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Great Apes and the Law: A complete resource for the legal status of the Great Apes within the United States
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Detailed Discussion of Maine Great Ape Laws



Elizabeth Love Marcero


Animal Legal & Historical Center
Publish Date:
2012
Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law

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I. Introduction

While Maine does not ban the private possession of great apes, the state only issues licenses to keep apes to a select few. The state of Maine controls possession and importation of great apes under its exotic pet law and accompanying regulations. In the law, a person is prohibited from keeping wildlife in captivity, as well as importing, breeding or releasing “wildlife,” except under a valid license (ME ST. T. 12 §§ 12151 – 12161). This prohibition applies primarily to private ownership. State regulations specifically prohibit the general public use of primates except for the purposes of therapeutic, emotional, or handicapped aid (09-137 CMR Ch. 7, Pt. II § 7.33). There are several commercial use permits that are allowed, including exhibitions, wildlife rehabilitation, and research facilities (09-137 CMR Ch. 7, Pt. II §§ 7.20 et seq.; 09-137 CMR Ch. 6, §§ 6.01 et seq.).

Like other states, Maine does not define great apes as “endangered,” either under its own endangered species law (ME ST T. 12 §§ 12801 – 12810) or any regulations. However, Maine is unique in that it actually articulates some basic standards for the keeping of different species of apes.

Finally, great apes are covered under the state’s anti-cruelty law (ME ST T. 7 §§ 4011 – 4019; ME ST T. 17 §§ 1011 – 1046), although the law exempts scientific research from its provisions (ME ST T. 7 § 3991-A).

II. How Different Uses of Great Apes are Affected by Law

While Maine’s law appears to prohibit most uses of great apes, different activities are addressed by various state laws. The law regulates the possession of great apes depending on whether a person possesses an ape privately (e.g., as a “pet”), at an exhibition, for wildlife rehabilitation, or for scientific research purposes. This section examines the laws by those uses.

A. Private Possession of Great Apes

Maine’s exotic pet law prohibits keeping wildlife in captivity, as well as importing, breeding or releasing wildlife into the wild. Exceptions apply for a person holding a valid license (ME ST T. 12 §§ 12151 – 12161), but there is no license given for possession of an ape or any primate as a pet. In fact, the accompanying regulations for "General Wildlife Possession" permits provide that "no primate shall be permitted under this Part, except for purposes of therapeutic, emotional, or handicapped aid" (ME ADC 09-137 Ch. 7, Pt. III, § 7.33).  The requirements are such that it would be difficult for a person seeking a permit for an ape to qualify.

Under the exotic pet law, penalties for violations incur fines of not less than $100 but not more than $500. Three or more such violations within a five year period are considered to be a Class E criminal offense (ME ST T. 12 § 12151). The statute allows the commissioner to adopt rules to ensure the humane treatment and security of wildlife, and to safeguard the interests of the wildlife and citizens of the state (ME ST T. 12 § 12152(5)). Violation of a rule will result in the same penalties as a violation of this statute (ME ST T. 12 § 12153).

B. Possession by Exhibition

Commercial exhibition permits are allowed under the exotic pet law as an exception to the general prohibition. These permits are covered under the rules adopted pursuant to that law (09-137 CMR Ch. 7, Pt. II §§ 7.20 – 7.22). Section 7.20 allows the commissioner to issue permits to a person or institution for the purpose of keeping wildlife in captivity for commercial exhibition, attracting trade, or for educational purposes. In order to qualify for an exhibition permit, a site inspection must be performed by a department or animal welfare representative. The facility must provide assurance that a sufficient number of adequately trained employees will care for the animal. The rules also state that safety measures must be put in place to adequately prevent wildlife from causing injury to the public by touching, grasping or biting visitors (09-137 CMR Ch. 7, Pt. II § 7.21). Additionally, the rules specifically provide that if a facility possesses potentially dangerous wildlife, barriers such as walls, fences, moats, or retaining walls shall be present to prevent the public from approaching or making contact with the wildlife. Signs must be posted on cages or enclosures, requesting that the public refrain from annoying the animals. Feeding of the animals by the public is also prohibited unless the food is allowed under the rules. Lastly, facilities must keep the appropriate records of its animals on file (09-137 CMR Ch. 7, Pt. II § 7.22).

