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Ferrets

Veterinary Care of Illegal Wildlife

Ferrets — Illegal to Own, But What About Veterinary Treatment?

February 2003

Ferrets and other wildlife, including sugar gliders and hedgehogs, are still illegal to import, transport, or possess in California without a permit issued by the Department of Fish and Game. But a legislative bill that took effect January 1, 2003 authorizes a veterinarian to possess any prohibited animal for the purpose of providing veterinary care. The veterinarian may possess “the animals only for the period of time that, in his or her judgment, veterinary care and treatment are necessary.”

This bill removed the cloud of uncertainty that bothered many veterinarians when they treated these animals. It has never been illegal for a veterinarian to treat these animals, but there was a question about “possession” when the animals were hospitalized. Now there is no doubt that veterinarians can treat and hospitalize these animals when necessary without fear of being cited for possession of an illegal species.

The bill also made it clear that veterinarians do not have any obligation to report knowledge of these animals being possessed illegally by the owner. The regulations state: “No veterinarian, registered veterinary technician, or unregistered assistant working under the supervision of a veterinarian, has a duty to advise law enforcement if he or she becomes aware that one or more of the animals is possessed in the state.”

However, California law (Section 2606, Title 17 CCR) does require that a veterinarian report all animal bites inflicted upon people to the local health officer or his designee (usually county animal control) for appropriate rabies control measures. See Section 2606 at the end of this article.

The only other reporting requirement we are aware of related to treating wildlife is found in Section 679(b) of Title 14 (CCR). This section allows for the temporary confinement of some forms of wildlife for rehabilitation. However, the Department of Fish and Game must be notified of such confinement within 48 hours. Our interpretation is that there are no reporting requirements when treating owned animals, legal or not. This reporting requirement would seem to come into play if you are treating an animal brought to you as a “Good Sam” case or that you acquire on your own. This reporting requirement would also apply to a client who wishes to confine injured wildlife. See Section 679 .

If you have questions abut this or related topics, call Grant Miller, DVM, at 800-655-2862 or gmiller@cvma.net.

Related Web Sites:

www.dfg.ca.gov/ – Department of Fish and Wildlife

www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html – California Law – 29 Codes

www.calregs.com/ – California Code of Regulations (Titles 1 through 28)

Other Links:

§670.5 Animals of California Declared to Be Endangered or Threatened

§671. Importation, Transportation and Possession of Live Restricted Animals

§679. Possession of Wildlife and Wildlife Rehabilitation; §350. Big Game Defined; §5050 Fully protected reptiles and amphibians

Reference Material

Business and Professions Code

§4826.2. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a veterinarian, registered veterinary technician, or an unregistered assistant working under the supervision of a veterinarian, may provide veterinary care and treatment for any animal restricted pursuant to Section 2118 of the Fish and Game Code. A veterinarian, registered veterinary technician, or an unregistered assistant working under the supervision of a veterinarian, may lawfully possess one or more of the animals only for the period of time that, in his or her judgment, veterinary care and treatment are necessary. No veterinarian, registered veterinary technician, or unregistered assistant working under the supervision of a veterinarian, has a duty to advise law enforcement if he or she becomes aware that one or more of the animals is possessed in the state. For the purposes of this section, “veterinary care and treatment” does not include boarding when no veterinary care or treatment is required.

TITLE 17. Public Health

Division 1. State Department of Health Services

Chapter 4. Preventive Medical Service

Subchapter 1. Reportable Diseases and Conditions

Article 3. Specific Diseases and Conditions

§2606. Rabies, Animal.

§2606 – Rabies, Animal.

(a)     Reporting. Any person having knowledge of the whereabouts of an animal known to have or suspected of having rabies shall report the facts immediately to the local health officer. The health officer shall likewise be notified of any person or animal bitten by a rabid or suspected rabid animal.

In those areas declared by the Director of the State Department of Health Services to be rabies areas (See Section 1901.2, California Health and Safety Code) the local health officer shall be notified when any person is bitten by an animal of a species subject to rabies, whether or not the animal is suspected of having rabies.

