Regulatory Advice for Aviculturists

Why is this such an important goal?

Many of OPA's Goals concern preserving the rights of aviculturists and the general public in order that they may continue to enjoy the pleasures of bird-keeping. In recent years, pet owners and animal breeders have been targeted with an onslaught of bill proposals concerning birds and other animals. Many of these bills are initiated by those who believe no animal should be bred or kept in captivity. In addition to antivivisectionist arguments, they maintain that keeping a pet animal is exploitation for "entertainment," and that no animal "use" should be allowed.

Some legislative proposals have allowed for routine inspections of private homes, in some cases by inspectors who are not regulated by government agencies, but given authority through privately run humane organizations. Other bills are drafted without consideration of the species involved or appropriate husbandry methods. Some recent local proposals have attempted, e.g., to force all residents to register all pets including aquarium fish, limit to a small number the pets a household can keep, or require unreasonably high registration fees for unneutered animals.

While on the surface this type of legislation may seems to address humane issues or the uncontrolled breeding of stray animals, bills are also initiated with the purpose of targeting a few facilities in an area, and these attempts may result in far-reaching and problematic legislation. If the text is faulty, even a regulation conceived to address a stray animal issue can inadvertantly hamper aviculturists' ability to care for their birds, rather than provide protection. The financial burden of regulation can also have a negative effect on animal care.

In addition to pet and breeding regulations, some States strictly regulate or outlaw certain commonly kept bird species, such as Quaker Parakeets, Nandays, Indian Ringnecks or Patagonian Conures, deemed to be "pest" species. Travelling into such a state with a pet of those species can mean confiscation and possible euthanasia for the pet. Other species are Federally regulated because their status in the wild is endangered; however, these may be well-represented in domestic aviculture and be deserving of a change in status. Over-regulation of species which can be successfully bred in captivity makes it difficult for aviculturists to sell such species even to other breeders, and has the effect of limiting the species' success rather than improving it. Soliciting legislators to "de-list" a species, from either pest or protected status takes considerable time and effort, as studies must be conducted and assessed if the attempt is to be taken seriously.

Bird breeders, both as business entities and as the caretakers of animals, are controlled by state laws, and, often enough, local laws. In addition, they may be controlled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531-1543)
This Act prohibits the importation, exportation, taking, and commercialization in interstate or foreign commerce of fish and wildlife, and plants that are listed as threatened or endangered species. The Act also implements the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 (16 U.S.C. 4901)
This 1992 The Act promotes the conservation of exotic birds by encouraging wild bird conservation and management programs in countries of origin; by ensuring that all trade in such species involving the United States is biologically sustainable and to the benefit of the species; and by limiting or prohibiting imports of exotic birds when necessary to ensure that exotic wild populations are not harmed by removal for the trade.

Until recent years, the bird breeding trade would seem to have been encouraged, at least to some extent, by the Federal Government. In 1991, introducing what was to become the Wild Bird Conservation Act, Representative Gerry E. Studds stated, "This bill is not intended to deprive pet stores or prospective pet owners of birds. Rather, it is designed to encourage the growth of an industry for breeding and raising exotic birds in captivity for the specific purpose of supplying the pet trade."

On September 30, 1992, Senator Max Baucus, speaking on the accord of the House and Senate over the WBCA said, "As early as 1976, the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species urged exporting countries to gradually restrict the collection of wild animals for the pet trade. They recommended that all member nations, including the United States, encourage the breeding of animals for this purpose, so that eventually pets would be limited to those species that can be bred in captivity." And also, "Encouraging the purchase of captive-bred exotic birds for the pet market instead of wild-caught birds, and facilitating domestic and foreign captive breeding will reduce the demand for wild-caught birds in the United States and relieve the pressure on wild populations of exporting countries." Senator John H. Chafee added, "Clearly, this [H.R. 5013] does not mean that people must stop buying these birds for pets. These birds can and are being bred in captivity. In fact, I understand the captive bred birds make better pets than the wild-caught variety."

Where, we might ask, are our protective legislators now?

Responsible and humane bird care is a responsibility that OPA aviculturists take seriously. The members of OPA believe strongly that the human and pet animal bond is of major significance to mankind. We cherish the richness animals bring to our lives. We are devoted to protecting the right to enjoy pet ownership, and we will stand together with breeders and keepers of all types of animals to preserve this right.

We are certain that an informed public will understand the difference between animal welfare issues — which can be resolved by education and community effort — and the "animal rights" agenda — which uses legislation and harassment with a goal of eventually ending the keeping and breeding of all animals. And we believe that concerned pet owners everywhere will help us spread the word about unnecessary and restrictive animal legislation. Therefore, the OPA will be active in informing its members and the general public about proposed legislation and regulation regarding birds and animals on the local, state and federal level.