REXANO Position Statement Regarding Private ownership of captive Exotic and Wild animals in USA Responsible Exotic Animal Ownership REXANO believes that owning exotic and wild animals is a rewarding experience that brings great joy and happiness to many. With this privilege comes great responsibility and long-term emotional and financial commitment. We advise potential exotic and wild animal owners to closely evaluate their lifestyle before deciding to obtain an exotic animal and to give careful consideration to what species will best suit them. REXANO advises potential owners to seek reputable and ethical breeders. All existing owners should provide proper care, training and socialization to ensure that their animals remain happy well behaved members of their family and won’t end up unwanted and spend their life in already overcrowded sanctuaries. Exotic owners have responsibilities not only to their animal’s welfare, but also to their neighbors, by keeping them safe by providing proper, structurally sound containment for their exotic animals. The Right to Keep and Enjoy Exotic and Wild Animals The human-animal bond predates history. Since the dawn of civilization, people have enjoyed the companionship and assistance of animals. All animals used to be wild before humans domesticated them. Animal ownership has existed in all cultures, races, climates and economic situations - by monarchs, kings, monks, nomads, and peasants. Today, many exotic animals are used as therapy or assistance animals for war veterans, accident victims and senior citizens in nursing homes. REXANO strongly supports property rights and endorses the right to own, keep and breed exotic and wild animals in a responsible and humane manner. Enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act The federal Animal Welfare Act, AWA, enforced by the Animal Care (AC) division of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), regulates wholesale breeders, dealers, exhibitors and caretakers of animals. The AWA requires that minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for most warmblooded animals bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public. This includes animals exhibited in zoos, circuses, and marine mammal facilities as well as pets transported on commercial airlines. The USDA has regularly strengthened the standards for humane care and treatment of animals regulated under the Act. REXANO supports increasing the number of USDA enforcement personnel dealing with wholesale animal operations and strong enforcement of the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act. Proper Care and Humane Treatment of Exotic Animals REXANO believes that all exotic and wild animals should be properly cared for and kept in clean living conditions, protected form severe weather elements, with proper diet and fresh water available at all times. We believe many exotic and wild animals, mammals and birds especially, benefit from human companionship and positive reinforcement training. Toys and leash walking of mammals provides a much needed exercise and behavioral enrichment in captive settings. Air Travel for exotic and wild animals REXANO support training airline personnel regarding the needs of exotic and wild animals in transport to ensure the safest air travel and adequate environment. It is vital for exotic pet owners, breeders, zoos and exhibitors to be able to safely ship exotic animals for personal enjoyment as well as propagation of species in captivity. Animal Rights REXANO opposes the concept of animal rights, AR, which seeks to end the captive keeping of all animals and seeks to abolish any contact between humans and animals. Rights come with responsibilities, a concept that can not be understood by animals. Animal Welfare REXANO supports animal welfare, AW, laws that seek to improve living conditions of captive animals without interfering with the rights of the owners to choose what they consider to be best for their animal. We support strong animal abuse and anti-cruelty penalties for those convicted of cruelty against animals. Animal Terrorism REXANO opposes violence committed against commercial and non-commercial (pet) animal owners, animal handlers, kennels, zoos, circuses and research facilities by those who object to the keeping and use of animals. We support the right of all individuals to express personal opinions in lawful ways. We support the right of Americans to own, breed, train, transport, interact with, and exhibit their animals without interference. We oppose illegal actions such as the "liberation" of animals or destruction of property. Ban laws REXANO strongly opposes ban laws against private exotic and wild animal ownership. Bans and extreme regulation requirements often cause increases in the number of illegal animals. It is unfair to force well cared for exotic and wild animals out of their loving home, forcing perfectly legal owners to choose between giving up their beloved non-human family member or keep the animal illegally. This creates black market where animals will not get proper medical care out of owner’s fears of being caught. If the owner gives up the newly banned animal, it increases the number of homeless animals in need of a new home and puts a strain on already overcrowded and financially strapped