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Wild animals and their fans await key Council vote

Several D.C. Council members appear skeptical of a bill by Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) that would give additional protections to wild animals that wander into homes or yards of District residents.

The "wildlife protection" bill, which the council will hold a preliminary vote on Tuesday, would toughen requirements for wildlife control contractors to try to guarantee the use of humane and non-lethal force in the capture of nuisance and unwanted animals.

"This should be entirely uncontroversial," Cheh said in an interview. "It protects wildlife and it protects consumers."

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 or foxes. It also bans the use of poison to control pigeons and sparrows.

Under the legislation, wildlife control contractors would be urged to use non-lethal traps for animals; rats and mice are exempt from the life-saving protections, meaning homeowners could still trap and kill them.

Wildlife and pest control contractors would be required to check to their traps every 24 hours to make sure an animals 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."

The proposal does not apply to Rock Creek Park, which is governed by federal regulations. So the city still won't be able to intervene in the ongoing debate over whether the National Park Service should allow lethal force to curb the deer population.

The Humane Society and other animal rights groups are enthusiastic supporters of Cheh's legislation. But D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) and other members refused to answer questions from reporters about whether they will vote for the legislation.

Council members appeared especially troubled by a provision in the bill requiring wildlife control operators to "make every reasonable effort to preserve family units using humane eviction or displacement and reunion strategies."

Cheh said the intent of that provision of the bill is to make sure baby raccoon or foxes are not "left out there to die" if their mothers are captured.

Cheh said she still expects to make "some changes" to the bill before Tuesday's vote. But she predicted the bill be approved because, she said, District residents support the goals of the legislation.

"They don't want animals choked or drowned or left on sticky traps to die in the elements," Cheh said.

Cheh has already made one major revision to the bill since she introduced it last fall. The initial bill included a provision of that would have made it illegal to disturb hibernating bats for the winter. But the committee killed that section of the legislation.

--Tim Craig

By Washington Post Editors  | October 4, 2010; 3:47 PM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig  
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What an incredibly stupid piece of "legislation" and waste of tax payer money! I say we send all the rabid raccoons, fox and possum to Mary Cheh's house, since she loves them so much. Put that in your stupid bill.

Posted by: PepperDr | October 4, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Would the Bill protect DC's rat population?

Let's see, the City is $175 million in the red. But this is the Council's priority?

Posted by: ObjectiveReader1 | October 4, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

I agree, what a waste of money and legislation. If the animal will harm people or property it needs to be put down. If it can be captured they usually do that and then we can send it to Cheh's house for safe keeping.

Posted by: voter20 | October 4, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

I am very happy with this legislation. I can't imagine anybody heartless enough to will the slow, suffering deaths of innocent animals, but there apppear to be at least three of them, and they've all chosen to mock this piece of legislation.
Thank you, Professor Cheh, for extending kindness to those who are most helpless among us.

Posted by: barnabytwist | October 4, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

This is another reason why Ward 3 residents should feel motivated to go to the polls on Nov. 2 and vote for Mary Cheh's republican opponent.

Posted by: MichaelW3 | October 5, 2010 6:32 AM | Report abuse

Great legislation. I hope it passes. There is no logical reason not to pass it.

Posted by: MarylandJ | October 5, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Other than Rock Creek Park, there are few undeveloped areas in the District where one could release wildlife. So where will the animals be released? Why surrounding counties, of course! Thus the District's nuisance animals become someone else's problem. Cheh's bill to "protect wildlife and consumers" will hurt the District's neighbors.

Posted by: prariegurl | October 5, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

"But she predicted the bill be approved because, she said, District residents support the goals of the legislation."
No, I don't support it. The bill is far left loony tunes nuttery.

Posted by: case50 | October 5, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Cheh needs to stop reading the HSUS bullet points and start doing things that matter to tax-paying, voting DC residents.

Posted by: mstebbins6 | October 5, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for this legislation. I fully support it.

Posted by: possumlady1 | October 5, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Another great piece of legislation from the DC City Council that keeps right on giving. Can't wait for Jay and Dave and other late night TV hosts to get their hands on this. It should be good for a lot of laughs.

And we think only the Tea Party is full of kooks! Atta girl Cheh.

Posted by: NewEra | October 5, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

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