Avian Laws


Birds And The Law

Governmental rules, laws, and regulations follow a tiered system. Once a ruling is made at a certain tier no lower tier can supersede it. Each tier further restricts aviculture.

Many different agencies are involved that concern aviculture, and some rulings that are made actually contradict each other. Many times government officials do not even understand all the nuances of the rulings that they are supposed to be enforcing.

USA aviculturists are excepted to be knowledgeable about all the laws though – ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law!  Keep yourself educated and be always vigilant about upcoming bills and other governmental regulations that are being proposed with an Animal Rights agenda so that you can defend your right to participate in aviculture.

The Animals Rights (AR) agenda is one in which animals are given equal rights with humans.  Sounds positive and innocent at first, everyone loves animals, right?  Actually though the people driving this agenda feel a cockroach is worth the same as a human, no humans should be using animals in any way (pets, food, medical research, etc), and an animal is better dead than bred in human care.  The main contributors to the AR movement are Humane Society of the US (HSUS) and People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), but many other groups are also pushing this agenda.

Tier One: Federal Rulings

Agencies involved include the US Fish & Wildlife Dept. & Dept. of Health.

  1. CITES – (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species)  Meets annually.  A meeting of countries in which any country for any reason can place a species on CITES Appendixes I-III.  This regulates the exportation of the listed species.  Countries may list their endangered species, but some list species because of the lack of research on the species or because they simply want to.  USA is a member.
  2. WBCA – (Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992) States that birds, except for some gamebird & ratite families, on any appendix of CITES are restricted from importation into the USA without special, and very-difficult-to-get permits.  This is the legislation that basically shut down the parrot imports.  Most of the general public does not realize that many other birds, including several finches and softbills, are totally legal to import still.
  3. ESA – (Endangered Species Act) Reviewed annually.  Basically originally designed to protect native fauna & flora deemed to be in danger of extinction.  However this has been hijacked by the Animal Rights agenda, and non-native birds (such as certain species of large parrots) are being added.  This makes it illegal to sell across states lines, illegal to keep in many states, and other restrictions.  Very aviculturally unfriendly, and things are getting worse.
  4. Migratory Bird Treaty – Basically no native birds or native bird parts (feathers, eggs, etc.) can be in a citizen’s possession.  Rescuing wild birds is illegal if not a certified wildlife rehab.
  5. AWA – (Animal Welfare Act) The regulations are currently being written and could be very adverse to aviculture. Will affect anyone who breeds birds in any numbers. Could include federal inspections & specific housing requirements.
  6. Importation/Exportation Regulations – Each country decides on what native species and how many individuals they will import and export. The USA does not export any native species, nor does Mexico or Australia, as well as many others.

Due to the Asian Bird Flu scare, almost all importing stopped a few years ago.  Asian birds haven’t been imported much since around 2004.  In 2005-2006, most European airlines stopped carrying birds due to liability issues so this caused European and African (which are shipped through European ports) imports to become extremely rare in the USA.  By 2008, South American shipments were still able to make it into the country but no telling how long this will continue.  In 2009, some African shipments came into the USA which was a delight to aviculturists!  Luckily, African, European, and South American imports are still happening as of 2018, although never will the shipments be as large or as frequent as they used to be 15 years ago.

Imported stock is important to add to the gene pool of domestic birds.  Softbills coming in one year may never be seen again for various reasons.  Import restrictions make it all the more important to treasure each individual softbill we have and get them breeding!

Tier Two: State Rulings

Each state varies on how they further restrict aviculture. Agencies involved include the particular state’s Fish & Wildlife Dept. States rule on what non-native species are allowed in, how birds are housed, bred, sold, etc.  Generally the laws are made because of the way the government perceives the danger of that species becoming an environmental or agricultural pest in that state if it is released.  Every aviculturist should know their state laws on what is prohibited and what is allowed.

For example:  In California, the white-eye and corvid families of birds are illegal to own.

Tier Three: County Rulings

Agencies involved include the Planning Dept. and Animal Control.  Knowing how your property is zoned is important, especially if planning to have birds outside.  Some aviary structures may require permits.

Tier Four: City Rulings

Agencies involved include the Planning Dept. and Animal Control.

For example:  In Sacramento, CA city limits, it is illegal to house parrots outside.

Tier Five: Neighborhood Restrictions

Restrictions include CCR’s which may further restrict numbers of animals, noise levels, and outside accommodations.  Keep your neighbors happy as they will almost always be the reason someone has trouble!

Be Proactive for Aviculture!

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Copyright 07/09  Kateri Davis