Endangered Species Handbook

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Humane and Healthful Transport Regulations

     The Humane and Healthful Transport of Wild Mammals and Birds into the United States are regulations authorized by Congress in 1981 under the Lacey Act.  These regulations are extremely important in curtailing the high mortality and inhumane treatment animals receive on importation into the United States.  Between 1980 and 1991, 348,318 cage birds arrived dead at U.S. ports of entry, according to USDA records.  In some cases, entire shipments of birds had been so poorly crated, fed, and watered, that most of the birds were dead on arrival.  CITES, to which the United States is a Party, requires that "any living specimen will be so prepared and shipped as to minimize the risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment."
      Until the United States finalized its humane transport regulations, little could be done to stop these high-mortality shipments, either under the Live Animal Regulations of the International Air Transport Association, which are approved by CITES, or existing regulations of the Lacey Act, which were vaguely written.  The first version of the humane transport regulations was finalized in 1987, but the USFWS decided to delay the effective date for six months.  The Animal Welfare Institute and 10 other animal protective organizations filed suit in U.S. District Court in March 1988 and succeeded in obtaining an injunction requiring the USFWS to enforce the regulations immediately.  Later in 1988, the Service began work to modify the regulations, which were not finalized until June 1992.  Thus, a delay of 11 years took place between Congress' mandate to formulate these regulations and the finalization.  The final regulations require spacious cages, adequate food and water, frequent inspection during airline flights for both birds and mammals, and other safeguards to prevent mortality.  In 1993, numerous violations of these regulations resulted in court cases and high fines.  Most of the violations involved crowding too many birds in each crate.  Present regulations allow 25 psittacine birds per crate and 50 non-psittacine perching birds, and many importers attempt to flout the regulations.

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