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ACTION ALERT: ASK YOUR STATE SENATOR TO VOTE NO ON SB126/AB 124, RELATING TO: THE DEFINITION OF PUBLIC ZOOS AND AQUARIUMS FOR PURPOSES OF CAPTIVE WILDLIFE REGULATIONS!

Updated 2/2/24
 

THE ASSEMBLY PASSED AB 124 ON 1/25/24 AND MESSAGED IT TO THE SENATE, where it was referred back to the Senate Committee on Labor, Regulatory Reform, Veterans and Military Affairs. PLEASE contact your WI State Senator and ask him/her please to VOTE NO on SB 126/AB 124, relating to: the definition of public zoos and aquariums for purposes of captive wildlife regulations! Please note that the supporters of this bill are VERY vocal, so every email or phone call is important!

 

 pawprint bullet point   Bill Text   pawprint bullet point   Bill History   pawprint bullet point   Bill Summary   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point  TAKE ACTION    pawprint bullet point   Talking Points   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Find your WI State Representatives   pawprint bullet point   What To Expect At A Public Hearing   pawprint bullet point


 

Woodchuck at feeder.     In the wake of the TV series "Tiger King," which graphically exposed conditions and abuses at a private wildlife exhibition, most of the country is looking at regulations to tighten state control over private ownership of captive wildlife. Instead, SB 126/ AB 124 would seek to LOOSEN such control in a state that already lags behind most of the US in regulation of private ownership of captive wild animals and roadside zoos!

     SB 126, relating to: the definition of public zoos and aquariums for purposes of captive wildlife regulations, was introduced on March 8, 2023 by Senators Wanggaard, Ballweg and Felzkowski and cosponsored by Representatives Dallman, Swearingen, Brooks, Moses, Murphy, Novak and Tusler. This bill expands the definition of “public zoos and aquariums” to include those that are accredited members of the Zoological Association of America and thus exempt them from Wisconsin state licensing.  It was assigned to the Senate Committee on Labor, Regulatory Reform, Veterans and Military Affairs. A public hearing was held on August 29, 2023. Surprisingly, the bill never came to a vote in that committee. However, the Assembly version passed on 1/25/24, was messaged to the Senate, and the Assembly Bill 124 was also referred to the Senate Committee on Labor, Regulatory Reform, Veterans and Military Affairs (where the Senate version, SB 126, never came to a vote).

 pawprint bullet point  Record of Committee Proceedings, including who registered/ spoke for and against    pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Committee Testimony and Documents   pawprint bullet point

     On March 24, 2023, a companion bill, AB 124, was introduced. It was referred to the Assembly Committee on Tourism. A public hearing was held on Wednesday, September 6, 2023. You can read the hearing materials below. On October 5th,AB 124 was moved out of the Assembly Committee on Tourism, with a recomendation for passage by a vote of 7 - 4, along party lines. The bill passed in the full Assembly on 1/25/24 and was messaged to the Senate, where it was referred to the Senate Committee on Labor, Regulatory Reform, Veterans and Military Affairs (where the Senate version, SB 126, never came to a vote).

 pawprint bullet point  Record of Committee Proceedings, including who registered/ spoke for and against    pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Committee Testimony and Documents   pawprint bullet point

     Even though all zoos and wildlife exhibitions must be licensed by the USDA under the Animal Welfare Act, under current WI law, known as the captive wildlife law, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also regulates the possession of, and other activities related to, certain wild animals. Generally under current law, a person may not possess a wild animal that is native to Wisconsin without a license from DNR. There are exceptions to this prohibition for some animals, including chipmunks, mice, pigeons, and voles. Certain entities may possess wild animals without a license from DNR, including veterinarians, zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, municipal zoos, and circuses. Current licensing through the WI DNR ensures licensees are held to standards of care which, depending on species, greatly exceed those of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

     Also, "All farm-raised deer keepers are required to be licensed and registered by the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection."

     According to the WI DNR, "A wide variety of entities may meet the threshold for licensing, including agribusinesses, amusement parks, animal shelters, breeders, camps/ resorts, educational institutions, nature/ educational centers, rescues/ rehabilitators, production companies, parks, petting zoos, retail, and sanctuaries."

     This bill would add ZAA- accredited facilities to the list of exemptions.

     WE STRONGLY OPPOSE this bill that would eliminate the state licensing requirements from ZAA- accredited facilities and prevent the WI DNR from applying state standards that are designed to ensure humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of captive animals. Evidence shows that the ZAA is NOT an organization with standards of care on a par with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The ZAA promotes and supports private ownership of exotic animals, allows hands-on public interactions with wild animals and opposes legislation to regulate exotic animals -- and the owner of the only ZAA - accredited facility in Wisconsin is on the ZAA board of directors. In our opinion, ZAA standards are lax and what standards they have are not well enforced. We feel that exempting ZAA - accredited facilities from WI DNR oversight would be akin to handing the regulation of puppy mills over to an organization of puppy millers. We also feel that, if the bill is passed, it will lead to more roadside zoos joining the organization to escape regulation and expose more animals to the risk of poor care and unacceptable living conditions.

     We at Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project would, in fact, like to see state licensing requirements for private owners of captive wild animals strengthened. We are opposed to any laws such as this that would take the stewardship of WI animals out of the hands of experts in our own state.

 

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Bill Summary (by the Legislative Reference Bureau):

Coyote     "Current law generally prohibits the possession, exhibition, propagation, sale, and purchase of wild animals without a relevant license issued by the Department of Natural Resources. Public zoos and aquariums, which are facilities operated by the state or by a city, village, or county or that are an accredited member of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, are exempt from these license requirements.

