|usda, awa, animal welfare act, enforce, violations, regulations|
I'm a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and have a small wildlife sanctuary of unreleasable wildlife. I must have a USDA permit to keep these animals. The USDA inspectors told me they have no regulations on size of enclosures, enrichment, type of food...for raccoons, skunks, opossums or squirrels. They only state they must be "sufficient." That said California Fish & Wildlife does have specific regulations for each animal. Our enclosures, treatment are always superior to these minimum standards.
People have asked why the USDA does not go after people who violate AWA regulations. I asked my USDA inspectors who are all licensed veterinarians the same question. They have pets and love animals. They told me they have no enforcement power. If someone is a repeat violator, they will cancel their USDA permit. That is all they can do. They don't have the power to seize the animals, arrest the people or bring charges. They said if they take away the permit, the person will just operate without one with no oversight at all.
Now the California Department of Fish & Wildlife does have enforcement power in regard to wildlife. They can take away someone's permit. If they continue to operate without it, they've committed multiple felonies. They can seize all the animals, arrest the person and file charges against them.
That said someone should write, propose legislation to give the USDA enforcement power just like the Dept of Fish & Wildlife. All that said even with enforcement power the departments don't have the resources to seize and hold all those animals. They have to keep them as evidence until the case is settled or the owner agrees to give them the animals. These cases are long and drawn out.
The only time I've seen Fish & Wildlife take action is when a non-profit rescue has offered to care for the animals during litigation and agrees to take them if the owner or court allows it. That was the only way Fish & Wildlife went after Tiger Rescue. Fund for Animals took care of the tigers and eventually placed them all after the owner signed them over. This is the reason why Fish & Wildlife won't go after the Waystation who has been in violation for years and years.
The only success I've seen is the HSUS Humane Officers who can enforce animal control, animal cruelty, wildlife, regular police...regulations. They only go after cases where they have the resources to care for the animals. They just don't have the resources to help with all the cases.
Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game and the USDA. Mary Cummins is also a licensed real estate appraiser in Los Angeles, California.
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