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City's critters win protections

The raccoons, opossums and foxes that roam District neighborhoods can breathe a bit easier.

The D.C. Council gave tentative approval Tuesday to a bill that would implement tough new standards for how animal and pest control companies rid District homes and properties of unwanted wild animals.

The bill, which does not apply to residents or property managers, requires that animal control operators take "all reasonable steps" to try to guarantee the use of humane and non-lethal force in the capture of nuisance and unwanted animals.

"The purpose of the bill is to protect consumers but also wildlife," said Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), the lead sponsor of the legislation.

Called the Wildlife Protection Act, the bill outlaws the use of glue, leg hold and "body-gripping" or body crushing traps or snares to catch nuisance animals such as raccoons and foxes. It also bans the use of poison to control pigeons and sparrows.

The legislation exempts rats and mice, meaning lethal traps can still be used to eliminate those critters.

But other wild animals would have among the strictest protections in the nation.

Wildlife and pest control contractors would be required to check to their traps every 24 hours to make sure an animal is not confined in one of them. Once caught, wildlife control operators would be required to take an injured animal to a rehabilitation center. Uninjured animals could either be released on site or transferred to "a safe location where nuisance problems are not likely to occur."

When a wild animal gets separated for her young, contractors also will be urged to take "every reasonable effort to preserve family units using humane eviction or displacement and reunion strategies."

"We are going to keep the families together," Cheh said.

Before the vote, Cheh told her colleagues that most local animal control companies supported the legislation. But the National Pest Management Association warns the bill will increase homeowners' pest control costs and lead to more rabid animals roaming city streets.

"The bill bans the use of several longstanding and widely used wildlife management tools," the association said in a statement. "The arbitrary elimination of such tools will result in a loss of consumer choice for District consumers as well as a dramatic increase in the cost of professional wildlife management services."

Specifically, the association said wildlife managers would no longer be able to use non-lethal glue boards to catch snakes.

Cheh countered, "These traps, maybe for a particular snake, may not be so horrible, but they are horrible for other animals that may be trapped in them."

But the legislation also could lead to other conflicts. Although rats and mice are exempt from Cheh's bill, the association said snap traps are sometimes needed to control moles and chipmunks.

"To be clear, homeowners dealing with nuisance wildlife will now be very limited in how they or the professional wildlife management companies they hire deal with invading wildlife," the association stated.

The association warned that District homeowners and their families will be increasingly "threatened" by rabid raccoons and other animals.

"They will simply have to tolerate the animal, hope it does not attack and that it moves on to threaten a neighboring household."

Cheh disputes that the legislation will hinder efforts to control rabid animals. She notes the legislation includes a provision allowing lethal force to be used for animals threatening public safety.

In the days leading up to the vote, several council members appeared skeptical of the bill. But it passed unanimously on a voice vote. A final vote will be held in two weeks.

By Tim Craig  | October 5, 2010; 12:18 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Council, Tim Craig  
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What about the hood rats?

Posted by: blackforestcherry | October 5, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Is this some sort of joke? Who will enforce this new law.. we can't even keep human families together and you expect these wild life workers to keep a fox and a raccoon together with their families.. Get a life DC

Posted by: kendra2 | October 5, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse


As soon as I read the title of the article I knew it was Cheh.

She is an embarrassment to DC Taxpayers. She spends all her time writing raccoon protection and plastic bag bills while the city enjoys the highest unemployment rate in the region and is a half a billion dollar hole. Her "granola" politics are useless and tiring.

Posted by: Nosh1 | October 5, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

What Nosh1 said.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | October 5, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

YOU need a life, or at least a sense of basic human decency. This is an important bill that deserves to pass. These commercial trapping companies kill cats, foxes, racoons, possums and other animals in horrifying ways. Would you like to be drowned, poisoned, stuck in a leghold trap until you starved, or worse, just because someone came and built McMansions in your habitat?

