1997 Regular Session
To: Wildlife and Fisheries
By: Senator(s) Hewes
Senate Bill 2815
AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR THE PROTECTION OF CAPTIVE WILD ANIMALS; TO REQUIRE A PERMIT FOR CAPTIVE WILD ANIMALS; TO EXEMPT CERTAIN PERSONS AND ORGANIZATIONS; TO AUTHORIZE THE DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE, FISHERIES AND PARKS TO REGULATE THE KEEPING OF CAPTIVE WILD ANIMALS; TO PROVIDE PENALTIES FOR VIOLATION OF THIS ACT; TO AUTHORIZE LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO ADOPT MORE STRINGENT STANDARDS; TO AUTHORIZE CIVIL SUITS BY CITIZENS; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. The Legislature finds and declares that wild animals often pose serious threats to human health and safety and can cause severe environmental damage. These animals have very specific biological requirements best met in their natural habitat. When it is necessary to confine them in captivity, they should be under the supervision of qualified zoological or otherwise competent professional caretakers. Furthermore, it is unsuitable and cruel to involve them in any display, act or exhibit which causes them to engage in unnatural behavior. Because these animals can cause a local community much expense and inconvenience if they are inadvertently set free, their presence in a community should always be made known to government officials.
SECTION 2. As used in this act:
(a) "Commission" means the Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
(b) "Common carrier" means the operator of any airline, railroad, motor carrier, shipping line or other enterprise, which is primarily engaged in the business of transporting people, property, or animals for hire.
(c) "Director" means the Executive Director of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
(d) "Enhance the species" means to add significantly to the overall welfare, health and well-being of the species in question through a program that includes, at a minimum: controlled breeding in accordance with regulations established by the director; formal public education efforts; membership and participation in professional organizations such as state and national wildlife rehabilitators' associations, the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, American Association of Zoo Keepers, American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, and the American Federation of Aviculturists; and other requirements as the director may deem necessary.
(e) "Minimum care standards" means those standards for animal care promulgated by the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States under the federal Animal Welfare Act and found at Title 9, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 3.1, et seq., including amendments thereto, as adopted and promulgated by the director.
(f) "Person" means any individual, partnership, firm, joint stock company, corporation, association, trust, estate or other legal entity.
(g) "Pet" means an animal kept for pleasure rather than for utility.
(h) "Unnatural behavior" means behavior which is not part of a wild animal's natural habits or behavioral repertoire, or in which it would not engage in its natural habitat.
(i) "Wild animal" means any living member of the kingdom of Animalia, including those born or raised in captivity, except the following:
The species Homo sapiens (human beings)
The species Canis familiaris (domestic dogs, excluding hybrids with wolves, coyotes or jackals)
The species Felis catus (domestic cats, excluding hybrids with ocelots or margays)
The species Equus caballus (domestic horses)
The species Equus asinus (asses/donkeys)
The species Bos taurus (cattle)
The subspecies Ovis ammon aries (sheep)
The species Capra hircus (goats)
The subspecies Sus scrofa domestica (swine)
Domesticated races of the species Gallus gallus or Meleagris gallopavo (poultry)
Domesticated races of the species Mesocricetus auratus (golden hamsters)
Domesticated races of the subspecies Cavia aperea procellus (guinea pigs)
Domesticated races of rats or mice (white or albino, trained, laboratory reared)
Domesticated races of the species Oryctolagus cuniculus (rabbits)
All captive-bred members of the species of the families Psittacidae (parrots, parakeets), Anatidae (ducks), Fringillidae (finches), and Columbidae (doves and pigeons)
All captive-bred members of the species Serinius canaria of the class Aves (canaries)
Domesticated races of the species Carassius auratus (goldfish)
Captive-bred members of the superorder Teleostei of the class Osteichthyes (common aquarium fish)
All species of the class Insecta.
Squirrels and raccoons.
(j) "Wildlife rehabilitator" means any person who has possessed, for a period of not less than two (2) years, a valid state or federal permit for the capture and possession of injured, infirm, orphaned wild animals for purposes of treatment or sanctuary, and the wild animals under the person's care are not used for any public display off the premises, whether or not a fee is charged.
SECTION 3. (1) No resident may own, possess, or have custody of any wild animal, unless that person obtains a permit from the director or is exempted from obtaining a permit under Section 5(a) of this act.
