This Georgia regulation describes the requirements to become a wildlife rehabilitator. Rehabilitation means the action or process of restoring wildlife to a condition of health and shall include maintaining a state of health in young wildlife to an age of independence. A permit is issued only when an applicant meets requirements such as training and demonstration of competency on a written exam, among other things.
(1) Definitions. Unless the context clearly requires otherwise, the following terms as used in this Rule shall have the following meanings:
(a) Rehabilitation means the action or process of restoring wildlife to a condition of health and shall include maintaining a state of health in young wildlife to an age of independence;
(b) Veterinarian means any person possessing a valid license to practice veterinary medicine in the State of Georgia;
(c) All other terms shall have the meanings ascribed to them in Section 27-1-2 of the Game and Fish code.
(2) Permits - When Used.
(a) Pursuant to authority granted in Section 27-2-22 of the Game and Fish Code, the Department may issue a rehabilitation permit, conditioned as deemed appropriate to assure compliance with this Rule, to any person determined by the Department to possess the experience or training or both necessary to restore, or in the case of dependent young to maintain the health of ill, injured or dependent wildlife until it may be returned to the wild or otherwise disposed of in a manner approved by the Department. The qualifications for the permittee include, but are not limited to:
1. Sufficient knowledge of the type(s) of wildlife sought to be rehabilitated to assure identification of the specie(s) and familiarity with food preferences thereof.
2. Training or experience or both in the handling, care and treatment of the type(s) of wildlife (including dependent young) sought to be rehabilitated.
3. Applicants who are not licensed veterinarians must score a minimum of 80 percent on a general examination on wildlife rehabilitation developed by the Department. Any applicant not achieving this minimum score may retake the test after 30 days. Applicants may be exempted from this testing requirement upon demonstration of sufficient knowledge and skills as determined by the Game Management Regional Supervisor having jurisdiction in the geographical area where rehabilitation is to take place.
4. Injured or orphaned wildlife that, prior to being rehabilitated, are determined to be nonreleasable to the wild shall be euthanized unless the department grants an exception for a specific animal. Injured or orphaned wildlife that subsequent to rehabilitation efforts are determined by the Department to be nonreleasable to the wild shall be disposed of in a manner approved by the Department.
(b) College-level training and experience in the fields of veterinary medicine or wildlife biology are prima facie evidence of qualification. Training or experience as a veterinary assistant, zoo employee or pet shop employee working with animals, or as a falconer, may be some evidence of qualification depending upon the type(s) of wildlife sought to be rehabilitated. Permits for the rehabilitation of birds of prey (raptors) may be issued only to veterinarians, falconers possessing a permit under Section 27-2-17 of the Game and Fish Code, or persons who are able to establish that they have had at least two years of experience in holding, training and caring for raptors. Because of the public health risk associated with rabies infection in bats, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skinks, rehabilitation permits for those species will be issued only to veterinarians; or persons that:
1. Have at least two (2) years experience as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and have taken in at least 20 individuals for care.
2. Score a minimum of 85 percent on a qualifying examination covering all aspects of rabies including symptoms, reporting, and other areas as determined by the Department.
3. Receive rabies pre-exposure vaccination and can demonstrate rabies antibody levels that are recommended for adequate protection before a permit is issued and at least every five years thereafter.
(c) The issuance of a rehabilitation permit is further conditioned upon the Department's determining that an applicant's rehabilitation services are needed or are likely to be utilized in the area he/she proposes to operate.
(d) Applications for rehabilitation permits shall be submitted, on forms provided by the Department, to the Special Permit Unit at the address indicated on said form.
(e) Nothing in this rule shall be construed to limit or prohibit a licensed veterinarian or licensed veterinary technician from providing emergency care, vaccination or other veterinary care that otherwise falls within the scope of professional and ethical judgment.
(f) Persons permitted to rehabilitate bats, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skunks shall be required to contact the appropriate rabies control authority as prescribed by the Department to report possible rabies exposures; to hold these species in arrival groups and in isolation for the duration of convalescence and release rehabilitated animals only in areas designated by the Department; and to submit for rabies testing all bats, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skunks accepted for care which are dead on arrival or which subsequently die during care.