rescue centers and sanctuaries. . We support reasonable and enforceable laws that protect the public (such as double gate and perimeter fence laws for large carnivores). We support animal welfare laws (not to be confused with animal rights) that do not restrict the rights of breeders and owners who take their responsibilities of owning exotic animals seriously. Breeding Restrictions, Spaying and Neutering REXANO believes it is a matter of personal choice for pet owners to spay or neuter their exotic animals as a responsible means to prevent accidental breeding resulting in unwanted animals. REXANO opposes mandatory spay/neuter of animals and opposes exotic animal breeding bans which is regulation to extinction (hyper link to article). Animals are considered property under US legal system, and therefore the choice to breed/spay/neuter should be left up to the animal owner. We strongly encourage breeders and potential new owners to educate themselves about commitments and responsibilities before purchasing any animal to minimize the number of unwanted and homeless animals. Captive Breeding REXANO supports legal captive breeding of exotic animals. Many animal species are becoming endangered in the wild and many are near extinction. Captive breeding, especially in private sector, saved many animals from extinction by providing supply of captive bred animals and therefore reducing the pressures on wild populations, thus helping to conserve them in the wild. We encourage the public to educate themselves about owning an exotic animals and visit current owners and USDA licensed breeders, and check references if possible, to see first hand what is involved in exotic animal ownership. Do not buy on impulse. Responsible Breeding Practices REXANO believes that responsible exotic animals’ breeders should to give careful consideration to health issues, temperament, and genetic screening, as well as to the individual care and placement of the offspring in responsible home. We oppose the breeding of exotic animals without regard for the animals' welfare. We support enforcement of the federal Animal Welfare Act, and state and local regulations governing the humane care of animals. Protection for Buyers REXANO believes breeders and/or sellers should be responsible for providing certain refunds, replacements or reimbursements should the exotic animal sold become ill or die from a condition contracted prior to the purchase. We advise buyers and sellers to keep written record of all transactions signed by all parties involved, such as veterinary records and clearly defined sale agreement, to be on hand should complications or disagreements arise. Euthanasia REXANO supports euthanasia only as a last resort when all reasonable efforts to place adoptable exotic animals in proper new homes have failed. In cases of extreme emergencies where the public is at serious risk and after all other options of tranquilizing have failed, humanely killing an exotic animal should be an option. Tooth and Claw Removal (declawing and defanging) REXANO supports the owners’ right to decide whether to do claw removal (declawing), and tooth removal (defanging) when done by licensed veterinarian. It should remain to be a ‘personal choice’, legal option for all animal owners. Use of Exotic Animals in Research REXANO recognizes the invaluable contributions to both human and veterinary medical knowledge that have resulted from medical research on animal subjects. We believe that noninvasive behavioral and enrichment research can provide invaluable information and improve practices related to captive breeding and husbandry of exotic and wild animals. Use of Exotic Animals in Zoos, Circuses and Educational Programs REXANO supports public exhibits of exotic and wild animals. Entertaining and educational exotic and wild animal shows can spark interest in conserving them in the wild as well as in captivity. Only through close personal contact can we really understand and appreciate these wonderful creatures. We will conserve only what we love and we will love only what we understand. This relationship can not be taught through books only; it has to be experienced in real life. We can never know which child or exotic pet owner will be our next zoo director, conservationist or zoologist. Training of exotic animals for educational school displays, zoo, fair and circus presentations also provides animals with much needed enrichment provided exotic animals are properly cared for, humanely trained, and not pushed beyond reasonable limits. "Guardian" vs. Owner REXANO supports the use of the term "owner" rather than "guardian" when referring to the keeping of animals. We believe the term guardian restricts the rights of owners, veterinarians, and government agencies to protect and care for animals, and possibly subject them to frivolous and expensive litigation. The term guardian does nothing to promote more responsible treatment of exotic animals. We support educating the public about responsible exotic animal ownership. “Species or Breed Specific” versus “Dangerous Animal” Control Legislation REXANO supports reasonable, enforceable, non-discriminatory laws to regulate the ownership of exotic and wild animals. Animals are property and the owner is therefore responsible for the actions of his or her