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FWC to discuss rule about reporting injuries from captive wildlife

Posted at 7:20 AM, Jul 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-13 18:23:22-04

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — New rules for captive wildlife will be a topic for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as it meets this morning.

If approved, places — like zoos — will have to report serious bodily harm caused by any animals. That includes rules about employees reaching their hands thru fences.

Seven months ago, there was an incident at the Naples Zoo involving an employee being bitten by a tiger. The goal of these rule changes is to minimize the risk of something like that ever happening again.

A key part of this proposed rule change is prohibiting people from crossing or breaching those public safety barriers. The FWC says these rules are not only about animal welfare, but also public safety.

If approved, the new rules will require people with a captive wildlife permit to report all injuries that require treatment beyond what the FWC calls basic first aid. That means all serious bodily injuries — regardless of the victim’s status — as well as any escaped captive wildlife, have to be reported.

Last December, an employee here at the Naples Zoo was bitten by Eko the tiger. A deputy tried to free that employee but, ultimately, had to shoot and kill Eko.

Speaking on the new rule, Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said the following:

I am certainly supportive of this rule as it pertains to the protection of animals. I had already planned to propose protections to our legislative delegation when they meet in November. This is a good first step in developing safeguards. Apparently we need to make it clear to people that they need to stay out of cages and respect barriers.

Right now, failing to report an injury from captive wildlife is not a violation. And permittees are only required to report escapes of Class 1 animals, like tigers, bears, and venomous reptiles. The FWC says injuries and escapes are significantly under-reported because of owner or victim apprehension.

If approved, the rule goes up for final adoption and takes effect.