[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 150 (Monday, August 5, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 47215-47217]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-18874]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

9 CFR Parts 2 and 3

[Docket No. APHIS-2012-0107]


Petition to Amend Animal Welfare Act Regulations To Prohibit 
Public Contact With Big Cats, Bears, and Nonhuman Primates

AGENCY: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice.

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[[Page 47216]]

SUMMARY: We are notifying the public that the Animal and Plant Health 
Inspection Service has received a petition requesting amendments to the 
Animal Welfare Act regulations and standards, including to prohibit 
licensees from allowing individuals, with certain exceptions, from 
coming into direct or physical contact with big cats, bears, or 
nonhuman primates of any age, to define the term ``sufficient 
distance,'' and to prohibit the public handling of young or immature 
big cats, bears, and nonhuman primates and the separation of such 
animals from their dams before the species-typical age of weaning 
absent medical necessity. We are making this petition available to the 
public and soliciting comments regarding the petition and any 
additional issues we should take into account as we consider this 
petition.

DATES: We will consider all comments that we receive on or before 
October 4, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by either of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2012-0107-0001.
     Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Send your comment to 
Docket No. APHIS-2012-0107, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, 
APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-
1238.
    Supporting documents and any comments we receive on this docket may 
be viewed at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2012-
0107 or in our reading room, which is located in room 1141 of the USDA 
South Building, 14th Street and Independence Avenue SW., Washington, 
DC. Normal reading room hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through 
Friday, except holidays. To be sure someone is there to help you, 
please call (202) 799-7039 before coming.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Barbara Kohn, DVM, Senior Staff 
Officer, USDA, APHIS, Animal Care, 4700 River Road Unit 84, Riverdale, 
MD 20737-1234; (301) 851-3751.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The Animal Welfare Act (AWA, 7 U.S.C. 2131 et seq.) authorizes the 
Secretary of Agriculture to promulgate standards and other requirements 
governing the humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of 
certain animals by dealers, research facilities, exhibitors, operators 
of auction sales, and carriers and intermediate handlers. The Secretary 
has delegated the responsibility for enforcing the AWA to the 
Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service 
(APHIS). Within APHIS, the responsibility for administering the AWA has 
been delegated to the Deputy Administrator for Animal Care. Regulations 
and standards established under the AWA are contained in 9 CFR parts 1, 
2, and 3. Part 1 contains definitions for terms used in parts 2 and 3; 
part 2 contains licensing and registration regulations, regulations 
specific to research facilities, and regulations governing veterinary 
care, animal identification, recordkeeping, access for inspection, 
confiscation of animals, and handling among other requirements; and 
part 3 contains specific standards for the humane handling, care, 
treatment, and transportation of categories of animals covered under 
the AWA. Currently, part 3 consists of subparts A through F, which 
contain specific standards for dogs and cats, guinea pigs and hamsters, 
rabbits, nonhuman primates, marine mammals, and general standards for 
warmblooded animals not otherwise specified in previous subparts, 
respectively.
    Within part 2, Sec.  2.131 generally contains provisions for 
licensee qualifications, training, careful handling, rest periods, 
attendants, climatic conditions, and public exhibition. Paragraph 
(b)(1) requires that all animals be handled in a manner that prevents 
trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort to 
them. Paragraph (c)(1) places conditions on the public exhibition of 
animals. It requires that during public exhibition, all animals must be 
handled with sufficient distance and/or barriers between the animal and 
the public so as to ensure the safety of the animals and the public. 
Paragraphs (c)(2), (c)(3), and (c)(4) require that performing animals 
be given rest periods, that young or immature animals cannot be exposed 
to rough or excessive public handling or exhibited for periods of time 
that would be inconsistent with their health and well-being, and that 
drugs, such as tranquilizers, cannot be used to facilitate public 
handling of any animals. Paragraph (d) requires that animals be 
exhibited only for periods of time and under conditions consistent with 
their health and well-being, that responsible, knowledgeable, and 
identifiable employees or attendants be present at all times during 
public contact with animals, and specifically requires that dangerous 
animals such as lions, tigers, wolves, bears, or elephants, be under 
the direct control and supervision of an experienced handler during 
public exhibition.
    APHIS has received a petition \1\ requesting that we amend the 
regulations in part 2 to explicitly prohibit licensees from allowing 
persons, with some exceptions, from coming into direct physical contact 
with any big cats, bears, and nonhuman primates of any age. The 
petition states that the current handling regulations in 9 CFR part 2 
allow licensees the opportunity to engage in animal exhibition 
practices via public contact venues, such as interactive sessions and 
photographic opportunities, and that these activities place these 
animals at risk of harm, threaten public safety, undermine conservation 
efforts, and encourage irresponsible breeding. The petitioners contend 
that the existing handling regulations are difficult to enforce, 
subjective, and inconsistently applied. The petitioners propose 
specific regulatory language that would, if incorporated into the 
regulations, amend Sec.  2.131 to eliminate the possibility of direct 
physical contact with big cats, bears, and nonhuman primates by any 
individual, other than trained licensee employees, licensed 
veterinarians, and veterinary students under the supervision of a 
licensed veterinarian; define ``sufficient distance'' under paragraph 
(c)(1) of Sec.  2.131; and prevent the separation of young or immature 
big cats, bears, or nonhuman primates from their dams before the 
species-typical age of weaning unless medically necessary. The 
petitioners also suggest revisions to 9 CFR part 3 to ensure that the 
sections containing specific standards for the handling of nonhuman 
primates are consistent with the regulatory changes they propose in 
Sec.  2.131.
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    \1\ Petitioners include the Humane Society of the United States, 
World Wildlife Fund, The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, 
The International Fund for Animal Welfare, Born Free USA, The Fund 
for Animals, Big Cat Rescue, and the Detroit Zoological Society.
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    We are making this petition available to the public and soliciting 
comments to help determine what action, if any, we should take in 
response to this request. The petition and any comments submitted are 
available for review as indicated under ADDRESSES above. We welcome all 
comments on the issues outlined in the petition and the supporting 
declarations. In addition, we invite responses to the following 
questions:
     Are there circumstances under which public contact with 
young big cats, bears, and nonhuman primates

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may be done without risk of harm to the animals or to the public?
     Should exhibitors and dealers be required to keep 
additional records (beyond those already required) regarding big cats, 
bears, and nonhuman primates? If so, what kinds of information should 
be required to be kept?
     Should exhibitors and dealers be required to identify big 
cats, bears, and nonhuman primates by means of tattoos, microchips, 
retinal scans, or the like?
    We encourage the submission of scientific data, studies, or 
research to support your comments and position, including scientific 
data or research that supports any industry or professional standards 
that pertain to the humane treatment of big cats, bears, and nonhuman 
primates. We also invite data on the costs and benefits associated with 
any recommendations. We will consider all comments and recommendations 
we receive.

    Authority:  7 U.S.C. 2131-2159; 7 CFR 2.22, 2.80, and 371.7.

    Done in Washington, DC, this 31st day of July 2013.
Kevin Shea,
Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-18874 Filed 8-2-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-34-P