Posted by: VirginiaDad | October 5, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

This is the stupidest thing I've ever seen. It has nothing to do with McMansions. Squirrels, raccoons, etc. can turn your attic into a poop-filled wasteland in just a few days -- and it can take weeks to figure out how they're getting in and seal up those entry points. In the meantime, who is supposed to pay to replace all of your now-fouled insulation, not to mention whatever property you might've stored in your attic that is now probably ruined? These creatures carry fleas, ticks, and other unpleasantness right into your home -- who's supposed to pay for the secondary extermination you'll need?

Posted by: dcgirl1899 | October 5, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

dcgirl: Try some humanity. Isn't that what separates us from the "animals"? Of course some in the industry tried the old "it will raise costs". Tiresome talk.

Posted by: jckdoors | October 5, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, this legislation may have an opposite effect from its intent. Since pest/animal control companies would be limited in their ability to catch unwanted critters, homeowners will be more inclined to do it themselves. Homeowners likely do not have the expertise or equipment to do it "humanely." Amateur exterminators are much more likely to perform the exorcism in a messy and painful manner.

Posted by: richarddenton | October 5, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Great. Now lets get some laws on the books to ensure our police force uses "all reasonable steps" to try to guarantee the use of humane and non-lethal force when dealing with dogs.

My Facebook page (pls join): Mr. Policeman, Don't Shoot My Dog.

Posted by: JulyAugust | October 5, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

How embarassing that our city council has stooped to this level of mamby pamby-ism! What? Are they competing with San Francisco to be the wackiest city counsil in the country? Who gives a flip about a stinky old possum or a rabid raccoon invading someone's home? Kill 'em!! Get a life, Cheh!!

Posted by: PepperDr | October 5, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

The DC Council and Government is a joke. What a bunch of overpaid do-nothing bums.

Posted by: Drudge1 | October 5, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Any hope of crime reform anytime soon? We've had something like 7 murders in the last 10 days. Please, DC Council? Please? Or maybe I should pretend to be a raccoon to get some attention?

So much for "the needs of the many..."

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | October 5, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Good grief, just kill them. Softhearted liberals, as usual, giving more rights to pests and criminals than law-abiding citizens.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | October 5, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

I can’t wait until a D.C. Council member gets a raccoon in their garage or house, and realizes what a vicious little critter they really are.

Posted by: nuke41 | October 5, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

Why on earth would a resident be "threatened by rabid raccoons and other animals"?
The bill requires that companies use " "all reasonable steps" to try to guarantee the use of humane and non-lethal force in the capture of nuisance and unwanted animals." It doesn't suggest that rabid animals be released back into any environment. It sounds to me like a scare tactic on the part of an organization that wants to avoid the extra effort and expense of humane trapping and relocating animals in all appropriate instances.

Posted by: jdVA | October 5, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

jdVA, you apparently have no experience with wild animals. I hope you never come upon a cornered raccoon. You will change your mind about these animals. In fact, you'll be the first one grabbing the shovel to beat it death.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | October 5, 2010 11:46 PM | Report abuse

What Nosh1 said.

Posted by: moebius22 | October 6, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

jckdoors: Try some common sense. Isn't that what separates us from the "animals"?

Posted by: moebius22 | October 6, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

I don't in any way agree with animal cruelty, but possums and raccoons especially are a pain in the rear to get rid of. What's the point of releasing a trapped animal "on site"? It's just going to keep being a pain. At minimum, the PCOs should be required to relocate the animal far enough away that it can't easily find it's way back. In my neighborhood the HOA recently caught 13 racoons and 5 possums in a week. That's a lot and something pretty much should be done.

Posted by: indy474 | October 6, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I would imagine that most folks would prefer the pests to be dead rather than rehabilitated. You voted for these people; good luck.

Posted by: powellsanmiguel | October 6, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

"The legislation exempts rats and mice"

I stopped reading right there. Does that mean it is legal for me to leave a trapped rat on a glue trap to starve to death, or kill it with a horrifically cruel method like boiling it alive in water?

Mice and rats can feel as much pain as a damn fox or raccoon would. This smacks of hypocrisy - have you ever SEEN a mouse on these things as they bite parts of their bodies off? Most cruel thing I've seen involving animals. Humane standard of killing should apply to ALL animals, not just the "cute" ones.

Guess mice and rats weren't cute enough to be included.

Posted by: GavinMangus | October 11, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

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