(2) No person may sponsor, promote, or train a wild animal to participate in, contribute to the involvement of a wild animal in, or attend as a spectator any activity or event in which any wild animal engages in unnatural behavior or is wrestled, fought, mentally or physically harassed, or displayed in such a way that the animal is abused or stressed mentally or physically. This prohibition applies to events and activities taking place in either public or private facilities or property, and applies regardless of the purpose of the event or activities and irrespective of whether or not a fee is charged to spectators.
SECTION 4. (1) The director shall enforce this act and is authorized to issue permits for the ownership, possession, or custody of wild animals in accordance with Section 5 of this act.
(2) The director shall make investigations or inspections to determine whether any permit holder under this act has violated or is violating this act or any regulation issued thereunder, and for this purpose the director shall, at all reasonable times, have access to all facilities where wild animals are held pursuant to permits issued under this act. The director is specifically authorized and directed to make random and unannounced inspections of facilities at any reasonable time.
(3) Within six (6) months of the enactment of this act, the commission shall adopt as rules and regulations of the department those standards for the humane handling, care, treatment and transportation promulgated by the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States and found at Title 9, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 3.1 et seq., as apply to the wild animals protected by this act. The commission may modify the standards if the modifications are more protective of wild animals.
(4) The commission may establish other rules and regulations necessary and appropriate for the administration and enforcement of this act. The rules and regulations shall initially be promulgated within six (6) months of the enactment of this act.
SECTION 5. (1) The following persons are exempt from the permit requirement of Section 3:
(a) A person possessing or having custody of a sick or injured wild animal solely for the purpose of transporting the animal to a licensed veterinarian or permitted wildlife rehabilitator for care, to an incorporated humane society or animal shelter, to an organization that is an accredited member of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, or to a state, federal, or local governmental official with authority or apparent authority to handle the animal;
(b) Licensed veterinarians and incorporated humane societies or animal shelters tending to injured or sick wild animals, but they must notify the department within forty-eight (48) hours of obtaining custody of the animal;
(c) Any "research facility" within the meaning of Section 2(e) of the federal Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. Section 2132(e), licensed by the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States pursuant to that act;
(d) The department and any agent or official thereof acting in his official capacity;
(e) Any agency or official of the United States government acting in his official capacity; and
(f) Any person having possession or custody of the offspring of a wild animal for which that person has a valid permit issued under this act, but that person must apply for a permit for the offspring within ten (10) days of the birth of the offspring.
(2) The following persons shall be granted permits as a matter of right if they meet the minimum care standards adopted by the director and are not in apparent violation of Section 3 of this act:
(a) A person that has owned or possessed a wild animal for at least two (2) years prior to the date of enactment of this act;
(b) An organization that is an accredited member of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums;
(c) A state university or any other agency of the state working with wild animals; and
(d) A wildlife rehabilitator.
(3) All other persons applying for permits must demonstrate to the director:
(a) That the proposed ownership, possession, or custody of the wild animal will enhance the species in question within the meaning of Section 2(d);
(b) That the applicant possesses the scientific and animal husbandry credentials and material resources to implement the proposed species-enhancement program;
(c) That the applicant will be able to comply with the Minimum Care Standards. The applicant's possession of a license issued under the federal Animal Welfare Act shall not be deemed to establish the applicant's ability to comply;
(d) That the wild animal in question will not be kept as a personal pet;
(e) That the applicant will be able to comply with any other applicable state, local or municipal laws, ordinances or regulations, including those issued by the director under this act;
(f) That the wild animal in question will not be used, directly or indirectly, in activities or events prohibited by Section 3(2); and
(g) That the applicant can comply with any other terms, conditions and requirements which the director deems appropriate.
(4) Any permit issued shall be consistent with the purpose and other provisions of this act.
(5) The permit must specify:
(a) The number, species and exact identification of the individual animals authorized to be owned, possessed or held by the permit;
(b) The location where each animal will be kept.
(6) The director may promulgate any additional conditions or restrictions to be contained in permits consistent with the purpose and provisions of this act.
(7) The director shall publish notice of each application for a permit. The notice shall specify that interested parties may submit written comments to the director within thirty (30) days regarding the granting of the permit.
