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Counties Clamp Down on Exploitation of Wild Animals

Washington and Multnomah counties recently passed ordinances to prohibit the keeping of confined exotic animals (Washington County) and to prohibit the use of exotic and other wild animals in traveling animal acts (Multnomah County). We supported these measures because we believe the animals involved are meant to live in the wild and that it's not humane to make them live in small, confined spaces and get shipped around for public display. Moreover, allowing people to keep and use exotic and other wild animals leads to more breeding, buying and selling for more inhumane captive confinement. Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment in support of the two county ordinances.

In Washington County, commissioners vote June 19 to prohibit the keeping of exotic animals -- defined to include non-native wildlife such as lions, tigers, bears, monkeys and crocodiles -- in parts of the county that are not within city limits (cities can opt in by inter-governmental agreement). The ordinance has exceptions for traveling animal acts and facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) but we still supported the ordinance as a big step in the right direction. AZA is considered the most reputable certification program, and the county appropriately refrained from granting exemptions for certifications by less reputable organizations. More significantly, the county did not provide an exception for facilities licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture, which permits keeping and breeding of exotic wild animals with minimal assurance of animal welfare. For additional information on the Washington County ordinance, and to see the full text, go here.

The Washington County ordinance was passed in large part as a response to a wild-animal confinement operation called "A Walk on the Wild Side," which recently relocated to Washington County and was the subject of this recent article in Willamette Week newspaper.

In Multnomah County, commissioners voted July 12 to amend the county's exotic animal ordinance to prohibit use of wild and exotic animals -- defined to include crocodiles, alligators, hippos, giraffes, camels, sharks, elephants, big cats such as lions and tigers, hyenas, kangaroos, primates such as apes and monkeys, rhinos, zebras, seals, walruses, ostriches, and bears -- in "traveling animal display[s]." The amendments will effectively prohibit operations that move these animals from place to place for events such as carnivals, fairs, festivals and circuses. Special credit for this great result goes to community advocate Andrea Kozil, who worked with Commissioner Sharon Meieran's office to get the ordinance on the agenda and lead the effort to get it passed. For more information on the new Multnomah County ordinance, including a link to the full text, go here.

As a side note, Multnomah County's existing ordinances already prohibit keeping "exotic" animals in the county generally. However, unlike the new ordinance in Washington County, Multnomah County makes an exception for facilities licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (along with other exceptions). As noted above, we don't believe USDA licensing adequately protects animal welfare. It also tends to encourage and promote more captive confinement and breeding. This may be an issue to raise with Multnomah County in the future.

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