Skip to main content

Raccoons would benefit in Cheh bill

A raccoon is on your second-floor deck. The family cat appears to be befriending it and its three, uh...cubs(?). Your kids are afraid someone will hurt the flea-infested varmints. You are afraid the cute animals could bite your kids and pets. Who do you call? A wildlife rehabilitator, of course. A "wildlife rehabilitator?" Yes, under legislation to be considered by the D.C. Council Tuesday, the "wildlife rehabilitator" humanely captures and then transports (humanely, of course) the raccoons to a wildlife refuge. That's the scenario envisioned in the "Wildlife Protection Act of 2009," a bill introduced by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh (D).How did The Georgetown Dish miss this until now? The bill was rolled out with fanfare almost one year ago. And there's history here. In 2008, Cheh was given the Humane Society of the U.S.'s “Humane Legislator Award” for her efforts in shepherding through the “The Animal Protection Amendment Act of 2008” which overhauled and modernized the District’s animal welfare laws. "It marked the first time that a District lawmaker received that honor," Cheh's news release said. The new bill would license individuals able to perform the duties of a "wildlife rehabilitator," set restrictions on the capture, handling, transport, and euthanasia of wildlife, and other things. The bill applies to "free-roaming wild animals, except commensal rodents," namely the House mouse (Mus musculus), Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) and Roof rat (Rattus rattus). Those species may still be controlled "by a pest control operator," the bill says. This is not about pests, er, pets. The bill does not cover "domestic animals kept as pets, including feral dogs and cats." (Ed. note: Feral dogs and cats as pets?) So who or what are we talking about? Raccoons, possums, squirrels, emu? Yes. The legislation says "a wildlife control operator shall make every reasonable effort to preserve [animal] family units using humane eviction and/or displacement and reunion strategies." "Reunion strategies" -- as in keeping the family together. Also, "a wildlife control operator shall not knowingly abandon dependent young in a structure." We should hope not. The economy is a wreck, terrorists are after us in Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan are going to hell, but at least our government is addressing the raccoon and squirrel removal challenges that face us. Bats are to be treated well, too. Cheh's bill came up in a D.C. Council press conference Monday with presumptive mayor Vincent Gray, who was asked how the legislation envisioned reuniting a family of squirrels, which, rest assured, the bill does. “Maybe you resettle all the squirrels you capture that look alike in the same area,” the mayor-to-be offered. The intentions are surely humane, but if the costs inch above minimal, the bill will be back in the wilderness with little support in Tuesday’s Council legislative session.