(8) Each applicant for a permit shall submit a written application to the director consistent with the requirements of Section 5(1) of this act and with other requirements that the director may hereafter establish by rulemaking.
(9) The director may conduct a hearing with respect to any permit application at the request of any interested party or at the discretion of the director, to decide whether to issue or deny a permit. If a hearing is conducted by the director, notice must be published and notice must be mailed to the applicant at least twenty (20) days prior to the hearing.
(10) The director shall issue or deny the application for a permit as soon as possible, but no later than thirty (30) days after the thirty-day period for comments has expired, or if a hearing is held, no later than thirty (30) days after the hearing.
(11) The permit may authorize the applicant to own, possess, or have custody of the animal specified in the permit for a period of two (2) years, or for a shorter period if deemed necessary by the director and specified on the permit.
(12) The director may renew a permit upon the applicant's showing that the applicant continues to comply with all the requirements of subsection (2) or (3), as the case may be.
(13) The commission shall by regulation establish and charge reasonable fees for the application, issuance and renewal of permits under this section.
(14) The director shall modify or revoke any permit issued pursuant to this section:
(a) To conform the permit to any regulation;
(b) If the terms and conditions of the permit are violated;
(c) If an animal owned or possessed pursuant to a valid permit is found in the custody, care or control of any person other than the permit holder or his agent or other person specified on the permit; or
(d) If the director determines that the permit holder or other person with possession or custody of the animals specified on the permit has not met the minimum care standards.
(15) The director shall publish notice of his intent to revoke or modify the permit, shall afford the permit holder an opportunity for a hearing, and shall mail notice of the hearing to the permit holder at least twenty (20) days prior to the hearing. The permit shall not be modified or revoked and the permit holder shall retain custody of the wild animal until the director has rendered a decision following a hearing and a copy of the decision is mailed to the permit holder, except, when the director determines that the health or welfare of the animal may be adversely affected by leaving the animal in the custody of the permit holder, the director may temporarily remove the animal to the custody of an incorporated humane society, licensed veterinarian, or a local or state government agency or official with the authority to care for the animal, or to another permit holder.
(16) If the director revokes the permit, the animal shall be permanently removed from the custody of the permit holder and forfeited to the director.
SECTION 6. (1) No nonresident may bring any wild animal into this state, or travel with any wild animal through this state, without obtaining a permit from the director before entering the state. To obtain a permit to enter or travel with any wild animal, a nonresident shall submit an application to the director which shall describe the number and species of animals, anticipated itinerary, scheduled stops, and the purposes for bringing the animal or animals into the state. The director shall issue the permit if the applicant can demonstrate, in advance, compliance with the minimum care standards, including those standards governing transportation of wild animals, while the applicant's wild animals are within the state. The permit shall be valid for no more than thirty (30) days and shall not be renewable.
(2) This section shall not apply to:
(a) Common carriers;
(b) Accredited members of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums; and
(c) Nonresidents traveling with any wild animal which shall be in this state for no more than forty-eight (48) hours, if the wild animal is not employed for or involved directly or indirectly in any exhibition or commercial purpose, or in activity prohibited under Section 3 of this act, while in this state.
(d) Circuses that travel regionally and have been in business for at least thirty (30) years.
SECTION 7. Notwithstanding any provision of this act or any regulation issued thereunder, counties and incorporated municipalities may enact ordinances relating to the ownership, possession, transportation, humane treatment, or care of wild animals if the ordinances are more protective of wild animals, or more restrictive of ownership or possession privileges than is this act.
SECTION 8. Any person convicted of violating this act or any regulation promulgated thereunder shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two (2) years or fined not more than Three Thousand Dollars ($3,000.00) or both. Any person convicted of a subsequent offense under this act or any regulation promulgated thereunder shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than three (3) years or fined not more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) or both. Any wild animal owned, possessed or in the custody of any person convicted of a first or subsequent violation shall be forfeited to the director. Every violation of this act, and any regulations promulgated thereunder, shall be considered a separate offense.
SECTION 9. Any person, on behalf of any wild animal involved, may bring a civil action to obtain injunctive relief against a violation of Section 3 of this act, or to compel enforcement of this act.
SECTION 10. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after January 1, 1998.