From Our Prescott Valley, AZ Corrrespondent
Depending on whether wildlife are abused in their natural habitats or are abused while they are in captivity, such as those animals that live in zoos, parks, circuses and aquariums there are few federal laws that protect them.
One federal law, the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) does regulate care and housing for what are considered warm blooded animals that are bred for commercial sale or used for research purposes, transported for commercial means or shown in public, like circus animals. The act also oversees the licensing, exhibiting and transporting of captive wild animals.
The AWA excludes smaller, cold-blooded animals and animals that are farmed, such as fish. There are currently only minimal standards of care for those who exhibit animals. Plus, there are no restrictions on the display or private ownership of captive wild animals. There are also no bans on using different prodding devices with circus animals, and USDA inspections at circuses are maybe once a year at best, and those inspecting have little training in recognizing abuse and neglect.
Both state and local laws offer little protection for captive wild animals, though there have been state laws to protect exotic animals that require licenses or issue bans on owning and displaying animals that have been taken into captivity.
There are also states that prohibit the private ownership of large cats, bears, wolves, reptiles and primates. There are no state laws that prevent animals of any type from being used in performances. Local towns and cities have adopted laws that ban or restrict captive animal displays, plus local laws have been effective in overseeing private ownership of exotic animals.
Animals in the wild are protected by a number of laws that have been enacted by the government to protect natural animal resources, and there are penalties for breaking those laws and fines as well. Once such act, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 regulates numerous activities that affect plants and animals that have been designated as either threatened or endangered.
The Act forbids importing or exporting endangered animals as well as harming, harassing, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, trapping, killing, capturing or collecting animals within America or on its territorial seas. The Act also outlaws the possession, sale, delivery, transporting or shipping of any unlawfully taken animals within America or on the oceans.
There are also penalties and fines for commercial activities involving interstate or foreign shipment or transport of animals and the selling of animals in interstate or foreign commerce. Most of these same restrictions apply to threatened species as well. The only exceptions for endangered or threatened animals are for scientific reasons or for economic hardships situations. Penalties are high for violators of the Act and fines can run up to $100,000 and imprisonment. Organizations that violate can be fined up to $200,000.
Though the current endangerment laws at the federal level are strict for various groups of animals, like migratory birds, wild birds, eagles and other animals, there are still individuals who would violate, harm, starve, gamble with, hunt , both wild or domesticated animals, in unlawful ways. If local and state laws do not cover those kinds of abuses, new laws or existing laws should be expanded or amended to include coverage for abuses that occur outside of existing laws.
There are exceptions when animals are rabid, vicious or when an individual is in serious need of food sources and can justify and prove their need but in most cases, no one should be allowed to get away with purposely and maliciously abusing animals whether of the wild or domesticated variety in any form or fashion.