06/27/2014 12:13 EDT | Updated 08/26/2014 05:59 EDT

AP PHOTOS: Mexico City circus performers fear ban on animals means end to their livelihoods

MEXICO CITY - The small audience claps as Alex Fuentes dances to Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean," as he does every night. His lacklustre moves wouldn't get much attention were it not for his partner — a 300-pound Bengal tiger perched on two paws bobbing alongside him.

Armed with a whip, Fuentes coaches his five tigers through a series of surreal acts as parents and children ooh and aah.

For five generations, Fuentes' family has been running the Fuentes Gasca Brothers Circus in Mexico City, but a new law has him worried about its future. Last week Mexico City's legislative assembly banned the use of animals in circuses, responding to months of pressure from animal activists.

The law is set to take effect a year from now, and it promises steep fines for noncompliance.

Anima Naturalis, one of the groups supporting the measure, say the exotic animals used in the circus are often exposed to long periods of uncomfortable transport, along with small enclosures and aggressive training methods.

Mexico City and six of Mexico's 32 states have now banned circus animals. Nationwide bans on circus animals have swept through Latin America recently, and Fuentes, along with other performers at his family's circus, fear a Mexican federal law is sure to follow the capital's law goes into effect.

Fuentes says he worries people won't come to the circus just for their acrobatic, trapeze and clown acts.

"It's the circus, it's magical," the 32-year-old Fuentes said. "It's what I've dedicated my life to since I was 15 and now they want to take away from me."