animals, unless the animals were running loose as a result of a mischief, sabotage or terrorist act by another person. REXANO believes animal owners should be regulated and punished for the deeds, and not the breeds or species of their animals. We support a fair process by which specific animals are identified as "dangerous" based on stated, measurable actions; not preconceived or perceived fear of the unknown. REXANO supports appropriate enforceable penalties on irresponsible owners and establishment of a clearly defined method for dealing with exotic and wild animals proven to be dangerous. REXANO strongly opposes any legislation that determines an animal to be "dangerous" based on breed or species rather than actions. Homeowners' Insurance and Dangerous Animals REXANO believes that insurance companies should determine coverage of an exotic animalowning household based on the existence of proper enclosures and perimeter fencing. If an exotic animal has a proven track record of an accident free, well behaved, trained and properly contained member of the household and the community, there is no reason to deny or cancel coverage. Dangerous Animal Definition Dangerous animal shall mean any animal, that according to animal services division records; other animal control or law enforcement authorities; or as attested to by sworn affidavit: (a) Inflicted severe injury on a human being without provocation on public or private property; or (b) Killed a domestic animal without provocation while off the owner’s property; or (c) Has been previously found to be potentially dangerous, and the owner having received notice of such, and the animal again aggressively bites, attacks, or endangers the safety of humans or domestic animals. (d) Animal shall not be deemed dangerous (or the owner liable) when the animal is protecting the owner’s property or life against the uninvited intruders. More on Dangerous Animals Issue To provide communities with the most effective dangerous animal control possible, laws must not be species or breed specific. Instead of holding all animal owners accountable for their behavior, breed and species specific laws place restrictions only on the owners of certain breeds or species. If specific breeds or species are banned, owners of these breeds and species intent on using their animals for malicious purposes will simply change to another breed or species and continue to jeopardize public safety, or go underground. Strongly enforced animal control laws, such as leash, double gate and perimeter fence laws, generic guidelines for dealing with dangerous animals and increased public education efforts to promote responsible animal ownership are all positive ways to protect communities from dangerous animals. Increasing public education efforts is significant because it helps address the root cause of the problem --- irresponsible animal owners. Banning a breed or species and declaring it inherently vicious punishes those responsible animal owners who are the type of citizens that communities need to keep, not drive away. Communities that have instituted such bans often find that the irresponsible owners and the criminals who use animals for illegal purposes simply switch to another breed, species or get them illegally. Banning a breed, mix or species punishes those animals that are reliable community citizens, therapy and assistance animals for handicapped owners, search and rescue animals, drug-sniffing animals, police animals, etc., and drives them out of the community. Breeds, hybrids and mixes (such as wolf content) are often difficult to identify. Passage of laws that are only enforced when a complaint is filed causes two problems: they create disrespect for the law if the authorities require compliance only upon receiving a complaint, and they provide ammunition for neighborhood feuds by the ban. The breed or species itself is not the problem - the lack of socialization and training, and owner responsibility is. Accurate information on animal bites and the proportion of bites to breeds and species is difficult to determine at best, because accurate statistics would require "comprehensive reports of all bites, reliable breed and species identification, and detailed information about the demographics of the entire animal population of the area in question. Such numbers are often unreliable since compliance with local animal licensing or registration requirements is usually very low as many owners see it as intrusion into their personal life and freedoms. Bite-rate analysis cannot be accurate without a comprehensive census of animal population in the United States. Breed or species specific legislation is a law or statute that equates the qualities of a dangerous animal with a certain breed or species, and bans or restricts certain breeds or species based on identity, not behavior of a specific animal. This type of “animal racism” legislation does not make concessions for those members of the breed or species who are valuable assets to their communities, such as therapy animals, assistance animals and valued animal family members. Breed or species specific legislation identifies an animal as "dangerous" based upon its breed and species alone and not based on any action or offense that the individual animal has ever committed.