Shelters and wildlife
days shelters don't just receive domestic animals like dogs, cats and bunnies.
Sometimes they also receive exotic pets, farm animals and wildlife. There are
rescue groups which will help place domestic pets, exotic pets and farm
animals but what should you do with wildlife?
Wildlife falls under the jurisdiction of Fish & Game and Fish &
Wildlife. It's illegal to keep or place wildlife as pets. Wildlife must be
turned over to your local Fish & Game department or licensed wildlife
rehabilitators. Trained wildlife rehabilitators take in and care for ill,
injured and orphaned wildlife for release back to the wild.
The best thing to do if your shelter or group receives a wildlife call or
animal is to refer it to the closest licensed wildlife rehabilitator
immediately. Don't take the animal into your shelter. It's better for you, the
public and the animal.
Should you take in wildlife, you risk exposing shelter personnel, the public
and other animals to zoological diseases, parasites, bites and scratches.
Besides rabies, round worms from a skunk or raccoon can kill domestic pets and
humans. The eggs are microscopic and cannot be killed with standard cleaning
solutions. Some water fowl can injure or even kill an untrained handler
instantly with a beak into the eye and brain.
If you refer the call, the animal gets proper care faster, as the
rehabilitator doesn't have to drive and pick it up. For example a baby
hummingbird can die within an hour or two if not fed. Some wildlife die from
being fed, handled or caged improperly at shelters. Most wildlife which the
public finds don't even need help and should have been left alone. The
rehabilitator can inform the public of this on the phone before they
"kidnap" a healthy baby from its mother.
By referring the call, the rehabilitator can also get the animal's history and
location from the finder for release purposes. It's mandatory to have all
finder information for some species of wildlife. The rehabber may also
possibly receive a donation from the finder to help offset their expenses.
Rehabilitators are not paid but are generally non-profit volunteer
organizations. As their expenses are high, they are more apt to accept an
animal from the public than a shelter especially if their facility is at
It's also illegal to hold wildlife over 48 hours, with fines up to $100,000
per animal if you euthanize. Only wild animals which are dying may be
euthanized legally. If the animal is endangered, you may need prior written
approval from Fish & Game before you euthanize it. Sometimes it's
difficult for untrained shelter personnel to identify endangered wildlife or
even differentiate it from domestic or exotic pets. Rehabbers are trained in
all the different species, as well as local regulations, so let them sort it
out for you.
How to set up a wildlife referral system
Contact your state Fish & Game or similar department to get a list of the
licensed rehabilitators in your area. It should include their specialty and
all contact information. It's best to have someone contact the rehabilitators
to make sure they will take the calls or come and pick up the animals if
needed. Some only take small birds, some only one species, some take rabies
vector species (RVS - skunk, fox, bat, raccoon), some do not. They may also
have a preferred protocol or direct phone numbers for shelters.
After you have a list of licensed rehabilitators who are willing to take the
calls and animals, make several copies of the list for your shelter. Make sure
all employees know that you will be referring all wildlife calls and animals
to rehabbers. Have the list near the phones. Make the list accessible to
the public in the shelter. If you have it on your website, you might not even
have to take the phone call which makes things even easier for you. Here is an
on-line list of rehabbers for the US to get you started Find a wildlife rehabilitator
Some public shelters currently accept trapped nuisance wildlife. In some
states the animals may be relocated and released based on species. In other
states all healthy trapped nuisance wildlife must be euthanized legally and
humanely. Ill, injured or orphaned trapped animals may be referred to the
rehabilitators. Some rehabbers will take nuisance wildlife calls. They can
educate the public about how to deter wildlife from their property. They even
have free educational flyers for shelters. They can sometimes help remove an
animal trapped in a home. Shelters do not legally have to take in trapped
nuisance wildlife or send their officers out on wildlife calls. They may
refuse all wildlife, as wildlife is not under city but state and federal
jurisdiction. Check with your state wildlife regulations as all states differ.
Setting up a wildlife referral program will save your shelter money, time,
effort and space. It'll reduce liability and improve public and shelter
safety. It will improve morale and help your shelter's image as a life saving
organization. It will also help save wildlife. Please refer the wildlife.
If you need help setting up a wildlife referral system, please contact Mary
Cummins at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Cummins helped Los Angeles City set up their wildlife referral program.
She is a Fish & Game licensed wildlife rehabilitator and educator besides
a humane nuisance wildlife control expert.