The British RSPCA is urging the government to deliver on its promise to ban wild animals in travelling circuses in England.
The charity has voiced its concerns after new legislation appeared to set the scene for delays.
Ministers said in March they were committed to introducing a ban by 2015, but kept details vague.
Then, late last month, a licensing scheme on how circus animals are to be kept in the meantime was agreed which could last for up to seven years.
Wild animal welfare experts fear the scheme could delay the ban and will not protect the animals in the meantime, the RSPCA said.
It could even make it easier to introduce new species of wild animals to circuses.
RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: “We were delighted in March when the government announced a ban would happen. Seven months later and nothing has happened to make the ban a reality.
“The new circus licensing scheme could make the life of wild animals in circuses worse, not better, and delay the end of this so-called ‘entertainment’.
“Anything short of a full ban is simply unacceptable and will fail to meet the needs of animals such as lions, tigers and zebras.
“Let’s get on with what needs to be done and stop these animals from being dragged around the country in beastwagons or confined to cramped temporary cages.”
The charity has been campaigning for a ban on wild animals in travelling circuses for more than a decade.
Scientific research has shown that travelling circus life is likely to be harmful to animal welfare.
Regular transport, cramped and bare temporary housing, forced training and performance, loud noises and crowds of people are all typical and unavoidable realities for the animals.