We follow Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission’s (FWC) regulations under multiple Rules for our operations, management, and standards. While they may not be exciting to read, these requirements keep us running safely and smoothly. Below are some of the primary highlights from the Rules that provide background and understanding for some of the information you’ll learn later in the training.
Rule 68A-6.002 Sanctuaries; Retired Performing Wildlife and Identification
- We maintain a current status of 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code that classifies us as a registered not-for-profit corporation in Florida.
- We refrain from participating in acts that perpetuate commercial trade in wildlife, such as the trade, sale, or breeding of animals for profit and/or exploitation.
- We prevent full or incidental contact between the public and our captive wild cats; physical contact between visitors and the big cats is strictly prohibited.
- We document any animals we intake through photos, making note of any distinguishing characteristics (marks, scars, patterns, etc.) to distinguish each animal from others of the same species.
- We record identification of our big cats, and provide those records during inspections by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission upon request and when we renew our licensing.
- A copy of Rule 68A-6.0025 can be downloaded from the FWC’s website.
Rule 68A-6.0022 Possession of Class I, II, or III Wildlife in Captivity: Permit Requirements
This Rule sets the requirements for our Bobcat Keepers. These include:
- Age requirement: 18 years of age or older
- Background check: no violations of captive wildlife regulations or any other violations with unsafe housing of wildlife that endangered the public; no violations including the illegal commercialization of wildlife; no violations involving cruelty to animals or involving importation of wildlife.
- Experience and examination requirements: one year of experience, or successful completion of a written examination administered by the Division of Law Enforcement on the care, feeding, handling, and husbandry for the species.
Rule 68A-6.0022 is also the reason we have a written course of action to prepare for disasters or critical incidents. A copy of Rule 68A-6.0022 can be downloaded from the FWC’s website.
Rule 68A-6.003 Facility and Structural Caging Requirement for Class I, II and III Wildlife
This rule sets the standards for habitat structures at our sanctuary. Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are classified as Class II wildlife in Rule 68A-6.002 and 68A-6.022; Class II wildlife can pose a danger to people, so “substantial experience and specific cage requirements must be met” per the FWC’s website. This means that our enclosures are:
- Equipped with safety entrances, preventing animal escape and protecting the keepers.
- Constructed of metal and other approved materials that are well braced and securely anchored to prevent escape.
- Housed on well over the minimum requirement of land (67 acres total), with a sufficient “buffer zone” between the enclosures and the property line.
- Built to deter entry by the public, and control the coming and going of traffic to our sanctuary.
Additionally, according to this Rule, we document our animals on a daily basis, and that they have adequate space to exercise. Bobcats specifically must have the following according to this Rule:
- Outdoor facilities made of not less than 11.5 gauge chain link or equivalent
- Indoor facilities where potential escape routes are equipped with wire or grating of not less than 11.5 gauge or equivalent.
Keep in mind that we won’t expect you to remember all of these Rules, but it will be important for you to know that our processes and standards are built off of guidelines like these to keep us operating efficiently, and effectively while safeguarding the care of our cats and personnel.
The FWC regulates Florida bobcats being rehabilitated for release at Big Cat Rescue by periodically inspecting the animals and their enclosures at the sanctuary. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does routine inspections at the sanctuary as well, but they do not regulate the bobcats in our rehab program, or the area where they are housed.
All wildlife held for rehabilitation purposes must be released, transferred, or euthanized after 180 days, unless a licensed veterinarian has certified that a longer time period is necessary in the interest of the health and welfare of the wildlife. In these instances, medical records must be kept at the facility and made available for inspection by FWC personnel.
Wildlife diagnosed as “physically impaired,” must be evaluated by an independent rehabilitator or veterinarian, as well as FWC staff before it is considered non-releasable.
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