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Detailed Discussion of Pennsylvania Great Ape Laws



Elizabeth Love Marcero


Animal Legal & Historical Center
Publish Date:
2012
Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law

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I. Introduction

While the state of Pennsylvania controls possession and importation of “exotic wildlife” by law, the definition of “exotic wildlife” is vague as to whether it includes great apes (34 Pa.C.S.A. § 2961 et seq.). Instead, Pennsylvania regulates the possession of great apes by administrative regulation and reference to the federal endangered species list. The regulations prohibit the importation, possession, sale, and release of “all families of nonhuman primates,” with exceptions for those with a valid permit (58 Pa. Code § 137.1).

This prohibition applies primarily to private ownership. There is a list of commercial uses that are allowed, including circuses, zoological gardens, and menageries (58 Pa. Code § 137.1).

In addition, Pennsylvania’s administrative code addresses the commercial use of great apes in menageries with a USDA Class C Exhibitor permit (58 Pa. Code §§ 147.281 – 87). The regulation requires that menageries comply with permit requirements and maintain apes according to described standards.

Like other states, Pennsylvania does not define great apes as “endangered” under its own endangered species law (34 Pa.C.S.A. § 2167). It does, however, define endangered and threatened species to include federally listed endangered and threatened species under its accompanying regulation (58 Pa. Code § 133.4). Pennsylvania prohibits the possession, transport, and sale of federal protected endangered species.

Finally, great apes are covered under the state’s anti-cruelty law (18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5511).

II. How Different Uses of Great Apes are Affected by Law

While Pennsylvania’s law appears to prohibit most uses of great apes, different activities are addressed by various state laws. The law regulates the possession of great apes depending on whether a person possesses an ape privately (e.g., as a “pet”), at a menagerie, as a sanctuary, or for scientific research purposes. This section examines the laws by those uses.

A. Private Possession of Great Apes

Pennsylvania has an exotic pet law that prohibits the possession of exotic wildlife without a permit (34 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 2961 – 2965). The law contains a definition of what animals are considered “exotic wildlife”:

The phrase includes, but is not limited to, all bears, coyotes, lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, cougars, wolves and any crossbreed of these animals which have similar characteristics in appearance or features. The definition is applicable whether or not the birds or animals were bred or reared in captivity or imported from another state or nation.

While the definition is unclear as to whether great apes are considered exotic wildlife, the phrase “includes, but is not limited to,” suggests that apes could possibly be covered by the law. In addition, the mention of “birds” in the second sentence of the definition implies that the prior sentence’s list of canids, bears, or felids is not all-inclusive. On the other hand, what weighs against including great apes in the definition of “exotic wildlife” is that the regulations only describe housing conditions for canids and felids (58 Pa. Code § 147.244). However, the regulations also do not specify any other species. While the law suggests that great apes could possibly be listed as exotic, it would take specific action by the regulatory agency to open the door to this interpretation, which they have not yet done. Therefore, great apes cannot be considered “exotic wildlife” in Pennsylvania.

Possession of great apes is instead covered under Pennsylvania’s administrative code section 137.1, which limits the importation, possession, sale, and release of “all families of nonhuman primates” to those with a permit. This section exempts nationally recognized circuses, zoological gardens, and menagerie permitees with a USDA Class C Exhibitor permit (58 Pa. Code § 137.1).

B. Possession by Menageries (Class C USDA Exhibitor permitees)

A menagerie is defined under the law as “any place where one or more wild birds or wild animals, or one or more birds or animals which have similar characteristics and appearance to birds or animals wild by nature, are kept in captivity for the evident purpose of exhibition with or without charge” (34 Pa.C.S. § 2961). Menageries with a Class C USDA Exhibitor permit are exempt from that subchapter of regulations that prohibits possession of apes, and may lawfully import wildlife under an importation permit (58 Pa. Code § 137.1). Pennsylvania’s administrative code addresses the conditions under which a menagerie may acquire, hold, and dispose of wildlife and exotic wildlife (58 Pa. Code §§ 147.281 – 87). Menageries must comply with permit requirements and maintain apes according to described standards. For more, see section III(B)(3) below.