C. Sanctuaries

Like exhibition permits, wildlife rehabilitation permits are also allowed under the exotic pet law as an exception. While state law or regulation does not use the term “sanctuary,” it appears that possession here is governed by Maine’s administrative code section 6.01 – 6.13, which covers scientific collection permits and wildlife rehabilitation permits in Maine. These rules address not only scientific collection permits for scientific research or education, but also “Scientific Collection (Rehabilitation)” permits. The likely intent is for the rehabilitation of native wildlife, but the regulation’s wording is broad enough to cover exotic pets such as apes. There is also no definition that limits wildlife to only native species for these regulations. Wildlife rehabilitation permits are required to possess debilitated wild animals for the purpose of restoring them to full health and for maintaining in captivity any debilitated wildlife that cannot be released to the wild (09-137 CMR Ch. 6 § 6.01). Applicants for permits must successfully complete an examination of their proficiency and knowledge in wildlife husbandry and rehabilitation, as well as the laws and regulations of the state and department (09-137 CMR Ch. 6 § 6.04). Wildlife held under a rehabilitation permit is not owned by the permit holder, and cannot be sold, bartered, or traded. However, wildlife may be transferred to another permit holder for treatment or care, or to more appropriate facilities (09-137 CMR Ch. 6 § 6.08). Permit holders are responsible for all costs associated with the rehabilitation of the wildlife, but they may accept donations to help cover their costs (09-137 CMR Ch. 6 § 6.09). Lastly, the rules require permit holders to keep accurate records of all activity conducted pursuant to the permit (09-137 CMR Ch. 6 § 6.10).

D. Scientific Testing and Research Facilities

Scientific collection permits are allowed under the exotic pet law as another exception. Maine law states that the commissioner may issue scientific collection permits (ME ST T. 12 §§ 12704 – 12705). Under section 12704, a permit holder is allowed to hunt, trap, possess, band and transport wild animals for scientific purposes. Scientific testing and research is also covered by the same regulation allowing for wildlife rehabilitation permits. The rules require a person to obtain a permit prior to taking, transporting, or possessing wild animals for scientific research or educational purposes (09-137 CMR Ch. 6 § 6.01). While the rules do not specify standards of care for wildlife, permit holders must keep accurate records of all activity conducted pursuant to the permit (09-137 CMR Ch. 6 § 6.10). The law states that a violation of these rules is a civil violation resulting in a fine of not less than $100 but not more than $500 (ME ST T. 12 § 12705). A person who commits three or more civil violations within the previous five years commits a Class E crime. The state’s anti-cruelty law also exempts scientific research from its provisions (ME ST T. 7 § 3991-A).

While Great Apes are not normally used in chemical testing, in a few states they are still part of scientific research that would be exempt under state anti-cruelty laws.

III. State Laws Affecting Great Apes in Maine

Maine addresses the use and possession of great apes through two main avenues in its laws. The state has an exotic pet law that limits the importation and possession of wildlife without a license (ME ST T. 12 § 12151 et seq.). Great apes are also protected from intentional cruelty and neglect under the state’s anti-cruelty provision.

A. Importation, Introduction, and Transplantation of Wildlife Law (ME ST T. 12 §§ 10001, 12151 – 12161)

Under Maine’s Title 12 laws on conservation, the state has enacted a section dealing with the importation and possession of wildlife. Maine prohibits keeping wildlife in captivity, importing, breeding or releasing wildlife into the wild, with exceptions for a person holding a valid license.

1. Which Great Apes are Covered?

Section 10001 lists the definitions that are relevant to Title 12, including what animals constitute wildlife. Under this section, “wildlife” means “any species of the animal kingdom, except fish, that is wild by nature, whether or not bred or reared in captivity” (ME ST T. 12 § 10001(71)). This definition is broad enough to include great apes.

2. What is Prohibited?

Maine law prohibits keeping wildlife in captivity, as well as importing, breeding or releasing wildlife into the wild. Exceptions apply for a person holding a valid license (ME ST T. 12 §§ 12151 – 12161).

State regulations specifically prohibit the general public use of “primates” except for the purposes of therapeutic, emotional, or handicapped aid (09-137 CMR Ch. 7, Pt. III § 7.33) under that part of the regulations dealing with general wildlife possession permits (note that the regulation appears to limit its application to only Part III and not other parts of Chapter 7 dealing with wildlife exhibition, rehabilitation, and importation permits). The rules state that a permit holder must demonstrate a legitimate need for the physical or emotional aid from a primate, and the animal must be specifically trained for such purposes. The primate must be supplied by or approved by a recognized institution or organization that specializes in such use of primates. Finally, the primate must be vaccinated and prevented from direct contact with the public at all times if physical injury or disease transmission may occur. While the law is likely intended to address the private possession of monkeys for therapeutic use, the broad language could conceivably include apes.