     "This bill expands the definition of 'public zoos and aquariums'  to include those that are accredited members of the Zoological Association of America."

 

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WHAT YOU CAN DO:

     General guidelines for contacting your representatives: Try to keep your message brief, and be sure to give your name, complete mailing address, and phone number. Let your representative know that you are a constituent. Please, ALWAYS be polite and respectful. Name-calling, and rude or abusive letters or emails will hurt, rather than help, our cause.

  • THE ASSEMBLY PASSED AB 124 ON 1/25/24 AND MESSAGED IT TO THE SENATE, where it was referred back to the Senate Committee on Labor, Regulatory Reform, Veterans and Military Affairs. (where the Senate version of the bill, SB 126, was never voted on for some reason). PLEASE contact your WI State Senator and ask him/her please to VOTE NO on SB 126/AB 124, relating to: the definition of public zoos and aquariums for purposes of captive wildlife regulations! Please note that the supporters of this bill are VERY vocal, so every email or phone call is important -- but keep it polite and respectful, please!

  • Please see our Talking Points for more resources.

 pawprint bullet point   Find your WI State Representatives   pawprint bullet point   What To Expect At A Public Hearing   pawprint bullet point

 

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Talking Points:

  • Hawk with mouse in treeQuite simply, responsibility for captive native WI wildlife SHOULD lie with the WI agencies most familiar with dealing with these animals. We are opposed to laws that would take the stewardship of WI animals out of the hands of experts in our own state.

  • At a time when many states are passing laws to strengthen their regulation of captive wildlife and roadside zoos, this bill is a giant step BACKWARD for Wisconsin!

  • Here is an excellent article from PBS referring to SB 126/ AB 124: Wisconsin Republicans consider bill to weaken oversight of roadside zoos

  • Judy Domaszek, who is also the owner of Wildwood Wildlife Park in Minocqua -- the only ZAA- accredited facility in WI -- is on the ZAA board of directors.

  • The Sloth Conservation Foundation has written a very interesting article about the "dark side" of animal encounter experiences which relates not just to sloths, but to all captive wildlife. You can read The Wildlife Selfie Problem here.

  • Currently, a Captive Wildlife Animal Farm License (CWAFL) is required for activity involving most native species, and some non-native species, of captive wild animals including: species designated as harmful wild animals (all bears, cougars, wolf-dog hybrids, mute swans), endangered or threatened species, and most migratory game birds. Removing state licensing requirements would:

    • remove higher standards set by the DNR Captive Wildlife License

    • remove state pen requirements tied to the CWAFL for cougar, bobcat, lynx, wolves, wolf-dog hybrids, coyote, fox, fisher, eagles, hawks, falcons, owls racoons, badgers, beavers, otters on exhibit.

  • Removal of state licensing and oversight for ZAA- accredited facilities would be detrimental to the animals and possibly to public safety:

    • Current licensing through the WI DNR ensures licensees are held to standards of care which, depending on species, greatly exceed those of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

    • Concerns related to animal health and care and public safety would no longer be reported to the DNR for immediate investigation, but would have to be submitted to the ZAA or the USDA, which may not respond in a timely manner.

    • The DNR would no longer be able to confiscate animals from situations where they were in danger or presented a danger to the public, or from facilities that were violating the law.

    • The DNR would no longer be responsible for helping recapture escaped animals. Instead, this would be left up to local authorities, who may not be equipped to handle them.

    • Escaped captive wild animals recovered by local authorities may end up being held in local animal shelters, which may not be equipped to cope with them.

    • Without consistent standards, there may be increased potentioal for disease transmission between captive wild animals and domestic and free-roaming wild populations due to escapes and inadequate separation.

  • Facilities in favor of this legislation give "additional paperwork with state licensing" as the reason for their support. This "additional paperwork" includes record- keeping details of how many animals of what types they have, as well as where they are kept and how they are treated. This level of accountability would be lost if SB 126/ AB 124 becomes law.

    • Timbavati, one of the proponents of the new law, is currently applying for ZAA accreditation and just this year they were cited 3 times by the DNR for inadequate record keeping and other offenses.

  • Generally under current law, a person may not possess a wild animal that is native to Wisconsin without a license from DNR. There are exceptions to this prohibition for some animals, including chipmunks, mice, pigeons, and voles. Certain entities may possess wild animals without a license from DNR, including veterinarians, zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, municipal zoos, and circuses.

  • Generally under current law, a person may not possess a wild animal that is native to Wisconsin without a license from DNR. There are exceptions to this prohibition for some animals, including chipmunks, mice, pigeons, and voles. Certain entities may possess wild animals without a license from DNR, including veterinarians, zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, municipal zoos, and circuses.

    • Zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums are exempt from current state licensing due to the intense standards of care and safety requirements required by the AZA. Per the AZA, fewer than 10% of the approximately 2,800 animal exhibitors licensed by the USDA are AZA accredited.

  • Reportedly, the driving force behind the bill is Animal Entertainments, owned by Matt Schoebel, and is the parent company for Timbavati Wildlife Park in Wisconsin Dells, WI; Shamba Safari in Neshkoro, WI; and for Wildlife Limited, a traveling petting zoo that also hosts pig races, pony rides and camel rides. Wisconsin's Animal Entertainments cited for Illinois zebra escape incident.

  • Senate Committee on Labor, Regulatory Reform, Veterans and Military Affairs Public Hearing Testimony and Materials

Possum in a tree stump


 pawprint bullet point   Bill Text   pawprint bullet point   Bill History   pawprint bullet point   Bill Summary   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point  TAKE ACTION    pawprint bullet point   Talking Points   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Find your WI State Representatives   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   What To Expect At A Public Hearing   pawprint bullet point

 

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