C. Sanctuaries

While state law or regulation does not use the term “sanctuary,” it appears that possession here is governed by administrative code sections 147.301 – 312, which covers wildlife rehabilitation permits in Pennsylvania. Pursuant to the director’s authority to issue permits (34 Pa.C.S. § 2901(a)), the director may issue a permit for the purpose of wildlife rehabilitation under this section. Wildlife rehabilitation is defined as “the treatment and temporary care of injured, diseased and displaced wildlife, and the subsequent release of healthy wildlife to appropriate habitats in the wild” (58 Pa. Code § 147.301). While the general thrust of this regulation seems to be geared towards native species, it does address the rehabilitation of endangered or threatened species. Novice class permit holders, who are new applicants, are prohibited from holding endangered or threatened species. On the other hand, general class permit holders, who have at least two years of experience, may accept endangered or threatened species upon written request and after attending a workshop or seminar (58 Pa. Code § 147.304). Wildlife rehabilitation facilities must be kept sanitary according to the same standards required of menageries (58 Pa. Code § 147.302; 147.283). Cages for wildlife must be of adequate size, design, and strength to provide for the good health, comfort, and secure containment of the animal. The facility and its records must be available for inspection by the commission at any reasonable hour. Failure to comply with permit conditions results in the revocation of the permit (58 Pa. Code § 147.302).

D. Scientific Testing and Research Facilities

Pennsylvania’s anti-cruelty law prohibits the issuance of warrants to investigate alleged violations at a facility where scientific research work is being conducted by, or under the supervision of, graduates of duly accredited scientific schools or where biological products are being produced for the care or prevention of disease (18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5511).

III. State Laws Affecting Great Apes in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania addresses the use and possession of great apes through several avenues in its laws. While Pennsylvania’s exotic pet law is unclear as to whether it applies to great apes, the state’s administrative code limits the importation, possession, sale, and release of “all families of nonhuman primates” (58 Pa. Code § 137.1). In addition, the commercial use of great apes in menageries is also dealt with under the administrative code. And while Pennsylvania does not specifically list great apes under state law as an endangered species, there is incorporation by reference to federal law. Finally, great apes are protected from intentional cruelty and neglect under the state’s anti-cruelty provision.

A. Importation, Introduction, and Transplantation of Wildlife Law (58 Pa. Code § 137.1)

Pennsylvania’s administrative code contains a section that addresses the importation and possession of certain wildlife. The regulations prohibit the importation, possession, sale, or release of wildlife, with exceptions for those holding a valid permit.

1. Which Great Apes are Covered?

This section lists certain species that are covered by the prohibitions, including “all families of nonhuman primates” (58 Pa. Code § 137.1).

 2. What is Prohibited?

The regulation prohibits the importation, possession, sale, or release of wildlife. Exceptions apply for a person holding a valid license. Nationally recognized circuses, zoological gardens, and menagerie permitees with a USDA Class C Exhibitor permit are specifically exempt under the regulation (58 Pa. Code § 137.1).

3. Standards for Keeping of Great Apes under the Law

This section does not deal with housing conditions, and there are no state administrative regulations concerning care and keeping of captive endangered species. In most of the cases where an animal is held under an exception to the state law, a federal permit will be required and housing issues are addressed under the federal regulations. [See 9 C.F.R. 3.75 – 3.92 (housing, feeding and related care for non-human primates); 42 C.F.R. 9.4 & 9.6 (relating to chimpanzees in sanctuaries); 64 Fed Reg 38145 (relating to psychological well-being of non-human primates held by dealers, exhibitors and research facilities)].

4. Penalties

There are no listed penalties for violation of this section.

B. Menageries (Class C USDA Exhibitor permitees)

Menageries with a Class C USDA Exhibitor permit are exempt from that subchapter of regulations that prohibits possession of apes, and may lawfully import wildlife under an importation permit (58 Pa. Code § 137.1). Pennsylvania’s administrative code addresses the conditions under which a menagerie may acquire, hold, and dispose of wildlife and exotic wildlife (58 Pa. Code §§ 147.281 – 87).

