AFA Goes to Washington ... Again


D Background

uring the late eighties, World Wildlife Fund, one of the world's largest conservation organizations, worked to bring together the various groups involved with exotic birds to do something about the international trade in wild birds. Along with several humane and animal rights organizations, the pet industry, the avian veterinarians and aviculture worked to forge legislation which would protect foreign wild birds from over harvesting. For several years meetings and discussions were held. Finally, when the groups reached a consensus, the animal rights contingent left the group and started pushing for stricter laws. Thus, we now have the Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA) of 1992 signed into law by President Bush on October 23, 1992.

Regulations Under WBCA

Under this law, The U S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is required to promulgate regulations which will govern the importation of all but a few exotic birds into the U.S. and, potentially, domestic breeding and keeping of exotic birds. Most aviculrurists in the U.S. believed that the WBCA would not have an effect on them or their birds because they did not realize that the law gave the Department of the Interior potential control or oversight on all exotic birds in the US As the regulations were published, people who thought they could import color mutation captive bred and raised birds from Europe were surprised to find that they could not. As each set of regulations was published, the avicultural public began to see that the laws could and would affect them and they began to write the USFWS about the regulations. These letters appeared to have no effect on the regulations being written.

USFWS Meeting, April 1995

The USFWS called a meeting to hear from aviculturists about voluntary marking and inspection of breeding facilities in the U.S. Approximately 115 people attended the hearing and spoke about banding, how it is and


has been done for years and how it does not require government intervention. They spoke of the Model Aviculture Program, a voluntary inspection and certification program, indicating that the government need not he involved in these private sector avicultural activities. This meeting provided an opportunity for the avicultural groups to join forces and work together. A unity of interest and purpose was recognized by all avicultural organizations present and strong bonds were established.

Letters to Congress

After the April meeting, aviculturists began writing to their congressmen and to the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans, the committee with oversight on the WBCA. As these letters piled up and phone calls and visits to congressmen and women continued, Committee Chairman Saxton decided to call for a hearing on the WBCA. The hearing was set for September 28, 1995.

WBCA Hearing Preparation

The American Federation of Aviculture (AFA) began work preparing for the hearing. The AFA recognized that aviculturists have many different interests and activities involved in exotic birds. There are pet owners, exhibition breeders, small hobby breeders, and large commercial breeders all of whose interests must be protected. Meetings were held to exchange ideas with associated organizations such as the Association of Avian Veterinarians, specialty groups, the zoos, and the pet industry. Basic concerns about the law and regulations were identified. A special AFA WBCA committee was established to prepare written testimony which would be submitted to the Subcommittee and become part of the permanent Congressional Record on the WBCA. A List of the basic concerns was prepared and sent out to bird clubs, bird societies and bird businesses so that they all could endorse a focused avicultural position. All of the endorsing organizations will now also be listed in the Congressional Record as supporting this testimony.