Wild Animals Confiscated by Authorities in the US, Canada, Australia and the EU
- The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is a treaty among governments aimed at ensuring that the trade of specimens of wild animals and plants internationally does not pose a threat to species survival.
- Under CITES, disposal options are captive maintenance, a return to the wild, and euthanasia. Australia, Canada, the European Union, and the United States are all members of CITES.
- In the United States, disposal is defined as the "remission, return to the wild, use by Service or transfer to another government agency for official use, donation or loan, sale, or destruction.
- In Canada, disposal of both native and non-native species are at the discretion of the Minister, however if the animal is a native species and alive at capture, it can be returned to the wild by the attendant officer.
- Live animals that have been seized or forfeited in Australia, are kept at organizations that have been accredited for such use (the Zoo and Aquarium Association), they may be re-exported to non-Australian facilities, or they may be euthanized by a qualified veterinarian.
In the brief below information is provided regarding the handling of seized or forfeited animals by the relevant authorities in Australia, Canada, the United States, and the European Union. Please note that specific locations regarding the storage of the seized or forfeited animals was not always available, possibly due to the large number of locations that may be involved. What has been provided instead are the institutions that have been named as storage facilities for the confiscated animals.
Similarly, information regarding the specific measures employed in the care of the animals was not publicly available given the disparate measures that will have to be employed for different, and within, species. What has been provided are the disposal mechanisms required under legislation in each country, and where available, the information provided has been differentiated according to the measures applicable for native and non-native species.
Additionally, during research, the research team sourced information regarding an international treaty that governs the disposal of seized or forfeited animals. Given that all the named countries required for this brief has ratified the treaty and incorporated it into national law, the final section provides a brief overview of the treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Wild Animals Confiscated by Authorities
United States of America (US)
- The disposal of wild animals confiscated by authorities in the United States is covered by both domestic regulations and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as incorporated into domestic legislation.
- The primary regulation for the treatment of wild animals that have been trafficked into the United States is Title 50, Chapter 1, Subchapter B, Part 23, Subpart F, subsection 23.78.
- Title 50 under the Code of Regulations treats with Wildlife and Fisheries.
- Chapter 1 refers to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior.
- Subchapter B refers to the Taking, Possession, Transportation, Sale, Purchase, Barter, Exportation, and Importation of Wildlife and Plants.
- Part 23 refers to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
- Subpart F refers to the Disposal of Confiscated Wildlife and Plants, and subsection 23.78 covers what happens to confiscated wildlife and plants.
- Part 12 of Title 50, Chapter 1, Subchapter B covers the Seizure and Forfeiture Procedures for seized wildlife or other property from the United States.
- Regulations under Part 12 of Title 50 covers property seized or subject to forfeiture under the laws listed below:
- The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
- The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act.
- The Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
- The Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act.
- The Airborne Hunting Act.
- The Black Bass Act.
- The Marine Mammal Protection Act.
- The Endangered Species Act.
- The Lacey Act.
- The Lacey Act Amendments of 1981.
- The Fish and Wildlife Improvement Act of 1978.
- The Exotic Organisms E.O. 11987.
- The American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
Procedure — Species Covered by US Regulations
- Disposal is defined in Part 12 of Title 50, Chapter 1, Subchapter B as the "remission, return to the wild, use by Service or transfer to another government agency for official use, donation or loan, sale, or destruction.
- Return to the wild in the US takes place when the animal is capable of surviving in the wild. The animal may be returned to the wild in the country of export, or a country within the historic range of the species.
- The animal may be placed into use by the Service or transferred to another government agency for training, identification, education, to conduct law enforcement, to enhance propagation of the species, to be evidence in a legal proceeding, and for returning to the wild.
- Donation or loan takes place for scientific, educational, or public display purposes.
- Except for migratory bird listed under the Migratory Bird Act, eagles, protected under the Eagle Protection act, animals listed under Appendix I of CITES, animals listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and animals listed under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, wildlife may be sold.
- Any animal not falling under the above categories "must be destroyed."
- Options for disposal must ordinarily be considered in the order outlined by subsection 12.33, i.e. return to the wild, use by Service or transfer to another government agency for official use, donation or loan, sale, or destruction.
