California Fish & Game Sued for Ignoring State Code Regulations

In a suit filed on October 24th with the Superior

Court of California, the Animal Protection Institute (API) and

The Fund for Animals called for the California Department of

Fish & Game (CDFG) to enforce provisions of state Fish and

Game codes concerning exotic animals which were enacted

in 1985.

The lawsuit stems from a 1999 API investigation into

inconsistencies of then-new CDFG regulations with existing

statutes and the actions of CDFG which were inconsistent

with its own regulations. Also at issue are unimplemented

regulations that require establishing a committee to advise

the director and entering into memorandums of

understanding (MOUs) with eligible local entities to revoke or

deny permits regarding the exhibition of exotic animals. The

suit also seeks to compel CDFG to modify and/or enforce

existing regulations.

For example, CDFG regulations bar issuing a permit if the

exhibitor is being investigated for, charged with, or

convicted of, violating the Animal Welfare Act. Yet API’s

investigation showed that a number of circuses and other

exhibitors received California permits despite investigation by

the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Also, the CDFG issued permits to unqualified zoos even

though its own regulations require these zoos to be

members of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

Two “zoos” weren’t members, and others were under

investigation by the USDA.

Both The Fund and API charge that the Committee — of

which The Fund’s Virginia Handley was a part — never

advised or assisted the director in entering into MOUs with

eligible local entities regarding on site inspections of facilities

with wild animals although many eligible groups — including

the Santa Clara Humane Society, the Los Angeles SPCA and

the Marin Humane Society — remain interested in obtaining

MOUs with CDFG. This also directly contradicts the

intentions of the 1985 law.

“By ignoring this statutory requirement, the California

Department of Fish & Game has thumbed its nose at the

legislature and the public, an inexcusable failure that puts

the welfare of animals and the safety of California citizens in

jeopardy,” said Michael Markarian, Executive Vice President

of The Fund for Animals.

“The California Department of Fish & Game wasted years and

rejected numerous opportunities to fulfill the obligations of

this 16-year-old law,” said Nicole Paquette, Counsel for the

Sacramento-based Animal Protection Institute. “It appears

that CDFG has no intention of serving its own mandate.

Californians — and the animals placed on exhibit in this

State — both deserve better.”

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