Stop West Virginia Senate Bill 371 prohibiting the ownership of exotic animals
This petition had 1,073 supporters
West Virginia is once again considering legislation that, despite arguments to the contrary, would prohibit the possession of wild and exotic animals. A similar bill was thankfully vetoed by Governor Tomblin in 2012. The text of the bill is as follows (I have highlighted in bold the most alarming aspects of this bill):
Senate Bill No. 371
(By Senators Beach, Kessler (Mr. President), Fitzsimmons and Stollings)
[Introduced January 16, 2014; referred to the Committee on Natural Resources; and then to the Committee on the Judiciary.]
A BILL to repeal §20-2-51 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended; and to amend said code by adding thereto a new article, designated §20-17-1, §20-17-2, §20-17-3, §20-17-4, §20-17-5, §20-17-6 and §20-17-7, all relating to limiting the possession of wild and exotic animals; expressing legislative intent; authorizing agency jurisdiction; defining certain terms; permitting expansion of the definitions; limiting custody and control of wild and exotic animals; providing a permit for persons who possess a wild and exotic animal prior to effective date; establishing permit requirements; requiring a notarized permit application and fee; splitting of fee with Division of Natural Resources and county humane and animal control officer or the sheriff, in the alternative; providing exemptions; requiring interagency cooperation; and providing rule-making authority.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §20-2-51 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be repealed; and that said code be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated §20-17-1, §20-17-2, §20-17-3, §20-17-4, §20-17-5, §20-17-6 and §20-17-7, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 17. LIMITING POSSESSION OF WILD AND EXOTIC ANIMALS.
(a) It is the intent of the State of West Virginia to protect the public against health and safety risks that wild and exotic animals pose to the community and to protect the welfare of the individual animals held in private possession. Currently, West Virginia is one of only eight states that lack any restrictions for wild and exotic animals kept by private individuals.
(b) Wild and exotic animals should be regulated for the following reasons:
(1) To prevent the introduction or spread of disease or parasites harmful to humans, domestic livestock and poultry, native wildlife, and captive wild and exotic animals;
(2) To ensure the physical safety of humans;
(3) To prevent the escape or release of an animal injurious to or competitive with agricultural, horticultural, forestry, native wildlife and other natural resource interests;
(4) To prevent the mistreatment of wild and exotic animals; and
(5) To prevent the removal and use of native wildlife taken from the public domain.
(a) The Division of Natural Resources will be the lead regulatory agency for entry and intrastate movement, sale, transfer, exhibition, possession and release of wild and exotic animals. Determination of adverse environmental and disease consequences posed by wild and exotic animals to free-living native wildlife is the responsibility of the Division of Natural Resources. In regard to disease implications, the Division of Natural Resources should consult with other agencies and authorities.
(b) The Department of Agriculture reserves the right to immediate examination and testing of wild or exotic animals when there is probable cause that the animals are harboring diseases or parasites suspected of endangering domestic animals. Measures deemed necessary to protect domestic animals and agricultural, horticultural and forestry interests, including quarantine, seizure, indemnification and destruction within the legislative authority of the Department of Agriculture, may be carried out independently of other state agencies. The Division of Natural Resources and the Bureau for Public Health will be advised of these activities. Actions taken by the Department of Agriculture will be compatible with the Federal Endangered Species Act and other federal laws.
(c) The Bureau for Public Health reserves the right to an immediate examination and testing of wild or exotic animals when there is probable cause that the animals are harboring diseases or parasites suspected of endangering public health. Measures deemed necessary to protect the public health including quarantine, seizure, and destruction may be carried out independently of other state agencies within the legislative authority of the Bureau for Public Health. The Division of Natural Resources and the State Department of Agriculture will be advised of these activities. Actions taken by the Bureau for Public Health will be compatible with the Federal Endangered Species Act and other federal laws.
(d) Any action taken by the Division of Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture or the Bureau for Public Health is subject to the provisions of the state’s Administrative Procedures Act.
(1) “Bureau” means the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health;
(2) “Department” means the West Virginia Department of Agriculture;
(3) “Division” means the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources;
(4) “Domestic animal,” or the plural, means an animal which, through extremely long association with humans, predominately as companions and pets, has been bred to a degree which has resulted in genetic changes affecting the temperament, color, conformation or other attributes of the species to an extent that makes them unique and distinguishable from wild individuals of their species. A comprehensive list of “domestic animals” shall be set forth by the division, in consultation with the department and the bureau, pursuant to the rulemaking authority of this article or the current legislative authority of the division.
(5) “Livestock animal” means a captive animal raised solely for meat or animal by-products or as brood-stock held in cages, pens, fences, enclosures or other man-made means of secure confinement that limit their movement within definite boundaries or as further defined in chapter nineteen of this code.