- When the animal is subject to "perish, deteriorate, decay, waste, or greatly decrease in value, or that the expense of keeping is disproportionate to its value," it can be disposed of immediately, otherwise disposal must be completed within 60 days.
Procedure — Species Covered By CITES
- Animals that are traded in violation of CITES are disposed of on a case by case basis when seized or forfeited. The quantity, protection level, and husbandry needs of the animals are considered when deciding on the manner of disposal.
- Species covered under CITES may be re-exported if the return of the animal is to the Management Authority in the country of export, if the animal is to be placed in a rescue center, or if it is to be used for forensic, judicial, or law enforcement purposes.
- Provisions for Appendix II or III species specify that the animal is disposed of in a manner that benefits the enforcement and administration of CITES.
- The regulations also provide for a consultative process with the Management Authority or relevant government or non government experts in the country of export or re-export prior to deciding on the manner of disposal of the animal.
Storage of Seized or Forfeited Animals
- Where the animal has been seized by an authorized employee or officer of any other Federal agency, it is to be delivered to the appropriate Special Agent in Charge as designated for the proper handling and care.
- Wildlife products seized and forfeited from inspection activities by the Office of Law Enforcement at the US Fish and Wildlife Service are stored at the National Eagle and Wildlife Property Repository in Colorado.
- A list of Special Agent in Charge locations can be accessed at this link by searching for Special Agent in Charge locations. By clicking on "View Details" information for Wildlife Inspection Officers for that location can be viewed.
- A man from Arkansas was sentenced to three years probation and 150 hours of community services in 2022 for the importation of reptiles from China in 2015, which were stored at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
- A man from Eugene, Oregon was sentenced to federal probation for two years, 250 hours of community service, and fined $5,000 for violating the Lacey Act regarding the importation of live scorpions.
- Regulations related to the treatment of seized or forfeited wild animals in Canada are governed by the Species at Risk Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, the Canada Wildlife Act, and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act.
- The Species at Risk Act covers the prevention of "species being extirpated, endangered, or threatened" on account of human activity.
- The Migratory Birds Convention Act seeks to protect and conserve migratory birds and their nesting areas.
- The Canadian Wildlife Act seeks to manage the protection and conservation of wildlife, their habitats, and associated wildlife research activities.
- The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA) seeks to protect certain species, implements CITES, and regulate the trade in animals and plants internationally and interprovincially.
- Enforcement of the legislation is conducted by the enforcement branch of Environment and Climate Change Canada. The branch is led by the Chief Enforcement Officer and is headquartered in Gatineau, Quebec. Five regions are monitored: Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Prairie and Northern, and Pacific and Yukon.
Procedures — Species Covered by Canadian Regulations
- The primary legislative instruments governing the disposition of things seized are sections 87 to 89 of the Species at Risk Act and sections 489.1 and 490 of the Criminal Code.
- Under the Criminal Code, section 489.1 covers the procedure for bringing the item before the justice system, and section 490 provides for the "management, return or disposition" of the item seized.
- The item seized is forfeited to Her Majesty under the Species at Risk Act when lawful ownership cannot be determined within 30 days of seizure.
- If the item seized is perishable, it may be destroyed or disposed of with the proceeds of disposition paid to the lawful owner or individual lawfully entitled to possession of the item, provided proceedings under the Act have not commenced within 90 days of seizure. The item will then be retained by the enforcement entity or officer pending proceedings finalization.
- If alive at the time of seizure, the enforcement officer may return the individual of the species at risk to the wild.
- If the item specified under the Species at Risk Act has been abandoned or forfeited, it is to be disposed of as directed by the competent minister.
Procedures — Species Covered by CITES
- Section 14 (1) (d) grants officers the lawful ability to seize any item held in contravention of WAPPRIITA.
- Custody of the item seized passes to the officer or an individual designated by the officer under section 16(1).
- Forfeiture can be by consent (section 19 (2)), no consent (section 19 (1)), or automatically (when the item was detained under section 13 of the act, where ownership cannot be detained within 30 days post seizure, and where it is subject to a notice under section 18, section 19 (3)).
- Disposition of the animal is at the direction of the Minister under section 20 (1).
