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ALERT UPDATE: BREAKING NEWS ON SB 347/ AB 341, WHICH WOULD REMOVE STATE OVERSIGHT FOR CAPTIVE WILDLIFE EXHIBITORS WHO ARE LICENSED BY THE USDA!

Updated 6/23/21
 

BREAKING NEWS (6/23/21): Wisconsin humane and natural resource protection organizations are calling upon the authors of SB 347 / AB 341 to immediately WITHDRAW the bill (which would remove state oversight for some captive wildlife owners/exhibitors). One of the major organizations for whom this legislation was drafted has been found to have illegally imported a non-native invasive species into Wisconsin; these animals are now loose on AND off the owner’s property! For details, see: Up to 20 non-native prairie dogs loose at Wisconsin's Shamba Safari

UPDATE, 6/10/21: SB 347 has passed out of the WI State Senate. Now, it's all up to the Assembly, where the companion bill, AB 341, is currently being considered by the Assembly Committee on Agriculture. So far, a hearing date has not been set, but we expect that fairly soon now that the bill has passed out of the Senate. We are keeping our eye on the situation and will keep you posted!

 

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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 347/ AB 341 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 347, relating to: captive wildlife in facilities holding a U.S. Department of Agriculture exhibitor license, was introduced on May 14, 2021 by Senators Wanggaard, Nass and Felzkowski; and cosponsored by Representatives Dallman, Murphy, Moses, Knodl, Swearingen and Rozar. The bill would exempt facilities that hold a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Class C exhibitor license from Wisconsin state licensing. It was assigned to the Senate Committee on Insurance, Licensing and Forestry. A public hearing was held on May 26, 2021, and the bill was passed out of Committee, by a vote along party lines, on June 3. On Wednesday, June 9, it was passed in the full Senate by a vote of 19 Ayes (all Republicans) and 13 Noes (12 Democrats and one brave Republican who chose to vote his conscience and thus made the opposition to the bill bipartisan).

     On May 21, 2021, a companion bill, AB 341, was introduced. It was referred to the Assembly Committee on Agriculture. So far, a hearing date has not been set, but we expect that fairly soon now that the bill has passed out of the Senate. We are keeping our eye on the situation and will keep you posted!

     According to the USDA/ APHIS website, the Animal Welfare Act mandates that, "Individuals or businesses with warm-blooded animals that are on display, perform for the public, or are used in educational presentations must be licensed as exhibitors with APHIS. Licensed exhibitors include circuses, zoos, educational displays, petting farms/zoos, animal acts, wildlife parks, marine mammal parks, and some sanctuaries. The animals involved in the exhibition may include domestic and exotic animal species."

      Under current WI law, known as the captive wildlife law, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) 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.

     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."

     Depending on species, the standards set by the WI agencies much exceed those set by the Animal Welfare Act.

     We at Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project are very much OPPOSED to SB 347/AB 341. In fact, we would like to see state licensing requirements for private owners of captive wild animals strengthened. We know from experience that the USDA licensing requirements and standards are outdated, minimal at best, and often inadequately enforced. We are also opposed to 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     "This bill exempts a facility that holds a U.S. Department of Agriculture exhibitor [Class C] license from state license requirements relating to captive wild animals.

     "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.

     "The bill also exempts from the license requirements a private facility that holds a valid Class C exhibitor license issued by the USDA. This license is required under the federal Animal Welfare Act for any individual or business engaged in public exhibition of animals covered by the act. "

 

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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, address, and phone number. Please, ALWAYS be polite and respectful. Name-calling, and rude or abusive letters or emails will hurt, rather than help, our cause.

SB 347 has passed out of the Senate. Now, it's all up to the Assembly, where the companion bill, AB 341, is currently being considered by the Assembly Committee on Agriculture. So far, a hearing date has not been set, but we expect that fairly soon now that the bill has passed out of the Senate. We are keeping our eye on the situation and will keep you posted!

  • If/When a public hearing is scheduled, we will ask you to attend and sign in OPPOSED, and/or to email written statements to the Committee OPPOSING "AB 341, relating to: captive wildlife in facilities holding a U.S. Department of Agriculture exhibitor license."

  • When the time comes, we will be asking you to contact Committee members (particularly if one of them represents your district) and ask them NOT to pass AB 341 out of committee to the full Assembly.

  • If/When the Committee passes the bill on to the full Assembly, we will ask you to send emails to your representative asking him/her to "vote NO on AB 341, relating to: captive wildlife in facilities holding a U.S. Department of Agriculture exhibitor license."

  • Put "OPPOSE AB 341" in the subject line of all of your emails to the Committee members and Assembly members.

  • If you want to give reasons for your position, please see our Talking Points below!

  • Also, please post your request on your Representative's Facebook page!

  • We will also ask that you contact Gov. Tony Evers and ask him to VETO "AB 341/SB 347, relating to: captive wildlife in facilities holding a U.S. Department of Agriculture exhibitor license," should it get to his desk. His phone number in Madison is: (608) 266-1212. Or, you can email him through the "Voice An Opinion" form on his website: Voice An Opinion.

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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!

  • This bill was rushed through without proper vetting or consideration. Sponsors did not consult with state animal advocacy organizations, nor the the five AZA accredited organizations in WI.

  • 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; requiring exhibitors to adhere only to the very minimal standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act, which is enforced by the same agency that oversees the nation's puppy mills. The USDA only has 109 inspectors to oversee 10,000 plus facilities in the United States.

    • 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 would be detrimental to the animals and possibly to public safety:

    • Current licensing through the WI DNR ensures that USDA Class C 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 USDA, which may not be able to 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.

  • The Office of the Inspector General has criticized the USDA for poor enforcement of the AWA, including failing to recognize safety- related violations. (See: Follow-Up to Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's Controls Over Licensing of Animal Exhibitors)

  • 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.

  • 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 347 becomes law.

  • From Public Hearing testimony by Lindsey Long, Wildlife Veteranarian for the WI DNR: Federal standards for licensing and regulation of a ClassC Exhibitors License regarding methods of acquisition/ disposition, humane animal care/ housing, human safety, and record­ keeping do not always align with state law and requirements, and in some cases may be more lenient. For these licensees, requiring both a federal and state license is complementary, with state regulation enhancing the protection, care, and safety of both the animals and the public.

    • Creating a license exemption for Class C Exhibitors would prevent the application of state standards designed to ensure humane handling, care, and transportation of captive wild animals. This could result in less stringent treatment of a class of captive wild animals that has a potential to be significant in reach.

    • 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.

    • Certain species, if escaped, have high potential to cause damage, and present public safety concerns.

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

    • Class C exhibitors would be exempt from record- keeping requirements, and the DNR's ability to “assume title on behalf of the state" of any captive wild anmal possessed in violation of the captive wild animal laws might be prevented or entirely removed.

  • Senate Committee on Insurance, Licensing and Forestry Public Hearing Testimony and Documents

  • List of Active Licensees and Registrants Under the USDA Animal Welfare Act

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

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