D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) has introduced legislation that will protect squirrels, among other animals, from inhumane treatment.

Working in collaboration with the Humane Society of the United States, Cheh proposed [the Wildlife Protection Act of 2009](http://www.docstoc.com/docs/13510955/DC-Wildlife-Protection-Act) on Oct 20. The bill outlines protocol that wildlife specialists would need to follow when they are called in to remove animals dwelling in a household or business. These procedures include assessing the complaint, devising the appropriate strategy to remove the wildlife and taking preventative measures against future infestations.

According to Cheh’s office, there are currently no laws regulating trappers in the D.C. metropolitan area.

“By acting to combat cruel treatment of animals, we reform our behavior to reflect the highest ideals of our community, we teach our children to help those who cannot help themselves and we remind ourselves how to live in balance with the world around us,” Cheh said.

The bill takes several steps toward ensuring humane treatment for affected animals. It states that, if feasible, relocation should be the designated course of action. When necessary, humane traps should be used to capture animals. Once set in place, these traps are required to be checked every 12 hours and to protect the wildlife from weather and temperature extremes. Sticky or glue traps, leghold traps and other body-griping traps will be prohibited, except when used to remove mice and rats.

“Wildlife shall be captured and handled in an expeditious and careful manner to ensure against causing unnecessary discomfort, behavioral stress, or physical harm to the animal,” the bill states.

Euthanasia could be chosen as an option by wildlife specialists, but only when all other means of eviction have been exhausted.

Within the bill, there are also protocols designated for specific species. During the winter, a wildlife specialist could only remove bats by non-lethal means before they begin hibernation. In the summer, a permit would be required to remove bat colonies containing 10 or more adults. It would also be illegal to remove pigeons, starlings and sparrows by toxic means.

Cheh’s bill not only addresses which animals can be captured, but also who can capture them. In the proposed legislation, only professional trappers and wildlife specialists will be affected – homeowners are exempt in the current draft. This legislation also requires all private wildlife control officials to maintain licenses similar to regulation in Maryland and Virginia.

“Most of [the] stuff [in the bill], such as checking traps every 24 hours, is already standard procedure in Maryland, Virginia and in the industry. Most of it in there is great but it’s taking away most of the tools in our toolbox. The way the bill is written right now puts the public safety at risk,” said John Adcock, owner of Adcock Trapping Service in College Park, Md.

Adcock also expressed his concern that the Humane Society had too much influence on this draft.

“We love the animals too and we look for their safety, but we look to take care of humans first,” Adcock said.

According to Cheh’s office, this bill is the beginning of a discussion, and D.C. residents and businesses are encouraged to provide feedback so that more progress can be made toward improving the humane treatment of animals.”

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