Overview of American Zoo and Aquarium Association Government Affairs and Animal Health
Steven G. Olson, BS, MS
American Zoo and Aquarium Association, Government Affairs Department, Silver Spring, MD, USA
The AZA Government Affairs Committee and staff track numerous legislative and regulatory initiatives each year which directly and indirectly affect AZA institutions and, in particular, animal health and veterinary programs. This paper will update conferees on the legislative and regulatory issues that are monitored by AZA. This will include status reports on legislation such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Horse Slaughter bill and the Pet Primate Safety Act and regulatory efforts such as CWD, Captive Wildlife Safety Act, and monkeypox. The paper will also explore how the AZA Government Affairs staff works within the Federal framework to represent AZA and its member institutions and how AAZV can be more active in AZA government affairs activities.
Prior to the late 1950s, few restrictions existed, allowing zoos and aquariums to collect those animals they wished to display and operate their facilities as they saw fit. In the late 1950s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiated the first major restriction by a federal agency to affect zoos. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) implemented the APHIS Authorization Act to protect animals in the United States against infectious or contagious diseases.
In the mid-1960s, the AZA adopted its own “Endangered Species Act”: a membership-imposed restriction against the trafficking of such animals as the Javan and Sumatran rhinoceros, golden lion tamarin, and Galapagos tortoise. AZA members were active in these worldwide conservation efforts several years before the federal government.
The American public began visiting animal exhibits in unprecedented numbers, which caused an increase in the number of roadside zoos. Troubled by what they saw in roadside zoos, the public and other organizations called for humane treatment of captive animals. In 1970, Congress passed the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 (AWA) to regulate animals used in research facilities, for exhibition purposes, and as pets to ensure they are provided with humane care and treatment.
In 1972, amidst great public outcry over the incidental “take” of dolphins by tuna fishermen, the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA) was enacted to protect all species of whales, dolphins, seals, polar bears, walrus, manatees, and sea otters. The term “take" is broadly defined to mean harass, hunt, capture, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture or kill an endangered species. The MMPA created a moratorium on the taking of marine mammals without a permit, but it does provide for the issuance of public display and scientific research permits.
Early in 1973, representatives from 80 nations met in Washington, D.C. to consider the plight of endangered species of flora and fauna throughout the world. This resulted in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)—the first major international treaty to protect species globally by regulating their import and export.
In late 1973, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) was enacted to restrict activities involving native and foreign endangered and threatened animals and plants to help ensure their survival. The ESA prohibits the take of these species unless authorized by a permit, but certain exceptions apply to captive-bred wildlife. The ESA defines an endangered species as any species in imminent danger of extinction and a threatened species as any species likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.
Pressured to impose stricter laws regarding the importation of wildlife, the Department of the Interior amended the Lacey Act to prohibit the importation, exportation, transportation, sale, receipt, acquisition, or purchase of any fish or wildlife taken or possessed in violation of any law, treaty, or regulation of the United States, any Native American tribe, or any foreign country. Permits are available to import otherwise prohibited wildlife for zoological, educational, medical, or scientific purposes.
The Wild Bird Conservation Act was enacted in 1992 to promote the conservation of wild exotic birds by prohibiting the importation of wild-caught birds. There are four exceptions to the prohibition, including zoological breeding or display programs.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act implements four separate treaties that the United States is a party to with Great Britain (on behalf of Canada), Mexico, Russia, and Japan. The Act states that no person shall take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale any migratory bird, or the nests or eggs of such birds, except as authorized by a valid permit.
The Public Health Service Act (PHSA) regulates imports to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the United States The PHSA covers turtles, tortoises, terrapins (excluding sea turtles), and non-human primates.
Cause and Effect of Zoo and Aquarium Legislation
Any profession or industry must closely monitor all draft legislation (bills) impacting it. It must examine the reasons behind a bill's introduction, and analyze that bill's effects. It must then establish positions to take on the bill.
Often, it is more difficult to determine what causes the introduction of a bill than what the effects of such legislation might be. This is one of the reasons legislative representation in Washington is valuable. Since 1975, AZA has been very active in the legislative and regulatory arena, providing members with continuous legislative information.
Why Should Zoo and Aquarium Employees Be Familiar with Current Wildlife Laws?
It is absolutely essential for persons involved in the capture, shipment, receipt, sale, transportation, or display of exotic wildlife to be familiar with existing local, state, federal, and international wildlife laws. Ignorance of the laws and assumptions of compliance will not withstand legal challenge. For example, the Lacey Act makes the receiver of illegally taken or transported wildlife as guilty as the shipper, even if the receiver had no knowledge that the wildlife in question was either illegally taken or transported, or that the container holding such wildlife was improperly marked.
The AZA Legislative Program
The AZA provides numerous legislative services to its members including legislative representation in Washington, D.C., daily monitoring of the Federal Register, and continuous review of the Congressional Record. The Government Affairs Committee assists in responding to draft legislation and regulations which will impact zoos and aquariums. Finally, the AZA Government Affairs Department sponsors Legislative Conferences in Washington, D.C. to give members the chance to meet with their representatives on Capitol Hill.
The AZA Government Affairs Committee and staff track numerous legislative and regulatory initiatives each year which directly and indirectly affect AZA institutions and, in particular, animal health and veterinary programs. This paper will update conferees on the legislative and regulatory issues that are monitored by AZA (as noted above). This will also include status reports on new legislative initiatives such as the Horse Slaughter bill and the Pet Primate Safety Act and regulatory efforts such as CWD, Captive Wildlife Safety Act provisions, APHIS bird standards and monkeypox. The paper will also explore how the AZA Government Affairs staff works within the Federal framework to represent AZA and its member institutions and how AAZV can be more active in AZA government affairs activities.