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APHIS Initiates Rulemaking On Handling Of Wild And Exotic Animals – Environmental Law

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On January 6, 2023, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued an advanced notice of proposed
rulemaking (ANPR) and request for comments as to potential
amendments to Animal Welfare Act regulations governing exhibitors.
The ANPR solicits public comments on APHIS’ “plan to
strengthen regulations regarding the handling of wild and exotic
animals for exhibition, as well as the training of personnel
involved in the handling of wild and exotic animals, and to
establish standards addressing environmental enrichment for all
regulated animals.”

APHIS sees interactions between wild or exotic animals owned by
Class C exhibitor licensees and the public as an area of regulatory
concern. The ANPR seeks comments on the advisability of organizing
exhibited animals into three categories:

Category 1 — “exotic or wild animals with the
capability or potential to cause severe injury, dismemberment, or
death the public or staff.” (E.g., killer whales, bears,

Category 2 — “exotic or wild animals with the
capability or potential to cause injury to the public or staff that
is serious but not likely to be server or life-threatening. (E.g.,
sloths, kagaroos, beluga whales).

Category 3 — “common farm animals and ‘pocket
pets’ (small exotic and domestic mammals” that are
unlikely to cause serious injury to the public or staff.”
(E.g., goats, rabbits porcupines, sugar gliders).

If APHIS determines that these classifications make sense, then
it is considering regulations that would set standards for four
types of activities — full contact, protected contact,
walk-/drive-through exhibits and performances. The contemplated
regulations would focus on activity-specific restrictions to
minimize risk, training, restrictions on participation and
requirements for the animal involved. Also under consideration
would be requirements that a licensee develop a written plan,
approved by a veterinarian, setting out how the licensee will
ensure compliance with whatever restrictions are adopted.

APHIS also is contemplating regulations regarding the training
of licensees and staff who handle Category 1 an 2 animals. Here,
the agency seeks comments on what the state of training currently
is in the industry as well as what interested parties believe
training requirements should be.

Finally, the ANPR seeks comments on the potential requirements
for species-specific enrichment for all regulated animals. At
present, the regulations only contain environmental enrichment
requirements for non-human primates and marine mammals. If the
agency adopts performance standards for enrichment, it has
indicated that it would require licensees and registrants to
develop and implement written enrichment plans.

APHIS will consider all comments received on or before 60 days
after the ANPR is published in the Federal Register. That
publication is scheduled to happen on January 9.

Disclaimer: This Alert has been
prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not
offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more
information, please see the firm’s

full disclaimer

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