Washington Report on Zoos and Aquariums: Mid-summer 2003


AZA held its Legislative Conference here in DC on May 7-8, 2003.  We had an excellent turnout of 48 conferees. Considering the turnout this year, combined with last year’s record attendance of 57 conferees, it becomes clear that the Legislative Conference greatly enhances AZA’s presence on Capitol Hill.

On the first day of the Conference, we had a full slate of speakers including representatives from USDA/APHIS-Animal Care and Veterinary Services Divisions, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Division of Management Authority and Division of Scientific Authority, and the National Marine Fisheries Service-Office of Protected Resources.

On the second day, we had breakfast with Todd Willens, Senior Policy Analyst for the U.S. House of Representatives—Resources Committee.  Todd explained the pressing issues before the Committee, including the reauthorization of both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.  He also gave a few pointers on how to work with legislators and their staffs

After breakfast, the conferees were sent off to meet with their respective Congressional offices where in many cases, originally scheduled 15 minute meetings turned into hour-long discussions about zoo and aquarium issues.  These conversations are extremely meaningful in that they provide a unique opportunity for Members of Congress to hear directly from their constituents—individual AZA member institutions–about issues directly impacting them.  Personal visits to Congressional offices and invitations for them to visit AZA member facilities are an incredible lobbying and educational tool.

A productive day on Capitol Hill was capped off with a wonderful reception hosted by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Congressman Wayne Gilchrest, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans.  The reception, which highlighted the partnership between AZA institutions and the National Wildlife Refuge System, was a rousing success that drew well over 400 attendees, including hundreds of Congressional office staff and an estimated 50 Congressional members.

The evening featured Jack Hanna and his animals.  Jack spoke about the partnership between wildlife refuges and zoos; in particular, the role of each in conserving endangered species and their habitats.  Mark Reed presented Chairman Gilchrest with the AZA President’s Award for his tireless work on behalf of fisheries and wildlife conservation, and Jack Hanna was presented a special achievement award by the Director of the USFWS for his important work with the National Wildlife Refuge System Centennial Commission.

Mark your calendars, next year’s Legislative Conference and Congressional Reception will be May 10-11, 2004.

AZA continues to explore new partnership opportunities with various Federal agencies.  These potential partnerships have been modeled after the previous MOU with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  We are currently involved in developing partnership agreements with the National Sea Grant College Program (focusing on aquatic invasive species), the National Marine Sanctuary Program (focusing on marine conservation education, research and technology transfer) and the National Wildlife Refuge System.  A fourth, still developing partnership with the National Park Service is also being discussed.  The value of these partnerships is that it provides AZA with the opportunity to continue to raise the visibility of the Association and its members with the general public and within the Federal Government, and to enhance habitat preservation and animal conservation efforts.  The costs are minimal but the potential benefits are enormous.

For the past year, AZA has worked with an informal coalition of disparate animal protection groups to search for solutions to the dangerous exotic animals as pets problem.  The sole focus of this coalition is to develop legislative, regulatory and media strategies to raise the awareness of the general public and federal/state entities that dangerous wild animals do not make good pets and that only professionally operated, regulated facilities can provide appropriate levels of care for wild animals.  This coalition is starting to move this message out into legislative (see “Key Authorization Bills” section of this report) and media circles. AZA is in the process of working through the mechanisms for effectively participating in such a diverse coalition.

Permit requirements – The USFWS Division of Management Authority continues to clarify the potential role of SSPs in meeting the in-situ enhancement requirements for the import and export of animals by AZA members under the Endangered Species Act.  The intent is to ensure that there is truly a long-term commitment that will make a positive impact on the species and its habitat.  The establishment and maintenance of SSP and other institutional long-term programs within the range states to support species’ conservation, management and research in the wild will enhance a member’s ability to secure these permits.



 APHIS/Animal Care  Last year, the Coalition for APHIS-Animal Care (AC) Appropriations (a broad coalition of animal protection groups, veterinarian organizations, and AZA) was successful in getting an increase of $1.4 million to the FY 2003 Animal Care budget for a total appropriation of $16.4 million.  AZA has been a strong voice in this coalition as it is uniquely subject to APHIS/Animal Care regulations.  The increase is to be used to maintain all current activities, increase the number of inspectors and inspections, improve follow-up to verify corrections of prospective violators and step up efforts to identify unlicensed exhibitors.  APHIS will also expand outreach efforts to the general public and Animal Welfare Act regulated facilities by increasing the amount of educational resources available, encourage participation at industry meetings, and allow the development of industry specific training for animal care and welfare.