(3) Permits - Term.
(a) Rehabilitation permits may be issued for a period not to exceed five years and shall expire at the end of the fifth calendar year (i.e., December 31).
(b) Prior to expiration of an initial permit, a permittee may apply for permit renewal. A renewal permit may be granted only if, upon inspection of the reports or records required by Section (6) hereof and reinspection of applicant's facilities, it appears that applicant has complied with Section 27-2-22 of the Game and Fish Code and this Rule and that there is a continuing need for his/her rehabilitation services in the area.
(c) If the Department determines, in any case wherein a person has notified the Department that such person has found or is holding any recently found ill, injured, or dependent wildlife, that the circumstances clearly indicate it to be in the best interest of the wildlife that treatment or care not be delayed pending assignment to a permitted rehabilitator, it may, at the request of such person, waive such of the qualifications and facilities requirements herein as are necessary and justified under the circumstances and immediately issue to the finder or holder of such wildlife an emergency one-time rehabilitation permit. Such permits will not be issued for any wildlife requiring care of a nature which the Department concludes the wildlife finder or holder is incapable of providing. Such permits shall expire at the earlier of the date the wildlife is fully rehabilitated and released, or the date of expiration stated herein. If an expiration date is specified in the permit, the wildlife shall be surrendered to a Departmental representative for appropriate disposition on or before that date.
(4) Facilities - Generally. A rehabilitation permit will be issued only after the Department has inspected the applicant's wildlife holding facilities and has determined that they conform with Section 27-5-6 of the Game and Fish Code. In order to be approved, facilities must also be constructed in a manner sufficient and of a dimension adequate to provide security and protection for both the wildlife held therein and humans or other animals which may be or come in close proximity thereto. The facilities must also be located so as to provide the seclusion necessary for recuperation from illness or injury.
(5) Facilities for Raptors. In addition to the requirements of Section (4) above, raptors may be held in facilities that either:
(a) Allow for the bird(s) to be tethered to a perch when appropriate, with sufficient room in the enclosure to allow full wing extension without breakage of flight feathers; or
(b) Area equipped with an appropriate perch for each member of each specie held and with vertical bars over any windows and are free from any other hazards to the health and safety (including plumage) of the birds so held.
(6) Other Rehabilitation Requirements.
(a) In all other respects, e.g. relating to feeding, watering, sanitation, veterinary care, handling, separation, and transportation of wildlife, as well as qualifications of employees, permittee's rehabilitation practices must comply with Section 27-5-6 of the Game and Fish Code.
(b) Permittee shall maintain complete records on all wildlife held for purposes of rehabilitation, which records shall document at least the following information for each animal held; annually these data shall be compiled into a report which shall be submitted to the Department not later than January 31 following each year in which a permit is held:
1. Date received;
3. Condition requiring rehabilitation;
4. Treatment administered and results;
5. Final disposition and date thereof.
(c) In the case of migratory birds, permittees shall also comply with any applicable federal regulations or requirements for rehabilitation.
(7) Enforcement. Upon determination by the Commissioner that any permittee has violated Section 27-2-22 of the Game and Fish Code, any provision of this or any other applicable Rule of the Department, or any condition of his/her permit, he may, in his discretion, proceed:
(a) Pursuant to Section 27-1-37 of the Game and Fish Code, to issue an administrative order to the permittee to take corrective action or authorizing other appropriate enforcement action including seizure of wildlife held by permittee; or
(b) To initiate criminal prosecution pursuant to Section 27-1-38 or civil penalty proceedings pursuant to Section 27-1-36 of the Game and Fish Code; or
(c) To deny, revoke, suspend or refuse to renew the rehabilitation permit pursuant to Section 27-2-25 of the Game and Fish Code.
Adopted Aug. 30, 1981; Amended Aug. 6, 1991; Emergency amended 391-4-9-0.37, Oct. 29, 1997; Amended May 14, 1998; Amended June 19, 2003.
AUTHORITY: O.C.G.A. Secs. 27-1-4, 27-2-22.