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Proposed Amendments to Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit Rules

Comment online through 05:00 p.m. August 26, 2020.

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WILDLIFE REHABILITATION PERMIT RULES

PROPOSAL PREAMBLE

1. Introduction.

        The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (the department) proposes amendments to §§69.43 – 69.52, concerning Wildlife Rehabilitation Permits. The proposed amendments would function, collectively, to address issues and concerns relating generally to wildlife disease control and response, and specifically to the detection and management of chronic wasting disease (CWD), a neurodegenerative disease that is fatal to white-tailed and mule deer, which has been confirmed in multiple locations in this state in both captive and free-ranging herds. Additionally, the proposed amendments would effect housekeeping-type changes to standardize and modernize the rules, the majority of which were last amended in 1997.

        In response to the emergence of CWD in both free-ranging and captive populations of indigenous species of deer over the last five years, the department has acted to implement CWD management and control strategies by rule with respect to the movement of deer held under various department permits. A major component of that strategy has been to implement regulatory identification, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements to make epidemiological investigations easier, more efficient, and more productive. As part of this continuing effort, the department has identified wildlife rehabilitation activities involving deer as an area of concern. The proposed amendments therefore contain specific provisions regarding facility and testing requirements for deer. Further informing this rulemaking is the impact and causality of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic, which has introduced additional dimensions of concern, since it originated as a wildlife disease before jumping to human populations. Because it is obvious that the possibility that disease outbreaks in indigenous wildlife could pose a threat to other indigenous wildlife, livestock, and human health and safety, the department has determined that it is both prudent and necessary to amend the rules governing wildlife rehabilitation to put a number of proactive measures in place to address that possibility and facilitate management and control activities should such a situation arise in the future, including provisions to reduce the number of unpermitted individuals that are allowed to engage in permitted activities, to identify the specific facilities and places where permitted activities take place, the initiation of electronic reporting requirements (including a daily log), requirements regarding the release, retention, and disposition of rehabilitated wildlife, the use of regulated medications and biologicals, improvements to training and certification standards, and transfer of wildlife to other rehabilitators. The proposed amendments make several repetitive, nonsubstantive changes throughout the rulemaking, such as replacing “permit holder” with “permittee,” “rehabilitation” with “activities authorized under a permit issued under this subchapter,” and so forth.

        The proposed amendment to §69.43, concerning Definitions, would add a definition for “wildlife,” alter the definition for “subpermittee,” and eliminate the definitions of “release to the wild, ““supervisory responsibility,” “transportation,” and “volunteer.” The definition of “release to the wild” is superfluous, since the common and ordinary meaning of “release” is sufficient for the purpose of the rules and the various provisions of the subchapter prescribe the conditions and requirements for the release of rehabilitated protected wildlife. The definitions of “supervisory responsibility” and “volunteer” are being eliminated because the department is proposing not to allow unpermitted persons, other than subpermittees (volunteers) named on a permit, to conduct activities under a permit and those definitions are therefore superfluous. The definition of “transportation” is being eliminated because the department has determined that the plain and ordinary meaning of the word is sufficient for the purposes of the rules.  The definition of “subpermittee” is being altered to eliminate references to supervisory responsibility, which is necessary because the proposed amendments would redefine persons lawfully allowed to conduct permitted activities.  Finally, the term “wildlife” would be defined as “protected wildlife” for purposes of consistency. Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 43, Subchapter C defines and employs the term “protected wildlife,” while the rules use the terms “wildlife” and “protected wildlife” interchangeably. The change is intended to eliminate confusion.  Under Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 43, Subchapter C, no person may collect, hold, possess, display, transport, release, or propagate protected wildlife for the purposes of rehabilitation without a permit issued by the department.

        The amendment to §69.44, concerning General Provisions, would consist of several actions. The proposed amendment would alter subsection (a) to require facilities where rehabilitation activities take place to be registered with the department via an electronic application provided by the department for that purpose. One of the critical components of effective disease outbreak response is to be able to quickly perform contact tracing, meaning the identification of the specific places that specific animals may have come into contact with other animals or people. In concert with other provisions of this rulemaking that eliminate the use of unnamed volunteers, restrict rehabilitation activities to permittees and subpermittees at registered facilities, and require the maintenance of a daily log, the registration of the facilities, permittees, and subpermittees would allow the department to maintain a real-time inventory of persons, places, and animals, which would eliminate both the impediment of incomplete data (because there is no daily reporting requirement under the current rules) and the burden of a time-consuming manual review of paper documentation in the event of the need for contact tracing. This approach has been proven to be quite effective in the efforts to manage the spread of CWD from and between deer breeding facilities.