Storage of Seized or Forfeited Animals
- Publicly available information regarding the care and storage of seized animals in Canada is very limited. An article from the CBC from 2018, which is older than the standard time frame of two years, was the only source found during research that directly addressed the storage of live seized or forfeited animals in Canada.
- The article stated that live specimens are typically "placed with zoos or caretakers."
- A 2016 report, also older than the standard time frame of two years, from the CBC, stated that wildlife items, such as animal tusks, fins, pelts or bones are confiscated by the Wildlife Enforcement Directorate and held in a "secret location" close to Toronto.
- The disposition of wild animals confiscated in Australia is governed by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act (EPBC Act).
- Provisions for native and non-native species are contained in Part 13 — Species and communities.
Procedure — Species Covered by Australian Legislation and CITES.
- Australian regulations regarding the procedure for seized or forfeited animals are the same for both native and non-native species, i.e., domestic animals traded as well as those covered under the Appendices for CITES.
- The pertinent provisions are provided for in Division 10, of the EPBC Act. The provisions are outlined below.
- Seized animals can be detained for a period of a maximum of 60 days or, if deemed acceptable by a magistrate, for more than 60 days.
- When the owner cannot be located or there is no owner, the seized goods may be disposed of in a manner deemed appropriate by the Secretary.
- The seized goods may be released to the owner or the person from whom it was seized unconditionally, or under conditions prescribed by the Secretary.
- Immediate disposal is possible where the item was seized under the provisions of Division 10, where retaining the item presents a risk to the environment, to a native species in the wild, presents as the introduction of an alien species, is a danger to public health, or there is immediate danger to the health of the item.
- In this instance the Secretary has the discretion in determining the method of disposal, which may involve euthanasia.
- A written notice of disposal must be given to the owner of the item.
- The court can order forfeiture of the item. Should that happen, the item becomes the property of the Commonwealth of Australia, and is to be dealt with in a manner deemed appropriate by the Secretary, inclusive of sale of the item.
Storage of Seized or Forfeited Animals
- Specific to organisms that have been seized, the organism is to be kept at "a place approved by the Secretary" the said purpose.
- Owners of the organism are required to cover the cost of custody, disposal, transport, and maintenance of the organism.
- Live animals that have been seized or forfeited are kept at organizations that have been accredited for such use (the Zoo and Aquarium Association) or they may be re-exported to non-Australian facilities, or they may be euthanized by a qualified veterinarian. These provisions are outlined in sections 444C to 456AC of the EPBC Act.
European Union (EU)
- The trade in wild fauna and flora in Europe is governed by Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 of 9 December 1996, as amended thereafter, on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein. Protecting species of wild fauna and flora from the guarantee of conservation given effect by regulating trade is the objective of this Regulation.
Procedure for Disposal of Live Specimens
- Article 16 (1) (3) and (4) on Sanctions govern the procedure for disposal of live specimens in the EU. The provisions for disposal are listed below.
- Confiscated specimens are to be placed with a competent authority in the Member State where it was confiscated.
- The competent authority is to then consult with a scientific authority in the Member State prior to placement or disposal of the specimen in a manner that the Member State deems to be appropriate, and which is consistent with the objectives of the Convention.
- If the specimen is one that was introduced into the Community, the competent authority may consult with the exporting State, prior to a return of the specimen to the exporting State. The expenses for this measure is to be covered by the individual convicted of bringing the specimen into the EU.
- Live specimens discovered at the point of entry into the EU for which no valid permit or certificate is held, must be seized and/or confiscated and the competent authority of the Member State where the point of entry is located may refuse to accept the specimen and require that it be returned to the place of departure.
Applicability to Member States
- Wildlife trade regulations in the EU apply to all Member States, however, enforcement provisions fall under the sovereignty of the individual Member State and are to be incorporated into national legislation.
- In this 2019 document, the relevant national legislation was compiled into one document with links to the different regulations and legislation. The document can be accessed at this link. Please note that many of the links provided are not in English.
- Links to Member State websites can also be accessed at this link, with the documentation links for Ireland provided for illustrative purposes.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
- The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is a treaty among governments aimed at ensuring that the trade of specimens of wild animals and plants internationally does not pose a threat to species survival. Membership in the treaty now numbers 184 parties.
