Legal Guidelines for Rehabilitating Wild Animals: Permissions and Protocols

Wildlife law Sep 19, 2023

Rehabilitating wild animals requires adherence to specific legal guidelines, permissions, and protocols that vary significantly across jurisdictions. To engage in wildlife rehabilitation activities lawfully, individuals must familiarize themselves with state and sometimes county regulations.

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Many states mandate licensing or permits through their Department of Natural Resources or Fish and Wildlife Division. The criteria for licensing often include demonstrating a minimum level of competency in animal biology, nutrition, and habitat preferences, which may be assessed through a competency exam or other means such as completion of relevant educational programs or apprenticeships with licensed rehabilitators.

A crucial aspect of the licensing process involves establishing a working relationship with veterinarians, as rehabbers are typically not authorized to prescribe medications. Facilities used for rehabilitation must meet specific standards, which can include the size, type, and quality of cages, as mandated by state regulations.

Additionally, standards of care, often referencing the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association’s guidelines, are set to ensure the well-being of the animals in care. Restrictions also apply to the types and numbers of animals a rehabilitator may care for, largely due to concerns about disease control and public safety.

Moreover, the legal framework surrounding wildlife rehabilitation is intricate, given that possession of wildlife is generally prohibited. Thus, a permit or license to rehabilitate wildlife acts as an exception to this rule. This legal framework aims to ensure that only those with the necessary capabilities and preparation engage in rehabilitation activities.

The evolution of wildlife rehabilitation laws, largely shaped by organizations like the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association and the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, reflects a growing recognition of the value of wildlife rehabilitators. These organizations have established standards and certification programs to enhance the quality of care provided to wildlife.

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For more detailed information on wildlife rehabilitation laws and the process of becoming a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, visit the Animal Legal & Historical Center website.

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