1. Which Great Apes are Covered?

This section states that it relates to safeguards for public safety, humane care and treatment, adequate housing and nutrition, sanitation, safety, acquisition and disposal of “wildlife” and “exotic wildlife” held as part of a menagerie. The regulation applies the same definitions that are contained in section 2961 of Pennsylvania’s exotic pet law. While section 2961’s definition of “exotic wildlife” does not include great apes (see section II(A) above), the inclusion of the term “wildlife” in the regulation is broad enough to cover great apes. Indeed, the regulation specifically lists standards of caging and care for apes kept by menageries.

2. What is Prohibited?

It is unlawful to maintain confined wildlife in unsanitary or unsafe conditions that will result in the maltreatment, mistreatment, or neglect of the animal (58 Pa. Code § 147.281). Wildlife may not be confined in a pen, cage, or enclosure which does not meet the minimum pen specifications of this chapter.

3. Standards for Keeping Wild Animals in Menageries

In order to qualify for an exhibitor permit, a person must have at least two years’ experience of hands-on work with the designated species (58 Pa. Code § 147.281). Wildlife may not be chained, tethered, or otherwise impeded from moving freely within an enclosure unless otherwise specified on the permit. Cages must be constructed so as to contain the animal and protect it from injury from other animals on exhibit (58 Pa. Code § 147.282). Wildlife must not be removed from cages, and safety barriers must be present to prevent wildlife from touching, grasping, or biting visitors. Cages must contain bedding for the animal’s comfort and protection from inclement weather (58 Pa. Code § 147.284). Clean water and food must be available to the animal, and the cages must be cleaned of waste daily (58 Pa. Code § 147.283). Wildlife that becomes sick or unsightly is to be removed from public display and immediately given professional medical attention, or be destroyed humanely (58 Pa. Code § 147.287). The regulations also include the minimum specifications and caging requirements for captive wildlife. Section 147.285(3) states the requirements for cages containing apes:

(3) Apes.

(i) Gibbons.

(A) Number or size: One pair, plus one or two offspring.

(B) Cage size: 12′L by 6′W by 8′H.

(C) Accessories: Three parallel bars at least 4 feet apart shall be provided in the top 1/3 of cage along the length of enclosure for swinging.

(ii) Chimpanzees and orangutans.

(A) Number or size: Young, single animals--20 to 50 pounds.

(B) Cage size: 8′L by 6′W by 6′H. For adults, 50 pounds or over, the cages shall be 10′L by 6′W by 8′H. For two or three adults, double the floor area.

(iii) Gorillas.

(A) Number or size: Single animal.

(B) Cage size: 14′L by 12′W by 8′H. For two animals, double the floor area.

The regulations also provide standards for the temporary housing of wildlife (58 Pa. Code § 147.285). Temporary housing extends to wildlife housing for a period of not more than 10 consecutive days at the same location. Section 147.285(9) states the requirements for cages temporarily containing apes:

(ii) Large primates. Gorillas.

(A) Number or size: Single animal.

(B) Cage size: 8′W by 8′L. Height shall extend at least 2 feet over the standing height of the animal.

(C) Accessories. Overhead pull bar and seat.

(iii) Adult orangutan.

(A) Number or size: Single animal.

(B) Cage size: 7′W by 7′L. Height shall extend at least 2 feet over standing height of the animal.

(C) Accessories: The cage shall be equipped with overhead pull bar and seat.

(iv) Adult chimpanzee.

(A) Number or size: Single animal.

(B) Cage size: 6-1/2′W by 6-1/2′L. Height shall extend at least 2 feet over standing height of the animal.

(C) Accessories: The cage shall be equipped with overhead pull bar and seat.

(v) Young chimpanzee. Up to 50 pounds.

(A) Number or size: Single animal.

(B) Cage size: 5′W by 5′L. Height shall extend at least 2 feet over standing height of the animal.

(C) Accessories: The cage shall be equipped with overhead pull bar and seat.

4. Penalties

There are no listed penalties for violation of this section.

C. Endangered or Threatened Species Act (34 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 102, 2167, 2924)

As listed species on the federal list of endangered and threatened species, most great apes are protected under Pennsylvania’s Endangered or Threatened Species Act. This act prohibits possession, transport, and sale of such species.