(6) “Wild and exotic animal,” “animal” or the plural mean any animals other than those defined as domestic and livestock, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fresh water fish that are either native wildlife or exotic, including hybrids thereof, which, due to their inherent nature, may be considered dangerous to humans, other animals or the environment. A comprehensive list of “wild and exotic animals” shall be set forth by the division, in consultation with the department and the bureau, pursuant to the rule-making authority of this article or the current legislative authority of the division.
(7) “Person” means any individual, partnership, corporation, organization, trade or professional association, firm, limited liability company, joint venture, association, trust, estate or any other legal entity and any officer, member, shareholder, director, employee, agent or representative thereof.
(8) “Possessor” means any person who owns, possesses, breeds, transports, releases or has custody or control of a wild and exotic animal.
(9) “Wildlife” means all animals occurring naturally in the state, either presently or historically, as defined by section two, article one of this chapter. “Wildlife” are “wild and exotic animals” for purposes of this article, but to the extent that any other provision of chapter twenty of this code conflicts with these provisions, the division will need to clarify the applicability.
(10) “Wildlife sanctuary” means a nonprofit organization as described in Section 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) of the Internal Revenue Code 1986, and its subsequent amendments, that operates a facility that is a place of refuge where abused, neglected, unwanted, impounded, abandoned, orphaned or displaced animals are provided care for their lifetime or released back to their natural habitat and is a facility with the following characteristics:
(A) No activity that is not inherent to the animal’s nature, natural conduct or the animal in its natural habitat is conducted except as needed for routine animal husbandry;
(B) No commercial activity involving any animal occurs including, but not limited to, the sale of or trade in animals, animal parts, animal by-products or animal offspring or the sale of photographic opportunities involving any animal or the use of any animal for any type of entertainment purpose;
(C) No unescorted public visitations or direct contact between the public and any animal; and
(D) No breeding of an animal(s) occurs in the facility.
§20-17-4. Possessing Wild and Exotic Animals Limited.
(a) Unless the activity is specifically exempted, no person may own, possess, breed, harbor, transport, release or have custody or control of a wild and exotic animal.
(b) Permit.– The division may issue a personal possession permit to a possessor of a wild and exotic animal prior to the effective date if:
(1) The possessor was in legal possession of the wild and exotic animal prior to the effective date of this article; and
(2) The possessor completes a notarized permit application for each wild and exotic animal by January 1 of each year containing:
(A) The name, address, telephone number and date of birth of the possessor.
(B) A description of each animal the applicant possesses, including the scientific name, sex, age, color, weight and any distinguishing marks or coloration that would aid in the identification of the animal.
(C) The exact location where the animal is kept and an accurate description of the secure, safe and humane enclosure where the animal is housed.
(D) The names, addresses and telephone number of the person from whom the possessor obtained the animal, if known.
(E) The name, address, and phone number of the veterinarian providing veterinary care to the animal and a certificate of good health, including proof that the animal has been sterilized, from the possessor’s veterinarian.
(F) Certification that the possessor is eighteen years of age or older and that the possessor has not been convicted of or found responsible for violating a local or state law prohibiting cruelty, neglect, or mistreatment of an animal and has not within the past ten years been convicted of a felony or been convicted for possession, sale or use of illegal narcotics.
(G) A fee of $200 has been made. The division shall keep fifty percent of the fee for handling its duties and remit the remaining fifty percent of the fee to the county human or animal control officer, or the sheriff in the alternative, to offset the cost of assisting in inspecting and controlling these animals. This will also provide the counties with important information about the wild and exotic animals in their vicinities.
(H) A plan for the quick and safe recapture of the wild and exotic animal if the animal escapes.
(I) Documentation that the possessor maintains liability insurance coverage in an amount of not less than $250,000 for damages stemming from destruction of property and death and bodily injury to a person caused by a wild and exotic animal.
(c) The county humane and animal control officers, or the sheriffs in the alternative, may be asked by the above agencies to inspect the wild and exotic animal and its enclosure. An inspection may be required by the division prior to issuing a permit. The possessor shall allow the division, department, bureau, county humane and animal control officers, and sheriffs, and their agents, to enter the premises where the animal is kept to ensure compliance with this article and other applicable laws.
(d) The division shall provide all possessor information obtained in the application to the department, bureau, county humane and animal control officers, or the sheriffs in the alternative, and shall strive to create a database tracking wild and exotic animals that these agencies can access.
(e) The division, department, bureau, county humane and animal control officers, or the sheriffs in the alternative, shall work together to share information regarding wild and exotic animals and to devise emergency response plans for emergent situations involving wild and exotic animals. Emergency contact information shall be provided to possessors in the application.
(f) The possessor shall use the emergency contact information immediately if it suspects the wild or exotic animal has a disease, injures a person, escapes or if any emergency arises involving the animal.
