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As a result of the provisions of the Dangerous Wild Animal Act, the state of Ohio will soon need to conduct facility inspections and may have to transport and house (on a temporary basis, hopefully) exotic animals which are no longer wanted or cared for by their owners.
For 10 years, Lions Tigers & Bears (LTB) has been home to a growing number of abused and abandoned wild animals, and has gained hands-on experience in providing a safe and humane environment for these creatures. In this report, we offer a brief summary of what we have learned. This summary is not, nor is it meant to be, comprehensive.
Thorough standards of care have been drafted by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) for small, medium, and large felids (attached as Appendix A) and for bears (Appendix B). Standards for other animal groups are also available from GFAS. In addition, the State of California has promulgated extensive “Restricted Species Laws and Regulations” (Appendix C) which cover in great detail many of the issues discussed in this report. We will reference these appendices where relevant.
As we see it, the new law has generated the following issues with respect to large, dangerous animals:
I. Public Safety
(a) How should permanent enclosures be maintained and temporary enclosures be built so as to minimize the risk of contact between wild animals and their caregivers or the public?
(b) How should wild animals be transported so as to minimize the risk of escape or injury to the transporters?
II. Humane Care
(a) How should permanent enclosures be maintained and temporary enclosures be built so as to provide wild animals with a humane environment?
(b) How should wild animals be transported so as to minimize their stress and risk of injury?
A. HABITAT ENCLOSURES
1. INTERIOR FENCING
Certain minimal fencing standards need to be maintained, whether the enclosures are temporary or permanent in nature. (See “GFAS Felids,” Appendix A at 9-12; “GFAS Bears,” Appendix B at 7-10; “Calif. Regs.,” Appendix C at 26-28).
First, the upright members should be:
Second, the chain link fencing should be:
Third, unless the fencing is at least 16 feet high, it should have a chain-link roof with:
Here are examples of these construction features at LTB:
Both enclosures have horizontal cross-members at 4-foot intervals beginning at ground level.
The roofs also have trusses or cross-members at 4-foot intervals.
Chain link perimeter fence, with posts sunk in concrete.
“Tiger Trails,” the big cat exercise area at LTB, is a 16-foot-high enclosure with no roof.
2. ENCLOSURE SIZE
(See generally, “GFAS Felids,” Appendix A at 7-9; “GFAS Bears,” Appendix B at 5-7; “Calif. Regs.,” Appendix C at 20-23)
Minimum habitat size is a function of both the specific species of animal and the number of animals per enclosure.
For strictly temporary enclosures, the sizes specified by the California regulations are probably sufficient. So, for example, tiger enclosures are required to be at least 300 square feet for one animal, 450 square feet for two animals, and an additional 150 square feet for each additional animal (Appendix C at 22). This, of course, assumes that multiple animals are compatible, which often they are not!
On the other hand, for permanent enclosures, humane treatment requires much larger dimensions. Hence, GFAS requires that two tigers have a minimum enclosure size of 1,200 square feet (Appendix A at 9), rather than the 450 square feet specified in the California regulations.
3. PERIMETER FENCING
Some sort of perimeter fencing is absolutely necessary as a back-up in case an animal escapes its enclosure.
For some facilities, economic considerations dictate the use of one perimeter fence around the entire compound. However, in our view, each enclosure or group of enclosures should have its own perimeter fence. A perimeter fence around the facility’s outer boundary is insufficient, because:
Whichever option is chosen, each perimeter fence should itself be at least 8 feet high, and built to the same standards as the interior fence.
Here are examples of perimeter fences at LTB:
Safety tip: CO2 fire extinguishers (not the chemical variety) or bear spray should be placed at strategic locations outside the enclosures and along the perimeter fences, because these are highly effective at deterring an attacking animal without injuring either the animal or the attackee.
4. GATES AND HOLDING (LOCKOUT) AREAS
Each habitat should have a small, separate “room” in which the animal(s) can be kept while the main cage is being cleaned or otherwise serviced, or to segregate an animal from others in the enclosure. The inner gate for this smaller area should be accessible with a pole or other device so that it can be opened and closed without a person having to enter either part of the enclosure.
The gate of the inner enclosure should be sized so that, when opened, a transfer cage or squeeze cage can be rolled up flush to the opening (i.e, leaving no gap) so that the animal can be loaded safely into the cage for relocation to a medical facility, exercise area, or another habitat.
As for the perimeter fence gates, we found it handy to make them large enough (12 feet high) to be able to back up a large trailer all the way to the gate(s) of the inner enclosure:
(see generally, “Calif. Regs.,” Appendix C at 31-33)
Each animal should be transported in its own sturdy transfer cage, large enough for the animal to turn around. Such cages can be purchased commercially (see, e.g., http://www.lbarmranch.com/Exotic-Animal-Transport-Cage-p/exotic_animal_cage_eatc464st.htm and http://www.lglacp.com/transfer_restraint_cages.htm), or fabricated by a skilled welder.
The cage should be constructed so that food and water can be provided to the animal and waste removed without having to open the cage (features which commercial cages may or may not have). In addition, the doors should slide open (either horizontally, as in the lower photo on page 5, or vertically, as in the photo at right) rather than swinging open, so that the cage can be opened and closed while flush against the animal’s habitat enclosure.
The cage can be either a simple transfer cage, such as the example in the small photograph above, or a “squeeze” cage, in which one side can be moved inward to immobilize an animal for medical or dental treatment:
In addition, we have found that, although four caster wheels may be sufficient for portable cages used on smooth, flat surfaces, they are inadequate for bumpy or rough terrain. Hence, the LTB squeeze cage has four sets of two heavy-duty wheels each:
Here are the squeeze-cage specifications we recently gave to a San Diego welder:
Aluminum squeeze cage dimensions to be 42″ wide + 84″ long + 48″ tall. Cage to have two (2) slide doors. Cage to have removable stainless steel pins every third containment bar. Cage to have [food & water] access panels where requested. Cage to have sub-cart with casters and tow bar as per sample. Cage to have two (2) removable urine collection pans.
As noted at the outset, this presentation is only a brief summary of issues pertaining to the safe and humane treatment of exotic animals. We remain available by phone to answer any questions that may arise during implementation of the new Ohio law.
Thank you for the opportunity to be of service to you and to the animals.
Bobbi Brink, Founder & Director
Lions Tigers & Bears, a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.