There are significant changes occurring in regulations and policies that will affect the manner in which U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors will evaluate facilities such as zoos. The responsibilities of licensed exhibitors and their attending veterinarians will be affected by these changes; it is imperative that they are understood by both parties.
Proposals for changes that are likely to be nearing completion or in effect by October 1997 are as follows:
1. Risk-based facility inspection. Facilities with good compliance records will be given low priority for repeat inspections, with perhaps one unscheduled USDA visit each 2 years. High priority will be given to those institutions with repeated compliance problems.
2. Guidelines for tuberculin testing of elephants. Failure to follow this protocol in high-risk cases may place an institution in violation of the veterinary care section of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
3. Changes in Subpart F (standards for wild or zoo animals) that will consider such issues as space requirements for large felines, bears;
a. Guidelines for enclosure heights.
b. Guidelines regarding chaining of elephants.
c. Guidelines regarding wire gauge, double-entry doors, electric fencing, etc.
d. Guidelines relating to nutrition and husbandry, for example considering presentation of food on the ground and use of bakery products or “road kill” in the diet; vitamin supplementation.
e. Guidelines for minimum/maximum temperatures based upon species requirements.
f. Guidelines for behavioral enrichment of various species or groups.
4. Guidelines regarding animal identification.
5. Changes in the roles/responsibilities of the attending veterinarian.