The FY 2004 Bush Administration request for Animal Care is $15 million.  AZA is working with the AC Coalition in seeking an additional $2.5 million for FY 2004. At this time, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture has marked up its bill and recommended $16.7 million for Animal Care.  The Senate Subcommittee has not acted on its bill yet.

 Office of Museum Service (OMS), Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) AZA has joined with the American Association of Museums (AAM) and its Museum Working Group (MWG) to work for an increased appropriations for OMS.  For FY 2003, the MWG was able to secure an increased level of funding of $2 million for the agency to raise the budget to $28.5 million (which was consistent with the President’s FY 2003 request).  Language was also included in the funding package that will open the door for the use of IMLS funds for construction of facilities.

The Bush Administration’s request for OMS in FY 2004 is $34.4 million. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, and Education has marked up its bill and has recommended $33.9 million—just slightly under the President’s request. The Senate Subcommittee has also marked up its bill but has recommended only $28.6 million for OMS.  AZA will be working with the MWG to retain the House recommended funding level.

 National Science Foundation, Informal Science Education (NSF/ISE)  Last year, AZA worked with the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) to secure an appropriation of $61 million for ISE. This represented a $5 million increase over FY 2002 levels.  These funds are intended to expand the pool of ISE grantees to providers in smaller communities, thus ensuring that the impact of the ISE program reaches an even more diverse audience.

The Bush Administration’s request for ISE in FY 2004 is $50 million.  The House Appropriations Subcommittee on VA, HUD and Independent Agencies has marked up its bill and has recommended $60 million for ISE for FY 2004.  The Senate Subcommittee has not acted on its bill.  AZA will be working with ASTC to maintain the House mark or a slightly higher funding level.

Multi-National Species Conservation (MNSC) Funds  Last year, AZA worked with a broad coalition of conservation-based organizations to secure $1.2 million for each of the MNSC Funds: African Elephant Conservation Fund, the Rhino/Tiger Conservation Fund, the Asian Elephant Conservation Fund and the Great Ape Conservation Fund.  This represented a total increase of $800,000 for the program.

The FY 2004 Administration request for the four Multinational Species Conservation Funds is $1 million per fund.  The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior has marked up its bill and recommended $1.2 million each for the African Elephant, Asian Elephant and Great Ape funds and $1.4 million for the Rhino/Tiger fund. The Senate Subcommittee has also acted on its bill and has recommended $1.5 million for each of the four funds.  AZA is working with other conservation NGOs to maintain the Senate funding levels for FY 2004.

Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA)   For FY 2003, the Congress approved $65 million for State wildlife grants, a decrease of $20 million from the FY 2002 level.

For FY 2004, the Administration’s request for State Wildlife Grants is $60 million.  Both the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Interior have marked up their bills and recommended $75 million for State Wildlife Grants. AZA is working with other conservation NGOs to maintain this funding level for FY 2004.

John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Program   For FY 2003, the Congress approved $4 million for marine mammal stranding grants.

The Bush Administration’s request for the Rescue Assistance Program in FY 2004 is $4 million.  AZA will be working to maintain this level of funding. At this time, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, State and Justice has marked up its bill and recommended $4 million for FY 2004.  In addition, AZA is concerned that the USFWS has not requested funds for stranding assistance for the marine mammals under their jurisdiction, in particular manatees.


 S 269/HR 1006, the Captive Wildlife Safety Act  to amend the Lacey Act to prohibit the interstate and foreign commerce of dangerous exotic animals, (defined as live lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, cougars and jaguars and hybrids thereof) for use as pets. The legislation would not ban all private ownership of these prohibited species but rather, would outlaw the commerce of these animals for use as pets. The legislation specifically exempts zoos, circuses, accredited sanctuaries, incorporated humane societies and others that are currently regulated by the USDA.

AZA helped draft this legislation and supports its passage. AZA Board member Eric Miller of the Saint Louis Zoo testified on behalf of AZA in support of this measure at the June 12th hearing by the House Resources Committee. Both S 269 and HR 1006 have passed out of their respective Committees and await Senate and House floor action. 