1. Which Great Apes are Covered?

While the language of the act itself only refers generally to “endangered or threatened species,” Title 34 contains a definition section that more specifically defines endangered and threatened species to include federally listed endangered and threatened species (34 Pa.C.S.A. § 102). The state’s regulations also define endangered and threatened species to include federally listed endangered and threatened species (58 Pa. Code § 133.4). All great apes are therefore covered by reference to the federal endangered and threatened species lists.

2. What is Prohibited?

Under section 2167, a person may not possess, transport, capture or kill, or attempt, aid, abet or conspire to capture or kill, any wild animal or part of a wild animal, which are endangered or threatened species. It is the duty of every officer having authority to enforce this title to seize all wild animals or parts of animals which have been declared endangered or threatened. Any commerce in endangered species is also prohibited.

Section 2924 allows the state to issue permits to import, export, sell, exchange, or take animals classified as endangered or threatened species. The state may also work jointly with appropriate federal agencies to issue permits for species not native to Pennsylvania that are endangered or threatened.

3. Standards for Great Apes Kept under Pennsylvania’s Endangered Species Law

This section does not deal with housing conditions, and there are no state administrative regulations concerning care and keeping of captive endangered species. In most of the cases where an animal is held under an exception to the state law, a federal permit will be required and housing issues are addressed under the federal regulations. [See 9 C.F.R. 3.75 – 3.92 (housing, feeding and related care for non-human primates); 42 C.F.R. 9.4 & 9.6 (relating to chimpanzees in sanctuaries); 64 Fed Reg 38145 (relating to psychological well-being of non-human primates held by dealers, exhibitors and research facilities)].

4. Penalties

For a first violation of section 2167, a person may have his or her hunting privileges revoked for 7 years. A second violation during that period may result in forfeiture of the privilege to hunt for 10 years. A third violation brings the forfeiture to 15 years.

Under section 2924, it is a summary offense of the first degree (as defined in Section 925) to unlawfully take an endangered or threatened species. Violator must pay a fine of not less than $1,000 but not more than $1,500, and may be sentenced to imprisonment up to three months (34 Pa.C.S.A. § 925).

D. Cruelty to Animals (18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5511)

Several sections of Pennsylvania’s anti-cruelty law are applicable to great apes. A person commits cruelty to animals if he or she willfully and maliciously kills, maims or disfigures “any zoo animal” in captivity or intentionally administers poison to that animal. The statute’s definition of “zoo animal” is broad enough to cover great apes. Violation of this section is a third degree felony. The statute also provides that a person commits a summary offense if he or she wantonly or cruelly illtreats, overloads, beats, otherwise abuses “any animal,” or neglects any animal to which he has a duty of care, or abandons any animal. In addition, a person must not deprive any animal of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter or veterinary care, or access to clean and sanitary shelter which will protect the animal from inclement weather and preserve the animal’s body heat and keep it dry. Finally, it is considered a summary offense for a person to carry, or cause, or allow to be carried, any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner. When a violation occurs under this statute, a police officer or agent for the prevention of cruelty to animals may apply for a search warrant authorizing a search of the area in which the violation occurred, and authorizing the seizure of evidence, including the animals involved. However, search warrants are not to be issued for scientific research facilities. If a seized animal is found to be neglected or starving, the officer or agent is authorized to provide reasonably necessary care. If the seized animal is disabled, injured, or diseased beyond hope of recovery, the officer or agent may provide for the humane destruction of the animal. The costs of keeping, care and destruction of the animal must be paid by the owner. In addition to other penalties, an owner who violates this section may be prohibited or limited from possession, control, or custody of animals for a specified period of time.

IV. Conclusion

While it is not clear whether great apes are considered “exotic wildlife” under Pennsylvania law, the state’s administrative code limits the importation, possession, sale, and release of “all families of nonhuman primates” to those with a permit. It does not appear that any other private possession of great apes is allowed in the state. However, state law clearly allows the use of great apes and other wild animals in menageries, wildlife rehabilitation, and research facilities. While the law notably contains standards of care and housing specific to certain wildlife, including great apes, inspection and enforcement provisions are vague. As is true with many states, there is not an overall law that directly addresses the possession of great apes or the specific needs of apes in captivity.

 

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