The following activities are illegal and punisheable. The laws were created to protect animals from humans who often, even with the best intentions, cause suffering due to lack of information (as well as intentional harm by some). It is illegal to:
- Trap or kill native wild animals unless you have a permit from your local animal warden, a fishing or hunting license and are complying with those laws, or have been given a permit from the US Department of Agriculture APHIS-ADC (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Animal Damage Control) to eradicate a nuisance animal population.
- Keep native wild animals as pets. This applies to mammals and birds, although reptiles up to five per species are exempted (we still discourage collection of native reptiles). Non-releasable animals may be kept for educational purposes under restrictive permits issued by the State and either the US Department of Agriculture (mammals) or US Fish & Wildlife Service (birds).
- Rehabilitate wild animals without a license. The license must be issued by your local State Department of Fish and Game, and in addition, to rehabilitate birds a license must be issued by US Fish & Wildlife Service.
- Release any wild animal into the wild except through a licensed rehabilitator; release any exotic animal into the wild. (An exotic is a non-native species such as a ferret, prairie dog, sugar glider, non-native reptile, or exotic bird. Sale, purchase, and ownership of exotics are governed both by the State and local jurisdictions.
The Lacey Act (federal) restricts the interstate transport of birds and other animals if they were illegally taken.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and other federal laws protect native and migratory birds, their eggs, and breeding grounds. Although these laws are complex, we interpret them simply to mean that birds and their eggs must not be disturbed unless the birds are orphaned or injured. The only birds that are not protected by Federal law, because they are considered introduced species, are:
- European starlings
- English sparrows. (However, there are many different species of sparrows and it is not safe to make a determination that it is a non-protected species over the phone.)
This information is posted with the permission of its authors
- the Wildlife Rescue League, Falls Church, VA