  1. 741, the Minor Use and Minor Species Animal Health Act to address the severe shortage of approved new animal drugs for use in minor species (large non-food animals) and for treating animal diseases and conditions that occur infrequently or in limited geographic areas.

AZA supports this legislative measure.

 S 128/HR 1647, the Crane Conservation Act  to assist in the conservation of cranes by supporting conservation programs of countries involved in activities which directly or indirectly affect cranes.  The bill is similar to the other Multinational Species Conservation Acts (African Elephant, Rhino/Tiger, Asian Elephant and Great Ape).

AZA supports this legislative measure.

 HR 2264, the Congo Basin Forest Partnership Act to provide for the authorization of appropriations to promote the conservation and sustainable use of the Congo Basin region resources. 

AZA supports this legislative measure.

 HR 2408, the National Wildlife Refuge Volunteer Act to reauthorize volunteer programs and community partnerships for national wildlife refuges. 

AZA supports this legislative measure as this bill is consistent with our existing partnership with the National Wildlife Refuge System.

S 1210, the Marine Turtle Conservation Act to assist in the conservation of marine turtles and the nesting habitats of marine turtles in foreign countries.

AZA supports this legislative measure.  The bill has been passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and will move to the Senate floor for further action.

S.1036, HR 2431, HR 2057, and HR 2430.  Various bills designed to address the issue of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) through task forces, state grants and research and monitoring funds.

AZA has not taken a position on these bills but will monitor them in order to protect, where appropriate,  the interests of AZA member institutions which display cervids (which are especially vulnerable to CWD).

 HR 857, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act to prevent the slaughter of horses in and from the U.S. for human consumption and the trade and transport of horseflesh and live horses intended for human consumption.

Due to the controversial nature of this issue and continuing developments in the Texas courts re: the legal disposition of the only two horsemeat processing plants (for human consumption) in the US, AZA remains neutral on this bill at this time.

NOTES: There are numerous Endangered Species Act (ESA) reform/amendment bills in this Congress however none of these bills to date pertain to the public display community.  It is widely believed that none of these bills will see Congressional action this year.

AZA has not taken a position on these bills but is opposed to any weakening of the ESA.

There are also numerous bills before Congress that address the issue of invasive species (education, development of task forces, community action plans, research, and control/eradication). None of these  bills directly impact the public display community.

AZA has not taken a position on these bills but will monitor them closely for opportunities for AZA support. 


Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

Non-Consensus Language for Marine Mammal Standards. There are approximately five issue-areas on which the Marine Mammal Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee could not reach consensus (space, water quality etc).  Those issues were to be handled through an APHIS proposed rulemaking.  A new swim-with-the-dolphin proposal would be a part of this proposal.

On May 30, 2002, APHIS released an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on the non-consensus items thus starting the comment process all over again.  The ANPR contained no background information or agency position but rather posited a series of questions for respondents to comment on.  AZA responded to the ANPR by suggesting that APHIS retract the advanced notice and re-write the notice as a primer on the current state of knowledge re: marine mammals in public display based on the agency’s best available information and qualified observations. There is no update from APHIS on the ANPR.  AZA is beginning to accumulate information re: the questions raised in the ANPR.

Environmental Enhancement for Non-Human Primates (NHP)  In 1999, APHIS published a draft policy to clarify what the agency believes must be considered and included in an environmental enrichment plan in order for dealers, exhibitors, and research facilities to adequately promote the psychological well-being of non-human primates.

APHIS/Animal Care states that the draft policy for the environmental enrichment for NHPs has been transformed into a reference document and will not be a part of APHIS policy.  The agency has initiated work on best practices guidelines for NHP enhancement.

Draft Policy on Training and Handling of Potentially Dangerous Animals.  APHIS published this draft policy in 2000 to provide guidance to APHIS inspectors and the regulated community on how to meet the requirements of the regulations (9 CFR Parts 1, 2, 3) as they pertain to potentially dangerous animals, primarily in public contact venues.

APHIS/Animal Care states that the final policy for the training and handling of potentially dangerous animals has been undergoing additional review due to a recent court case involving the handling of tigers.