(b)     Isolation. Any rabid animal, clinically suspected rabid animal, or biting animal shall be isolated in strict confinement as follows:

(1)      Isolation of Rabid Animals or Clinically Suspected Rabid Animals. Any rabid animal or clinically suspected rabid animal shall be isolated in strict confinement under proper care and under the observation of a licensed veterinarian, in a pound, veterinary hospital, or other adequate facility in a manner approved by the local health officer, except where such responsibility has been delegated to a comparable officer by the governing body, and shall not be killed or released for at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms suggestive of rabies, with the exception that such animals may be sacrificed with permission of the local health officer for the purpose of laboratory examination for rabies using the fluorescent rabies antibody (FRA) test in an approved public health laboratory.

(2)       Isolation of Biting Animals. At the discretion of the local health officer, any animal which bites or otherwise exposes a person shall be isolated in strict confinement in a place and manner approved by the local health officer and observed for at least 14 days (dogs and cats 10 days) after the day of infliction of the bite, with the exception that the following alternative to the 10 day isolation of dogs and cats is permitted – dogs or cats which have been isolated in strict confinement under proper care and under observation of a licensed veterinarian, in a pound, veterinary hospital, or other adequate facility in a manner approved by the local health officer, may be released from isolation by the local health officer after five days of veterinary observation if upon conducting a thorough physical examination on the fifth day or more after infliction of the bite, the observing veterinarian certifies that there are no clinical signs or symptoms of any disease. Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions, a local health officer may authorize, with permission of the owner and other legal restrictions permitting, the euthanasia of a biting animal for the purpose of laboratory examination for rabies using the fluorescent rabies antibody (FRA) test in an approved public health laboratory.

(3)       Isolation of Biting Animals in Officially Declared Rabies Areas. In officially declared rabies areas (see Section 1901.2, California Health and Safety Code) the isolation described in paragraph (2) above shall be mandatory for any animal of a species subject to rabies that has bitten or otherwise exposed a person, with the exception of rodents (members of the order Rodentia) and rabbits and hares (members of the order Lagomorpha).

(4)       Laboratory Examination of Rabid Animals, Clinically Suspected Rabid Animals or Biting Animals Which Die or Have Been Killed. If any rabid animal, clinically suspected rabid animal or biting animal dies or has been killed, adequate specimens shall be obtained and examined in a public health laboratory approved by the department. No person shall destroy or allow to be destroyed the brain of an animal of a species subject to rabies that has bitten or otherwise exposed a person before the destruction of such brain has been authorized by the local health department; provided, however, that the provisions of this paragraph (4) shall not apply to rodents (members of the order Rodentia) and rabbits or hares (members of the order Lagomorpha).

(c)     Animal Contracts. Any animal of a species subject to rabies which has been bitten by a known rabid or suspected rabid animal or has been in intimate contact with a rabid or suspected rabid animal shall be quarantined in a place and manner approved by the local health officer, except where such responsibility has been delegated to a comparable officer by the local governing body, for a period of six months or destroyed, with the exception that the following alternatives are permitted in the case of dogs and cats as follows:

(1)       If a dog over one year of age has been vaccinated against rabies within 36 months but not less than 30 days with a rabies vaccine of a type approved by the Department for a maximum immunity duration of at least 36 months, the dog may be revaccinated immediately (within 48 hours) in a manner prescribed by the Department and quarantined in a place and manner approved by the local health officer for a period of 30 days following revaccination.

(2)       If a dog under one year of age has been vaccinated against rabies within 12 months but not less than 30 days with a rabies vaccine of a type approved by the Department, the dog may be revaccinated immediately (within 48 hours) in a manner prescribed by the Department and quarantined in a place and a manner approved by the local health officer for a period of 30 days.

(3)       If a cat has been vaccinated within one year but not less than 30 days with an annual type feline rabies vaccine or if a cat has been vaccinated under one year of age with a 36-month type of feline rabies vaccine within 12 months but not less than 30 days, the cat may be revaccinated immediately (within 48 hours) in a manner prescribed by the Department and quarantined in a place and manner approved by the local health officer for a period of 30 days following revaccination.

(4)       If a cat over one year of age has been vaccinated against rabies and has been vaccinated within 36 months and more than 30 days with a 36-month type feline rabies vaccine, the cat may be revaccinated immediately (within 48 hours) in a manner prescribed by the Department and quarantined in a place and manner approved by a local health officer for a 30-day period following revaccination.

(0705)

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