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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Testimony of Robert Fisk, Jr.: Proposed Rule Changes Impacting Captive Wildlife Print E-mail
Written by Robert Fisk   
Wednesday, 29 June 2016

 

 

TESTIMONY OF ROBERT FISK, JR.
President and Director, Maine Friends of Animals
TESTIMONY IN FAVOR OF PROPOSED RULE CHANGES IMPACTING CAPTIVE WILDLIFE
Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
June 7, 2016


Commissioner Woodcock:

This testimony is in favor of the proposed rule changes regarding the importation, possession, propagation, rehabilitation and exhibition of wildlife, but with some concerns and suggestions.Housing and caring for exotic and wild animals requires high levels of responsibility,knowledge, and accountability as well as ongoing financial resources.

MFOA's position is that private ownership of wildlife and exotic animals should not be permitted and that breeding of these animals in captivity should also be illegal. The only exception to this should be when a rescued exotic and/or wild animal is deemed unsuitable to return to its natural habitat due to being raised dependent on humans or disabled in some way that would keep it from surviving in the wild. Under those circumstances, the animal should only be housed at a sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries http://www.sanctuaryfederation.org/gfas/ ).

As we have often seen in the news, if not managed properly 100% of the time, the results of keeping wild animals in captivity can be disastrous - endangering the captive animals themselves and the humans that care for/come in contact with them.

That said, MFOA is in support of any improvements to the existing regulations concerning the importation, possession and exhibition of wildlife  in Maine. The proposed rule changes offer significant progress in documentation of captive wildlife being purchased, bred,  sold/transferred, as well as improved safety protocols and elevated animal care and housing standards. We support any change that increases the safety of both the animals living in captivity as well as the citizens of the State of Maine and native wildlife that may come in contact with them.

To that end, after reading through the proposed rule changes, we would like to provide feedback and make a few additional suggestions for positive change. The following is in order of the text of proposed rule changes.

7.06 - Classification of Species

3. Restricted Species - Many improvements have been proposed in the language regarding the requirements that need to be met in order to possess Category 1 and Category 2 restricted species. The educational, training and apprenticeship requirements are an excellent step in the right direction to ensure proper handing and care. MFOA fully supports these proposed changes.

However, we question why Wildlife Rehabilitators are required to pass a written examination to receive and renew a permit to house and handle captive wildlife, yet individuals wishing to privately own/handle the same species are not required to pass a written exam as part of the permit  approval process? If an applicant's education and training are outdated/received years ago, their retained knowledge may not be sufficient to uphold safety standards.

As animal husbandry practices continue to evolve and improve, requiring a written exam for an initial permit and perhaps a repeat exam at specified intervals (3 years? 5 years?) may go along way to maintaining safety of handler, captive animals, native wildlife and the public.

7.08.- Application Procedures for All Permits

3. Permit Denial (F & G) - MFOA supports the language in this section requiring the denial of a permit for any applicant who has been adjudicated of a civil violation or convicted of any crime related to animal welfare/animal cruelty. However, as there is a proven link between animal abuse and domestic violence cases, and as the FBI now makes a connection between animal cruelty and other types of violent crime  impacting humans, we believe that this clause should be expanded and that permits should also be denied if the applicant has been convicted of any violent crime.

7.09 Site Inspection

1. Wildlife in Captivity Inspectors - MFOA is in support of having inspectors specifically trained to inspect captive wildlife housing and care facilities as animal welfare agents and animal control officers do not receive the training necessary at this juncture to accurately assess this type of facility. However, we do have questions as this is a position we have not previously been aware of as one existing in the State of Maine.

• What is a Wildlife in Captivity Inspector? Does this position currently exist or is it a newly created position?

• Is there a training/certification process associated with being a Wildlife in Captivity Inspector?

• If this is a new position, where will the funds come from to pay for the Inspectors? Will there be a fiscal note attached to creating new positions to monitor these facilities?

7.10 - Standard Conditions and Restrictions Governing All Wildlife Captivity Permits

7. Health and Comfort - Just a minor suggested change to the wording of Item B under “Health and Comfort” to include the word “ventilation” to the indoor housing standards, as ventilation is just as critical to health and comfort as light and humidity.

Current proposed text. “B. All wildlife must be provided with living quarters that maintain a temperature meeting the biological needs of the animal. Wildlife housed indoors must be provided with appropriate lighting and humidity.”

7.11 - Conditions and Requirements for Each Type of Wildlife in Captivity Permit

2. Wildlife Exhibitor Permit (B) - Requiring that applicants for a state Wildlife Exhibitor Permit hold a Class C Exhibitors License issued by the U.S.D.A is a logical prerequisite, however, we caution the Department against placing too much credence in the USDA licensing, inspection and monitoring capabilities and encourage additional permit requirements and safety protocols to be part of this approval and renewal process for  the following reasons:

• The Federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is poorly enforced by the USDA due to lack of funding and insufficient staffing.

• USDA licenses are easy to obtain but difficult to revoke.• Licensees can keep animals in unsafe conditions and still be in compliance with the AWA

• USDA licenses are renewed annually even when a licensee has had serious or repeat AWA violations.

• USDA licenses are not species-specific.So although a USDA license is one reasonable requirement to qualify an individual for a Maine Wildlife Exhibitor Permit, it should not be a qualification that stands alone or holds a great deal of value in the approval process. There should be additional permit requirements set forth by the Department for wildlife exhibitors to ensure the safety of the captive animals, viewing public and Maine citizens.


7.16 Transition and Grandfathering Provisions for Current Permit Holders

The proposed grandfathering provisions for current permit holders are concerning. We agree that existing permit holders should be given sufficient time to meet the new regulations; however, we do NOT agree that these existing permit holders should be able to:

a) maintain ownership of prohibited species once the new species category classifications are identified. Any prohibited species should be transferred to accredited sanctuaries with proper skills and facilities to care for these species within a specified time frame.

b) maintain ownership of restricted species without being held to the same safety standards as new permit applicants.

c) hold a Maine Wildlife Exhibitor Permit if not in compliance with the updated regulations by the agreed upon transition deadline.


In conclusion, Maine Friends of Animals is in support of the positive changes being proposed concerning all aspects of captive wildlife in our state. However, we feel that additional modifications should be incorporated into the draft language to increase the safety for captive animals, Maine native wildlife and our citizens.

 

Read the proposed rules here:
http://www.maine.gov/ifw/aboutus/laws_rules/pdf/wildlifeincaptivity.pdf

 



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