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)

 Public Display of Marine Mammals  On July 3, 2001, the NMFS released its proposed rule concerning the regulation of permits to capture or import marine mammals for purposes of public display under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The proposed rule would implement the 1994 MMPA amendments related to marine mammals held for public display and clarify the public display requirements relating to capture, import, transport, transfer and export of marine mammals.

AZA sent comments to NMFS on November 2, 2001.  George Mannina, Senior Partner for O’Connor and Hannan, testified on behalf of AZA and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums before the House Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans on October 11, 2001 on MMPA public display requirements.  No timetable has been set for promulgation of the final rule.

Exempted Fishing Permits: Sharks.  On December 6, 2002, NMFS issues a proposed rule for adjusting the management measures of the Final Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tunas, Swordfish and Sharks. This proposed rule would modify existing regulations for Atlantic highly migratory species (HMS) exempted fishing activities. The intent of the changes is to improve monitoring of exempted fishing activities for Atlantic HMS. This proposed action, according to NMFS, “was developed in response to ongoing concerns related to past EFPs for the purpose of capturing regulated HMS, particularly sharks collected for public display, and is intended to strengthen the existing regulations that govern such EFP related activities.”

On December 16, 2002, NMFS held a public hearing at SeaWorld Orlando to discuss the proposed rule.  The hearing was attended by Steve Olson, AZA Director of Government Affairs as well as numerous AZA institutional representatives. AZA expressed concern about the source and validity of the statement “ongoing concerns related to past EFPs” as detailed by NMFS in the proposed rule.  The agency admitted that there was very little evidence of past EFP abuses by AZA members but did say that the process needed to be tightened up somewhat.  AZA submitted comments in response to the proposed rule.

Endangered Species: Smalltooth Sawfish (Pristis pectinata):  On April 1, 2002, NMFS issued a final rule to list a distinct population segment (United States) of smalltooth sawfish as an endangered species.

Centers for Disease Control/Food and Drug Administration

On June 18, 2003, CDC and FDA issued a notice of embargo and prohibition on transportation or offering for transportation in interstate commerce, or sale, offering for sale, or offering for any other type of commercial or public distribution, including release into the environment, of certain rodents and Prairie dogs until further notice.

At this time, the State Of Michigan has extended this prohibition to include the public display of prairie dogs and the listed rodents.

AZA is monitoring this situation.  The CDC and FDA will not negotiate on this embargo and prohibition because this is a human health issue of tremendous public concern.  It is hoped that when all of the infected animals in question are identified and quarantined and no new cases of monkeypox are reported, the ban on movement of prairie dogs will be immediately lifted.   The future import status of the African rodents is more uncertain.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

AZA was contacted last year by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Small Business Administration with regard to assisting in the determination of aquaculture effluent guidelines for public aquariums.  Bob Jenkins from the Steinhart Aquarium (and the AZA Board) was chosen to serve on panel and has provided comments on the necessity and potential impact of any proposed rule related to aquarium effluent.

In September 2002, EPA published its proposed rule on “Effluent Limitations Guidelines and New Source Performance Standards for the Concentrated Aquatic Animal Production Point (AAP) Source Category.”

Within the EPA proposed rule is the following language as it relates to aquariums:

–Aquariums. Public aquariums are AAP facilities that display a variety of aquatic animals to the general public and conduct research on many different threatened and endangered aquatic species. EPA has determined, through the AAP screener survey and site visits, that most aquariums are indirect dischargers and if these facilities discharge directly into waters of the U.S., it is only done in emergency situations requiring rapid dewatering of tanks. These systems maintain low stocking densities and very clean, clear water to enhance the visual display of the animals. Discharges from aquariums are likely to be low in TSS and nutrients because of the low stocking densities.  

Because most of the drugs used to treat stressed or ill animals are injected directly into the animal, EPA believes that discharges of drugs would be minimal. Few chemicals are used and include pH buffers and chemicals used to make artificial sea salt. Based on these preliminary evaluations, EPA proposes no regulation for discharges from these types of operations.  

AZA will continue to monitor until the final rule is promulgated.

Federal Aviation Authority (FAA)

On December 27, 2002 AZA submitted comments on the FAA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding Reports by Carriers on Incidents Involving Animals During Air Transport.  In the comments, AZA expressed its serious concern over the vague and ambiguous definition of the term “animal” — an essential element of the rule.

AZA will continue to monitor until the final rule is promulgated.