        Under current rules a permittee may designate subpermittees and allow subpermittees to supervise rehabilitation activities by unnamed volunteers at multiple locations unknown to the department. The provisions are almost 30 years old.  Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 43, Subchapter C prohibits wildlife rehabilitation for profit, and at one time, the department sought to allow rehabilitators maximum latitude in obtaining and utilizing human resources. This approach has led to a  proliferation of unnamed volunteers in unknown locations.  This is extremely problematic from a disease management perspective, for a variety of reasons. When a disease outbreak occurs, it is important to quickly identify the origin of the outbreak, or “index case.” From that point the movement of animals and people into and away from the index case (traceback and trace forward) must be identified. When there is no chain of documentation to follow, disease response and management is hampered if not stymied. The proposed amendment to §69.44(b) would require all subpermittees to conduct activities at a registered facility. In concert with proposed reporting and recordkeeping requirements, this would allow the department in a disease emergency to quickly identify the people, places, and animals that have come into contact with each other.

        The proposed amendment to §69.44(c) would make nonsubstantive changes to references.

        The proposed amendment to §69.44(d) would prohibit the commingling of domestic pets, livestock, exotic livestock, exotic fowl, or non-indigenous wildlife with animals being rehabilitated, which is necessary to reduce the probability that wildlife will transmit disease to or acquire disease from external sources.

        The proposed amendments to §69.44(e) – (g) would make nonsubstantive changes to improve accuracy and clarity.

        The proposed amendment to §69.44(h) makes nonsubstantive changes and prohibits the conduct of rehabilitation activities on the same property as a deer breeding facility, which is already a provision of the rules under current subsection (d) but is being stated explicitly for purposes of clarity to emphasize the necessity of preventing the accidental spread of disease to confined populations.

        The proposed amendment to §69.44(i) would make nonsubstantive changes and create a new requirement that requests to retain non-releasable wildlife (wildlife that cannot survive on their own) be accompanied by a statement from veterinarian that the animal cannot be released and the reasons why. The proposed new provisions also would stipulate that the department will not authorize the retention of an animal that because of a disease or condition poses a danger to humans, other animals, or itself.  The department lacks the resources to evaluate an increasing number of requests to retain wildlife.  Requiring a statement from a veterinarian will assist the department in evaluating each case. The proposed amendment also would eliminate current subsection (i)(2), a grandfather clause that is no longer applicable.

        The proposed amendment to §69.44 also would alter current subsection (i) to specify that all medical treatment, including vaccinations, be performed in accordance with applicable laws governing the extra-label use of medications and biologicals. Veterinarians may prescribe medications and biologicals for animal uses not addressed in the product labelling of the medication or biological; however, such usage is regulated by federal law. The proposed amendment would clarify that such regulation also applies to wildlife rehabilitation and rehabilitators.

        The proposed amendment to §69.44 would alter current subsection (j) to require wildlife mortalities to be either transferred to an authorized person or disposed of in a Type 1 landfill. Current rules do not specify the destination for final disposition of mortalities that are not donated or transferred to other types of permittees for other purposes. Diseases can be spread by incomplete or inadequate disposal techniques such as shallow interment, interment in contact with groundwater resources, partial incineration, and so forth.  Accordingly, the department believes it is prudent to require that all expired wildlife that cannot be transferred to another person permitted to receive the specimens be disposed of in a manner that prevents or mitigates disease transmission, such as transfer to a Type I landfill. The proposed amendment would also require deer mortalities older than six months of age to be tested for CWD, for reasons discussed in other parts of this preamble regarding consistency with the department’s CWD management strategy.

        The proposed amendment to §69.44 would add new subsection (k), which would require all permittees who rehabilitate deer to attach permanent identification to each deer, notify the department of each deer mortality within 24 hours of discovery, and release rehabilitated deer via the same administrative mechanism used by deer breeders for releases. As noted previously in this preamble, CWD has been detected in multiple deer breeding facilities.  Deer confined in rehabilitation facilities also present a risk of CWD transmission.  Permanent identification, immediate reporting and testing of mortalities, and the reporting and tracking of deer transfers are all critical components of epidemiological efficacy of department actions to manage CWD.

        Finally, the proposed amendment would add new subsection (p) to provide that the department may designate a manual process in lieu of any electronic application requirement of the subchapter if for whatever reason the electronic application is unavailable. The department recognizes that there may be circumstances under which technological systems may be unavailable and believes it is prudent to provide for an alternative method of compliance by permittees.