3. Standards for Keeping of Exotic Animals under the Law

Maine law is unique in that its regulations actually contemplate the keeping of apes by specifically mentioning them in its provisions. The statute allows the commissioner to adopt rules to ensure the humane treatment and security of wildlife, and to safeguard the interests of the wildlife and citizens of the state (ME ST T. 12 § 12152(5)). Pursuant to this authority, the department of inland fisheries and wildlife adopted regulations for the keeping of wildlife in captivity (09-137 CMR Ch. 7, Pt. I §§ 7.00 – 7.09). The rules prohibit an animal from being chained or otherwise tethered to a stake, post, tree, building or any other anchorage except for training or medical treatment. If animals are held in outdoor enclosures, they must be provided with adequate shelter from weather and direct sunlight (09-137 CMR Ch. 7, Pt. I § 7.08). Wildlife must be handled with care and provided with appropriate veterinary care for injuries and diseases. All cages and enclosures are to be kept in sanitary conditions. Animals must be provided an adequate supply of potable water, and food must be sufficient to maintain the animal in proper strength and healthy appearance. In addition, the rules specifically list caging standards for certain animals held under a permit. Section 7.08 states the requirements for cages containing apes:

 

 Gibbons Chimpanzees and orangutans Gorillas 
 Number or size - 1 pair plus 1 or 2 offspring  Number or size - Young, single animals (20 to 50 pounds)  Number or size - Single animal
Cage size - 12′ long x 6′ wide x 8′ high Cage size - 8′ long x 6′ wide x 6′ high. For adults, 50 pounds or over, the cages shall be 10′ long x 6′ wide x 8′ high. For 2 or 3 adults, double the floor area. Cage size - 14′ long x 12′ wide x 8′ high. For 2 animals, double the floor area.
Accessories - 3 parallel bars at least 4′ apart must be provided in the top 1/3 of cage along the length of enclosure for swinging.    

 

The rules also authorize department personnel and animal welfare agents to conduct inspections of wildlife facilities and required records at all reasonable times (09-137 CMR Ch. 7, Pt. I § 7.06).

4. Penalties

Penalties for violations incur fines of not less than $100 but not more than $500. Three or more such violations within a five year period are considered to be a Class E criminal offense (ME ST T. 12 § 12151). Violation of a rule will result in the same penalties as a violation of this statute (ME ST T. 12 § 12153). In the event of escape or release of wildlife, the regulations state that the permittee is responsible for all costs incurred by the State (09-137 CMR Ch. 7, Pt. I § 7.08).

B. Endangered Species Act: Preservation of Endangered Wildlife (ME ST T. 12 §§ 12801 – 12810)

The entire thrust of Maine’s endangered species law is geared towards the protection of native species. The law contains no reference to the federal endangered species act, meaning that great apes are not protected under the State’s endangered species provisions.

C. Cruelty to Animals (ME ST T. 7 §§ 4011 – 4019; ME ST T. 17 §§ 1011 – 1046)

Maine’s anti-cruelty law is generally applicable to great apes. Section 4011 provides that a person, including an owner or the owner’s agent, commits the offense of cruelty to animals if he or she kills or attempts to kill “any animal” of another person, or kills or attempts to kill an animal by a method that does not cause instantaneous death. A person also commits cruelty to animals if he or she injures, overworks, tortures, torments, abandons or cruelly beats or intentionally mutilates an animal; gives drugs to an animal with an intent to harm the animal; gives poison or alcohol to an animal; or exposes a poison with intent that it be taken by an animal. The neglect component of the statute states that a person commits cruelty to animals if he or she deprives an animal that the person owns or possesses of necessary sustenance, necessary medical attention, proper shelter, protection from the weather or humanely clean conditions. Violation results in a civil violation with a fine of not less than $500 but not more than $2,500 for a first violation, and a fine of not less than $1,000 but not more than $5,000 for each subsequent violation (ME ST T. 7 § 4016). The court may order a person who violates the statute to pay the costs of the care, housing and veterinary medical treatment for the animal. The court may also prohibit a violator from owning, possessing, or having on his or her premises an animal for a period of time up to and including permanent relinquishment. These acts are then cross-referenced under the criminal provisions of Title 17, which describes the penalties under section 1031.

IV. Conclusion

Maine law views great apes as “wildlife,” through which possession is limited to those with a valid license. Private possession of great apes in the state is allowed but quite limited. However, state law and accompanying regulations clearly allow the use of apes and other wild animals in exhibitions, wildlife rehabilitation, and research facilities. While these regulations specifically address the caging requirements for great apes, enforcement and inspection provisions are vague. As is true with many states, there is not an overall law that directly addresses the possession of apes or the specific needs of apes in captivity.

 

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