- Species under the protection of CITES are classed by level and types of protection. Appendix I species are the most endangered, are prohibited from commercial international trade, and are under the threat of extinction.
- Appendix II species are not yet threatened with extinction, but are nevertheless subject to become that way unless trade is controlled.
- Appendix III species are those that were included at the request of a party to the treaty that already regulates the trade of the species, and who are seeking the assistance and cooperation of other countries to prevent exploitation of the species.
Disposal of Confiscated Live Specimens Listed in the Appendices
- Provisions regarding the disposal of live specimens listed in the appendices under CITES are listed below:
- Management Authorities are to be consulted prior to making a final decision on the disposal of live specimens.
- The CITES Secretariat is to be informed of decisions taken regarding Appendix I species and in respect of commercial quantities of species listed in Appendix II and III.
- When considering the disposal of live specimens, factors to be considered include the humane treatment of the animals alongside the conservation and welfare of the wild population of the species involved.
- Disposal options are captive maintenance, a return to the wild, and euthanasia. For animals remaining in captivity, the specimens can be donated, sold, or loaned for placement in private individuals or in aquaria, safari parks, zoos, lifetime care facilities, specialist societies, rescue centers, universities and research laboratories, humane societies, or the animal may be sold to commercial captive breeders, traders or other entities involved in the commercial trade. Placement may occur in the country of origin, export, confiscation, or a country with specialized or adequate facilities for the care of the species in question.
- For animals to be returned to the wild, CITES requires that this practice be undertaken in instances to reintroduce or reestablish a population in a specific area or to reinforce an existing population. Additional factors to be considered in a decision to return to the wild are the animals welfare, conservation value and cost, the source of the individuals, and disease.
- Euthanasia is only recommended when returning to the wild is unnecessary, placement in captive facilities is impossible, and where the animal has a chronic disease.
- A decision tree analysis matrix is provided to assist with returning to the wild and captive options.
Ratification of CITES by United States of America, Canada, Australia, and European Union (EU)
- The United States of America (USA) joined the treaty on 14 January 1974 and the treaty's provisions came into force in the USA on 1 July 1975. The management authority in the USA is the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Management Authority,
- Canada joined the treaty on 10 April 1975 and it entered into force on 9 July 1975. The management authority for Canada is the Canadian Wildlife Service, Canada-CITES Management Authority.
- Australia joined the treaty on 29 July 1976 and it entered into force in Australia on 27 October 1976. The management authority in Australia is the Wildlife Trade Regulation Section of the Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment.
- The European Union adopted the CITES treaty via Council Decision (EU) 2015/451 on 6 March 2015, and acceded to CITES on 8 July 2015.
To source information regarding how animals confiscated by authorities are dealt with in the requested countries, and given the stated intent to use this information in the formulation of regulatory policy, the research team focused its efforts on the legislated instruments stipulating how these animals are to be dealt with.
Nomenclature varies across the states with Canada's legislation referring to items, the United States's legislation referring to animals, and with references to specimens in the primary Regulation for the EU. Further, as stated above, all the required countries have ratified the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), in which the treatment of seized or forfeited animals is referred to as disposal. Hence, the focus of the research was placed on determining the measures for disposal of the seized or forfeited animals as outlined in the country legislation.
The team also attempted to source information regarding the care of the animals and regarding the types of facilities in which the animals are kept by searching the websites of the primary organizations, e.g. the Fish and Wildlife Service in the United States. When this did not yield results, the search was expanded to include animal welfare organizations in the country, as well as a media scan that may have pertinent information on the subject.
Unfortunately, this information was extremely difficult to source in terms of consistent application, and as such the team reverted to the legislative measures for guidance on how the animals are to be handled post seizure or forfeiture. One possible reason for this may be the disparities involved in how different species are to be housed, cared for, and maintained. Nevertheless, where available, this information was included for review.
Finally, many of the sources used in this brief exceed the usual time limit of two years. In some cases they exceed the limit significantly. While this is not the usual practice, in this instance it was unavoidable given the multiplicity of legislative sources used, and the extended time frames for which these sources may have been in force.