(g) Any possessor granted a permit shall notify the division of any changes to the stated information in the permit application at any time. Any changes will be disseminated to the other agencies.
(h) The possessor shall state in its notarized application that it will contact the division, the department, a wildlife sanctuary or an American Zoo and Aquarium Association accredited facility if the possessor can no longer care for the wild and exotic animal prior to releasing or euthanizing the wild and exotic animal.
The provisions of this article do not apply to:
(1) Institutions accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association or being mentored through the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.
(2) Duly incorporated nonprofit animal protection organizations housing a wild and exotic animal at the written request of the division.
(3) Animal control or law-enforcement agencies or officers acting under the authority of this article.
(4) A person who is licensed by the division to rehabilitate native wildlife. Persons are only exempt for the native wildlife in their possession.
(5) Licensed veterinary hospitals or clinics treating wild and exotic animals.
(6) A wildlife sanctuary as defined under this article.
(7) A licensed or accredited research or medical institution.
(8) A licensed or accredited educational institution.
(9) A lawfully operated circus or rodeo.
(10) A person temporarily transporting a wild and exotic animal through the state if the transit time is not more than ninety-six hours and the animal is at all times confined sufficiently to prevent the wild and exotic animal from escaping.
§20-17-6. Confiscation and disposition of wild and exotic animals.
(a) The division, department or bureau may immediately confiscate any wild and exotic animal if the animal is kept in contravention of this article. The possessor is liable for the costs of placement and care for the wild and exotic animal from the time of confiscation until the time of return to the possessor or until the time the animal has been relocated to an approved facility, such as a wildlife sanctuary as defined under this article or an institution accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.
(b) If a wild and exotic animal is confiscated due to the animal being kept in contravention of this article, the possessor must post a security bond or cash with the division, department or bureau in an amount sufficient to guarantee payment of all reasonable expenses expected to be incurred in caring and providing for the animal including, but not limited to, the estimated cost of feeding, medical care and housing for at least thirty days. The security bond or cash does not prevent the division from disposing of the animal after thirty days unless the person claiming the animal posts an additional security bond or cash with the division, department or bureau to secure payment of all reasonable expenses expected to be incurred in caring and providing for the animal for an additional thirty days and does so prior to the expiration of the first thirty day period. The amount of the security bond or cash shall be determined by the division and based on the current rate to feed, provide medical care and house the animal.
(c) If the possessor of a confiscated animal cannot be located or if a confiscated animal remains unclaimed, the division, department or bureau may contact an approved facility, such as a wildlife sanctuary as defined under this article or an institution accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association; allow the animal to be adopted by a person who currently possesses a personal possession permit; or, may euthanize the animal.
(d) If the wild and exotic animal cannot be taken up or recaptured safely by the division, department or bureau or if proper and safe housing cannot be found, the division, department or bureau may immediately euthanize the animal.
§20-17-7. Rule-making authority and agency cooperation.
(a) The division, department and bureau may develop inter-agency agreements or propose rules for legislative approval in accordance with article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code to implement this article and to take other action as may be necessary for the proper and effective enforcement of these provisions.
(b) The division, department and bureau shall cooperate to implement the provisions of this article and to take other action as may be necessary for the proper and effective enforcement of these provisions.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to prohibit the possession of wild and exotic animals. The bill provides for a permit for those in possession on the effective date for limited exceptions to the prohibition and for removing the animals if they are being kept in violation of this article. The bill expresses legislative intent. The bill establishes agency jurisdiction. The bill defines certain terms. The bill permits expansion of the definitions. The bill limits custody and control of wild and exotic animals. The bill provides a permit for persons who possess a wild and exotic animal prior to effective date. The bill sets forth permit requirements. The bill requires a notarized permit application and fee. The bill splits the fee with Division of Natural Resources and county humane and animal control officer or the sheriff, in the alternative. The bill provides exemptions. The bill requires interagency cooperation. The bill provides rule-making authority.
The bill repeals §20-2-51.
As you can see above. This bill is in no way trying to protect individuals or ecosystems; it is an attack on responsible animal owners and a blanket law designed to charge fees for applications and impose fines for infractions. It makes no guarantee of what is considered an exotic animal. These can include any animal that they deem not a companion animal or livestock. There is no common sense in this legislation whatsoever. As anyone who owns of knows anyone that owns, keeps, or breeds exotic animals that they are responsible owners. This bill is born out of outdated fear and blatant ignorant superstition of animals that the legislators do not understand. This isn't about responsible keeping more than it is shutting down the people and business who have devoted themselves to their exotic animals. Even if you do not live in West Virginia; laws like these become trend setters. Let's tell the legislators of West Virginia not to participate in willfull ignorance by passing a bill which has no intention other than to punish those who love and keep exotic animals.
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