaii-based entertainment business, EK Fernandez shows is fighting the proposed rule changes. Owner, Scott Fernandez agrees safety is a concern but said the rules target his family's business. They bring in animal acts for events like the 50th State Fair but Fernandez said they've never had an incident in their 115 year history.

He sent this statement to Island News Sunday about the board's upcoming vote: 

"This is not an animal welfare debate. The reason these rule changes were proposed was to address public safety. These rules only target EK Fernandez Shows, which has never had an incident in its one hundred years of bringing animals to the families of Hawaii. The responsibility for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act is carried out by the United States Department of Agriculture NOT the states DOA. I believe this burden should be placed with the Legislature where the people’s representatives can speak for their constituents; not at the regulatory level where the minority has a louder voice. It is unfair that a board of 10 members are put in the place to decide the fate of a 115-year-old Native Hawaiian company along with the numerous nonprofits it supports."

Kendrick disagrees.

"The problem with the way the animals who would be brought into Hawaii are treated has nothing to do with EK Fernandez and its track record. It has very much to do with the track record of the companies who travel these animals around the country."

The board meets on Tuesday at 9 a.m. to consider adopting an amendment to ban dangerous wild animals for performance in circuses or carnivals.