Tonight and tomorrow are the public meetings

Avatar BCR | February 24, 2009 0 Likes 0 Ratings

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Tonight and tomorrow are the public meetings on proposed changes to rules for keeping wild animals in cages in FL.  Come with us and be a voice for the animals.  If you can't come, you still have until March 13 to send a letter asking that wild animals be given better protection from abuse and exploitation.

See proposed changes and our comments below. 

Please ask the FWC to make these same proposed changes in bold that Big Cat Rescue has asked them to make.

The comment period on these proposed rules closes at 5PM on March 13, 2009, and there is a public hearing on February 24, 2009, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry, 1911 SW 34th Street, Gainesville, Florida. and on February 25, 2009, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at Kissimmee Civic Center, 201 E. Dakin Avenue, Kissimmee, Florida 34741  Join us there and speak up for the animals.  This sort of egregious behavior just has to stop. 

When the cats cats can no longer be used to support their owners they are often dumped along the way;  sometimes into the hands of unwitting exotic pet owners, sometimes they are served up in restaurants and sometimes they are dumped into the wild with no survival skills.  Ending the trafficking of exotic cats in Florida will greatly reduce the number of these cats who end up suffering in all parts of the world.

Please send your comments to:

FL Wildlife Conservation Commission
c/o Captain Linda Harrison
620 S. Meridian Street 
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600
(850) 488-6251

Rule Changes in Florida

Rule Changes in Florida

Below is the summary of the rules proposed by the FWC and Big Cat Rescue's comments are in bold.  Some of these have changed since the comment period first opened up in June 2008.  You can download the latest drafts of rule changes here:

68A-6.002 Categories of Captive Wildlife

    * Clarify that categories of wildlife includes taxonomic successors and subspecies thereof.
    * Classification changes:

    * Class I:
          o Gaur (family Bovidae)
          o Hyena and Aardwolf (family Hyaenidae)
          o Cougars, panthers (Puma concolor)
          o Cheetahs (Acinonyx jabatus) typo: jubatus
    * Class II:
          o Patas monkeys (genus Erythrocebus)
          o Vervet, Grivet or Green monkeys (genus Chlorocebus)
          o Change Bearded sakis to include all sakis (genus Chiropotes and Pithecea)
          o Change reference of specific jackal species to all jackal species (family Canidae).
          o Change reference of Gray wolves and Red wolves to all wolves (family Canidae); and delete reference to wolf x domestic hybrid percentage.
          o Include American alligator (family Alligatoridae)
          o Giraffe and Okapi (family Giraffidae)
          o Tapirs (family Tapiridae)
          o Wild cattle, forest, woodland, and arid land antelope and similar species of nonnative hoof stock of the family Bovidae.
            Examples include: Forest buffalo, Banteng, Anoa, Waterbuck, Wildebeest, Hartebeest, Eland, Kudu, Nilgai, Bongo, lechwe, Roan and Sable antelope, Sitatunga, Bontebok, Blesbok, Topi, Kob, Addax, Oryx, Gemsbok, and other species of the family Bovidae which are of similar size, habits and nature.

    * Delete percentage language associated with wolf x domestic hybrids.
          o Include language to address the regulation of hybrids resulting from wild x domestic animal crosses which are substantially similar in size, characteristics, and behavior so as to be essentially indistinguishable from wild animals.  This should apply to hybrid cats as well as they are being released into the wild and creating a Super Feral.
          o Such hybrids to be regulated as wildlife at the highest Class if the wild parentage. as the wild parentage
    * Provide that fox, skunks, bats, raccoons or white tail deer taken from the wild may not be possessed as personal use wildlife. add bobcats and cougars because of the rabies issue and the inability to distinguish between a native bobcat or cougar and a non native bobcat or cougar.   Most other states already protect their native wildlife this way and with the FL Panther in such peril, it only makes sense.

68A-6.004 Standard Caging Requirements for Captive Wildlife

    * Include proposals to use open air habitats, except as provided, must be approved in writing by the Commission prior to use before housing wildlife. 
    * Add the requirement for providing devices that allow for temperature regulation in Red Panda enclosures, as is necessary to ensure the well being of this species.  Add: snow leopards, Amur tigers & Amur leopards.