        The proposed amendment to §69.45, concerning Permit Required, would prohibit the rehabilitation of any wildlife by persons other than permitted wildlife rehabilitators. All wildlife resources are critical components of functioning ecosystems, as well as being the property of the people of the state, and the department has determined that as such, medical treatment of that wildlife should not be attempted by or entrusted to persons who do not possess adequate training, guidance, or regulatory oversight to do so. The department notes that this provision does not affect any person’s legal ability, in accordance with existing rules, to possess nongame species that are not injured or sick. The proposed amendment also would eliminate a reference to a permittee’s choice of consulting veterinarian and includes various nonsubstantive alterations and conforming changes necessitated by amendments to other sections.

        The proposed amendment to §69.46, concerning Application for Permit, would incorporate provisions from current §69.47 concerning Qualifications, with modifications. Under current rules, the qualifications for applicants are enumerated in two sections (§69.46 and §69.47) and state that wildlife rehabilitation permits may be issued only to qualified individuals who are at least 18 years of age, provide letters of recommendation from two persons who are conservation scientists or game wardens currently employed by the department, licensed veterinarians, or permitted wildlife rehabilitators who have known the applicant for at least two years, and one of the following: completion of a training course offered by the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition or the National Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Association within the preceding three years; attendance at a national wildlife rehabilitation conference within the preceding three years; membership in a state or national wildlife rehabilitation organization; or

a test score of 80 or above on a department-administered wildlife rehabilitation examination. The proposed amendment would place all provisions governing permit application and qualifications in a single section, with modifications. The proposed amendment would retain the minimum age requirement and require applicants to have completed a training course offered by the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition or the National Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Association, but would eliminate the provisions allowing attendance at a national wildlife rehabilitation conference within the preceding three years or membership in a state or national wildlife rehabilitation organization to be options for initial permit issuance in lieu of the required training (they would, however, be acceptable for purposes of permit renewal). The department has concluded, in light of recent developments concerning wildlife diseases, that it is appropriate to professionalize the requirements for issuance of wildlife rehabilitation permits; therefore, the proposed amendment would require certification for initial permit issuance and allow continuing education activities to be considered for permit renewals. The proposed amendment also would replace the current standard of an 80 percent grade on a department test with a 100% standard. The department believes that permittees should know the rules governing wildlife rehabilitation and the rudiments of the activity, and further notes that applicants make take the test as many times as necessary to achieve a passing score.

        The amendment to §69.47, concerning Qualifications, would retitle the section as Refusal of Permit Issuance or Renewal; Review, which is necessary to make the title germane to the contents of the section. As noted previously in this preamble, the proposed amendment would remove the contents of current subsection (a) and relocate them, with modifications, to §69.46, concerning Application for Permit. The proposed amendment also would correct an erroneous reference to Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 88, replacing it with a reference to Chapter 43. Chapter 88 governs endangered, threatened, and protected native plants.

        The proposed amendment to §69.48, concerning Permit Renewals, would establish the criteria for permit renewal, which would consist of an applicant satisfying one of three requirements: completion of a specified training course in wildlife rehabilitation, evidence of certification by an accepted professional association germane to wildlife rehabilitation, or attendance at a national wildlife rehabilitation conference within the previous three years. The department believes that continuing education and professional development are important components of efficacious wildlife rehabilitation efforts involving a public resource that should be required by rule.

        The amendment to §69.49, concerning General Facilities Standards, would establish specific facility requirements for the rehabilitation of deer. As noted earlier in this preamble, CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects and is transmissible by and between white-tailed and mule deer, among other species. Other department regulations governing the holding of deer in captivity and the human-caused movement of deer under department permits stipulate that deer held in captivity must be kept in enclosures that prevent both escape and contact with other susceptible species. To prevent the spread of CWD, the department believes it is prudent to impose this standard on deer being rehabilitated as well.

        The amendment to §69.50, concerning Transfers, would make nonsubstantive changes and prohibit the transfer of deer to rehabilitators in other states. The interstate movement of CWD susceptible species is highly regulated at the federal and state levels, and the department sees potential risk of disease spread in allowing deer to be transferred to other states.