68A-6.0011 Possession of Wildlife in Captivity; Permit Requirements

    * Require USDA registered research facilities currently exempt from meeting the requirements of 68A-6, F.A.C., to maintain a detailed research proposal, annual record of progress toward research objectives and to meet cage strength requirements in 68A-6.003, F.A.C.
    * Provide that the provisions of 68A-6, F.A.C., do not apply to Bison possessed exclusively for the purpose of production of meat, skins or hides, or progeny thereof.

68A-6.0022 Possession of Class I, II, or III Wildlife in Captivity: Permit Requirements

    * Remove brushtailed possums from the list of wildlife that may be possessed for personal use without a permit.  (Currently listed federally as an injurious species).
    * Require experience for Class I and Class II to be with the species or other species in the same genus that are substantially similar in size, characteristics, care and nutritional requirements to the species for which the permit is sought . typo of a space before the period
    * Require applicants for Class I and II to provide times experience was obtained. should include times, places and activities performed
    * Increase the hours of experience requirement with test option, as provided for Class II applicants to 500 hours. (Same as VR)
    * Modify reference requirements to allow for one of the references to be provided from a representative of a professional or governmental institution such as a University, Public Service agency, Zoological association or herpetological society.  Associations and Societies should be defined as accredited or nationally recognized and not just a little band of exotic pet owners calling themselves an association or society.
    * Provide that the experience requirements do not apply for alligators when possessed in accordance with 372.6673, F.S.
    * Provide that the experience requirements do not apply to Bovidae when possessed in accordance with 372.16 or 372.661, F.S.
    * Require corporations to have qualified personnel responsible for the care of Class I or II wildlife.
          o Personnel must meet the experience requirements provided for Class I or II wildlife. 
          o Documentation of experience for such personnel must be submitted upon initial application and any change in personnel.
    * Require a USDA license to be obtained within 180 days after initial application and maintained when Class I wildlife is possessed for exhibition or sale.
    * Clarify language for Critical Incident/Disaster Plan requirement (372.921, 372.922, and 68A-6), modify form and form date.

68A-6.005 Transportation Requirements for Wildlife; Caging Requirements for Performing and Non-Performing Animals

    * Include language in (1) (g) that all wildlife shall be transported in a cage or enclosure appropriate for the species.  This really needs to be stated in concrete terms when transporting exotic cats.  A circus wagon may contain a tiger, but in the back of a pick up truck there is no barricade to prevent public contact.  You can eliminate some of the most abusive practices by restricting the transportation of big cats, except to and from the vet, to and from their final destination, such as in a transfer of ownership or under a previously filed circus itinerary which is open to public scrutiny in considerable advance of the event.
    * Include language that all transport cages which contain wildlife shall be labeled "Caution or Danger  – Wild Animal"

68A-6.007 Possession, Transportation, Exhibition and Caging Venomous Reptiles and Reptiles of Concern

    * Clean up language for reptiles of concern to include their "taxonomic successors."
    * Address taxonomic split of the amthistina complex in the genus Morelia to better reflect the intent of the listing of Amethystine or scrub pythons as reptiles of concern.
          o Includes all subspecies of the genus Morelia that exceed 12' in length upon maturity.
    * Modify reference requirements to allow for one of the references to be provided from a representative of a professional or governmental institution such as a University, Public Service agency, Zoological association or herpetological society.
    * Require corporations to have qualified personnel responsible for the care of venomous reptiles.
          o Personnel must meet the experience requirements provided for venomous reptiles.
          o Documentation of experience for such personnel must be submitted upon initial application and any change in personnel.
          o Consistent with requirements for Class I and II wildlife.
    * Insert new form date for the Critical Incident/Disaster Plan form due to form modifications.

68A-6.0041 Exceptions to Standard Caging Requirements for Captive Wildlife

    * Include Bison (when possessed for propagation purposes only) as exempt from standard caging requirements, except fencing requirements, of 68A-6.004.
    * Corrected rule reference in paragraph (4), as necessary due to previous rule changes.

68A-6.003 Facility and Structural Caging Requirement for Class I, II and III Wildlife

    * Require cages or enclosures that use the ground as flooring to have buried concrete footers or bottom apron to further prevent escape from digging or erosion.  In 15 years we have never had a cat dig out because it just isn’t their nature.   In the 700+ dangerous incidents involving exotic cats since 1990 not one of the 150+ escapes was attributed to a cat digging out.  Records from 1919 to 1989 are not as plentiful, but none of them ever mentioned a cat escaping by digging out either.  Escapes are almost always due to humans acting negligently and occasionally a big cat goes over the top or through a wall, but not underneath.  This would be a punitive measure to require concrete floors, which are broadly known to cause debilitating injury to captive cats, or to require a concrete footer or apron with no benefit occurring for the cat or the public.  This may be applicable to bears and wolves, who are known to dig, but should not apply to cages housing exotic cats of any kind. See the list of killings, maulings and escapes here:

    * Insert new form date for the Critical Incident/Disaster Plan form due to form modifications.
    * Make changes to (2)(c)5. as necessary for newly proposed changes to Class I and Class II:
          o The following proposed Class I wildlife may not be possessed on property within an area zoned solely for residential use:  I have been in the real estate business for 25+ years and to my knowledge, and that of my colleagues, there is no zoning that is “solely for residential use” so that only plays to the uninformed and doesn’t really restrict anything.  The most logical answer to where these animals should be housed, is the simplest:  If a Class I animal cannot be kept for personal use and must be a business or sanctuary (a non profit business), then the business or non profit business must be located on land that is either commercially zoned, or a Planned Development specifically created for such a purpose.  Grandfathering in existing cats would be acceptable as long as the cats were not replaced.
                + Gaur (family Bovidae)
                + Hyena and Aardwolf (family Hyaenidae)
                + Cougars, panthers (Puma concolor)
                + Cheetahs (Acinonyx jabatus)
    * Make changes to (2)(d) as necessary for newly proposed changes to Class II non-human primates:
          o Include all sakis as exempt from facility requirements as specified in (2)(c)1.-4.
          o Exclude Patas monkeys as exempt facility requirements as specified in (2)(c)1.-4., due to size0 range upon maturity.
    * Clarify in (2)(e) which facility requirements are being referenced when referring to the facility requirements that Class I or II are exempt from meeting.

68A-6.0021 Possession or Transfer of Class I Wildlife as Personal Use Wildlife; Transfer of Wildlife and Record Keeping Requirements

    * Make change to rule title to include "Record Keeping Requirements"
    * Provides a "grandfather" clause for any Class II wildlife possessed for personal use that is up listed to Class I.
          o Any Class II wildlife that is up listed to Class I wildlife upon the effective date of Rule 68A-6.002, F.A.C., is eligible for a permit in accordance with the provisions for Class II wildlife.
    * Provide in paragraph (1) that no other class I wildlife may be "transferred" or kept for personal use.  The intent is to prevent continued acquisition of Class I for personal use by grandfathered entities.
    * Require all Class I wildlife possessed for personal use to be permanently identified by means of tattoo, brand, passive integrated transponder (PIT tag), photographic id or other method that identifies the specimen from others of the same species.
          o Specifies requirements in instances where photographic identification is used.
          o Requires owners to maintain records of identification and submit same to FWC.
          o Permanent identification requirements effective July 1, 2009.
    * Change the length of time records of sale/transfer are required to be maintained to 3 years.  Add: requirement that these transfers be submitted within 30 days to FWC where they are to be maintained and available to the public.  The FWC is never going to have the resources to research these transfers to look for trends and animals who are falling through the cracks.  It is only through public access via a transparent system that the abuses will be discovered and rectified.
    * Specify that sale/transfer records are to include: date, quantity and species, name and complete address of recipient; and license identification number where applicable.
    * Provide that record of sale/transfer are not required for that wildlife that may be possessed for personal use without a permit as specified in 68A-6.0022 (2) (a) – (v), except as otherwise required.

68A-6.0023 General Regulations Governing Possession of Captive Wildlife; Record Keeping Requirements

    * In paragraph (2)(a) include "68A-6.007" as it pertains to requiring wildlife to be maintained in cages or enclosures constructed in compliance with the specified rules.
    * Include language that requires out door enclosures for non-native venomous reptiles or reptiles of concern to be covered as provided in rule 68A-6.007.
    * Require structural safety barriers to be present to prevent public contact with unconfined Class I or II wildlife by the public.  These barriers should be constructed of similar construction materials and/or strength as the main enclosure, because a rope is sufficient…until one day it is not.
    * Requires possessors to maintain an accurate record of all changes in inventory to include: births, deaths, acquisition and sales or transfers.
          o Records are to be kept on the licensed premises and open to inspection. Add: requirement that these records be submitted within 30 days to FWC where they are to be maintained and available to the public.  The FWC is never going to have the resources to research these transfers to look for trends and animals who are falling through the cracks.  It is only through public access via a transparent system that the abuses will be discovered and rectified.

          o Describes the information required for records of birth, death, and acquisition.
          o Requires that records of sale/transfer are to be maintained as provided in 68A-6.0021, F.A.C. Add: requirement that these records be submitted within 30 days to FWC where they are to be maintained and available to the public.  The FWC is never going to have the resources to research these transfers to look for trends and animals who are falling through the cracks.  It is only through public access via a transparent system that the abuses will be discovered and rectified.

68A-6.0024 Commercialization of Wildlife; Public Contact; Bonding or Financial Responsibility Guarantee

    * Delete reference to "public contact" in rule title.  Language pertaining to public contact will remain in 68A-6.0023.
    * Require persons permitted in accordance with 372.921, F.S., to demonstrate consistent and sustained commercial activity as characterized by:
          o A regular media advertising campaign, or Internet Web site;
          o Signs, billboards or flyers advertising commercial wildlife services or operations;
            Regular "Open for business" hours;
          o Written business is conducted on printed letterhead, indicating the name of the company or business;
          o Documented exhibition of wildlife to the public, with or without a charge, of no less that 12 times per year; typo: than 12 times
          o Sale of wildlife including any lesser acts thereof as defined in Rule 68A-1.004, F.A.C.
    * Paragraph (1) is renumbered as (2); and paragraph (2) is renumbered as (3).

68A-9.006 Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit

    * Delete reference to "joint" permit and update language to accurately reflect federal permit requirement when rehabilitating migratory birds.
    * Reflect correct application title and delete "incorporated by reference" to allow for standardization of agency permit applications without necessitating a rule change.
    * Update the reference of no rehabilitation permit required for rehabilitation on non-native species, to include Class III, venomous reptiles and reptiles of concern.
    * Provide that exotic or non-native wildlife may not be comingled with native wildlife possessed for rehabilitation purposes.
    * Provide that wildlife may be held no longer than 180 days before it must be released, transferred or euthanized.
    * Allow that the 180-day requirement may be extended in instances where a licensed veterinarian has certified that a longer holding period is necessary in the interest of the health and welfare of the wildlife. In all instances where the text says licensed veterinarian, it should read “a veterinarian licensed in Florida.”
          o Require medical records in these instances to be maintained at the facility and made available for inspection upon request.
    * Require evaluation by an independent rehabilitator or veterinarian before physically impaired wildlife is diagnosed as unreleasable. 

68A-6.0025 Sanctuaries; Retired Performing Wildlife and Identification (New proposed rule)  See Big Cat Rescue's full report on this issue at FWCC Sanctuary Definition to see why the FWCC's definition of a sanctuary is nothing more than a loophole for more Class I pet owners.

    * Defines captive wildlife sanctuaries as a facility established solely for the purpose of providing lifetime care for unwanted or infirmed wildlife.
    * Requires sanctuaries to be licensed per 372.921 and not for profit corporation status as described in 501 (c) 3 of the Internal Revenue Code.
    * Prohibits acts which perpetuate the commercial trade in captive wildlife including the trade, sale, offering for trade or sale, breeding, or buying of captive wildlife or parts thereof.   One way that pseudo sanctuaries perpetuate the commercial trade in captive wildlife is by providing a dumping ground for those who breed, use and discard.  In many cases pseudo sanctuaries are opposing regulation that ends the trade in exotic animals because if there were no animals to rescue, there would be no need for them to exist.  Legitimate sanctuaries will contract with those disposing of wildlife to have them surrender their licenses and/or agree to stop breeding, selling, buying and trading.  Big Cat Rescue’s goal is that one day soon there will no longer be a trade in exotic cats and thus no need of rescue facilities.
    * Prohibits full or incidental contact as defined in Rule 68A-6.0023 (3)(a)2.- 3., F.A.C., between the public and such wildlife.
    * Requires permanent identification, recordkeeping of such identification and submission of such identification records to FWC.
    * Allows persons licensed per 372.921, F.S., to maintain performing wildlife which due to age or physical condition may no longer perform, for the purposes of providing lifetime care.
          o Requires permanent identification, recordkeeping and submission of such records as required for wildlife maintained by a captive wildlife sanctuary.

68A-6.0071 Record Keeping and Reporting Requirements.

    * The Captive Wildlife Inventory-Reptile form, FWCDLE_620IV-R (12-06), will be reviewed to determine if modifications are necessary.  Should modifications be made the date (12-06) will be changed to reflect the modified date.
    * No additional changes are anticipated for this rule.

See the entire language of the proposed rules here:

The public comment workshops were June 9-13 with only a dozen or so attendees at each meeting.

These are issues that Big Cat Rescue believes should be included in this rule making period but are not in bold so that it is easier to read:

Contact was addressed, but not sufficiently.  It goes without saying that the public should not be allowed contact with Class I animals, but allowing contact with Class I cats under 25 pounds just creates a tremendous demand for babies that are being discarded or killed when they exceed the weight limit.  There is absolutely no reason to encourage this unconscionable practice and ending it would largely end the trafficking in big cats.  A federal bill, Haley’s Act HR 1947 is expected to pass this year that bans public contact with big cats and their babies and Florida shouldn’t be drafting rules that will conflict with federal law.  Florida’s Congresswoman, Kathy Castor and Congressman Vern Buchanan are co-sponsors of Haley’s Act and when similar bills have passed in Congress they have been unanimous.   This is the most important rule change that the FWC can implement to stop the abuse that is the subject of so many of the complaints by both Floridians and visitors.  Find out more about big cats bred in Florida who are used, abused and discarded at Dying To Be Held.

All exotic cats should be re-classified as Class I due to their ability to inflict severe injury and the potential for environmental damage should they be released into US eco systems, where only bobcats, cougars and the occasional jaguar are known to live. 

Definition of “the public.”  Too many places charge a fee for people to be a volunteer for a day so that they can circumvent the prohibitions on coming into close contact with Class I wildlife.  The way we deal with that at Big Cat Rescue is to require minimum hours per week, to be logged into a computerized data system.  A person has to consistently log 8 hours volunteer time per week and have been a volunteer for 18 months (and a whole lot of classes, training, etc.) before they are allowed to be anywhere near a Class I cat and even then are not allowed any direct contact. 

One of the issues that came out in public workshops on the Sanctuary issue was that it is ridiculous to allow an entity to call themselves both a sanctuary and a breeder/dealer by holding one of each license, regardless of the closeness of proximity between one operation and the other.  You are either a sanctuary, which is a place that rescues animals from exploitation or you are exploiting them.  It’s that simple.  Having the FWC bless an operation with their interpretation of the term “sanctuary” when the underlying entities in charge are, at the same time adding to the problem serves only to help mislead the public.  Using the requirements set out at would truly set sanctuaries apart from zoos, breeders, dealers, circuses and such.

Last, but again one of the most important rule changes the FWC can make is to allow cities, counties and municipalities to enact their own, MORE RESTRICTIVE measures to protect their citizens and to improve their image in the public eye as being forward thinking when it comes to protecting animals from the abuses associated with breeding and keeping wild animals in cages.  

For the cats,

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

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