        The amendment to §69.51, concerning Release of Rehabilitated Wildlife, would make nonsubstantive changes, clarify that causing or allowing the release of wildlife is considered by the department to be the same thing as personally acting to release wildlife, impose requirements for sites where deer are released after rehabilitation, and clarify that the rules governing release of rehabilitated wildlife do not supersede applicable provisions of local, state, or federal law. The current rule prohibits a permittee from releasing wildlife likely to become a nuisance, a disease threat, or a depredation threat. Although a permittee is ultimately responsible for the disposition of all wildlife in possession, the department would like to clarify that release provisions are not limited to the personal actions of a permittee, but to any actions by any person under or at the direction of the permittee. As discussed elsewhere in this preamble, the department is concerned and has acted to impose a disease management strategy to prevent the spread of CWD in deer populations. The proposed amendment would apply the strategy to rehabilitated deer, specifying release site fencing requirements necessary to prevent escape of deer, the registration of the release site with the department, and the written agreement of the owner of the release site to maintain the fencing, all which are necessary to provide the minimum assurance that released deer do not contract or spread CWD through contact with free-ranging deer. Finally, the proposed amendment would clarify that no provision in the section absolves any person from the requirements of applicable local, state, or federal law. Other governmental entities have various legal authorities to regulate the possession and movement of different animals, such as the Department of State Health Services with respect to rabies control, the Animal Health Commission for various communicable livestock diseases, and so forth. The department wishes to be abundantly clear that a rehabilitation permit does not override any person’s legal obligation to comply with such laws, when applicable.

        The amendment to §69.52, concerning Reports, would retitle the section as “Reports and Recordkeeping” to make the title of the section more accurate and add new subsection (a) to create a daily log requirement. In concert with other provisions of this rulemaking that eliminate the use of unnamed volunteers and restrict rehabilitation activities to permittees and subpermittees at registered facilities, the daily log would allow the department to maintain a real-time inventory of persons, places, and animals that have come into contact, which eliminates both the impediment of incomplete data (because there is no daily reporting requirement under the current rules) and the burden of a time-consuming manual review of paper documentation in the event of the need for contact tracing. This approach has been proven to be quite effective in the efforts to manage the spread of CWD from and between deer breeding facilities, and the department believes that prevention of potential spread of CWD warrants requiring wildlife rehabilitators to comply with the same reporting and recordkeeping standards.

2. Fiscal Note.

        Meredith Longoria, Endangered and Rare Species Program Leader for the Wildlife Division, has determined that for each of the first five years that the rules are in effect, there will be no fiscal implications to state or local governments as a result of administering or enforcing the rules, because the rules will be administered and enforced by existing personnel using existing systems, equipment, and budget.

3. Public Benefit/Cost Note.

        Ms. Longoria also has determined that for each of the first five years that the rules as proposed are in effect:

        (A) The public benefit anticipated as a result of enforcing or administering the rule as proposed will be the implementation of rules that will increase the biosecurity of wildlife rehabilitation activities in the state, thereby protecting native wildlife populations and natural systems, as well as having the benefit of protecting human and livestock health and safety.

        There will be adverse economic effects on persons required to comply with the rules as proposed. The proposed amendments would require permittees to obtain a statement from a veterinarian attesting to the facts and conditions supporting a determination that a rehabilitated animal is non-releasable. The department believes that most veterinarians who have an existing relationship with a rehabilitator will probably perform this function as part of the existing relationship; however, it is also possible that a veterinarian would charge a fee similar to that for an office visit, which the department estimates at $30 — $70.  Additionally, the proposed amendments would require deer accepted for rehabilitation to be identified by attaching an RFID tag and a bangle tag, which the department estimates to be less than $10 per animal. Finally, the proposed amendment would require expired wildlife under certain circumstances to be disposed of in Class I landfill. The department has determined that fees for acceptance of dead animals vary widely across the state, but estimates the probable cost per animal to be $20 — $100, depending on the size of the animal.

        (B) Under the provisions of Government Code, Chapter 2006, a state agency must prepare an economic impact statement and a regulatory flexibility analysis for a rule that may have an adverse economic effect on small businesses, micro-businesses, and rural communities. As required by Government Code, §2006.002(g), the Office of the Attorney General has prepared guidelines to assist state agencies in determining a proposed rule’s potential adverse economic impact on small businesses. Those guidelines state that an agency need only consider a proposed rule’s “direct adverse economic impacts” to small businesses and micro-businesses to determine if any further analysis is required. For that purpose, the department considers “direct economic impact“ to mean a requirement that would directly impose recordkeeping or reporting requirements; impose taxes or fees; result in lost sales or profits; adversely affect market competition; or require the purchase or modification of equipment or services.

         The department has determined that no small businesses, microbusiness, or rural communities will be affected by the proposed rules, because it is unlawful to conduct wildlife rehabilitation on a for-profit or commercial basis in this state. Therefore, the department has not prepared the economic impact statement or regulatory flexibility analysis described in Government Code, Chapter 2006.

        (C) The department has not drafted a local employment impact statement under the Administrative Procedures Act, §2001.022, as the agency has determined that the rules as proposed will not impact local economies.

        (D) The department has determined that Government Code, §2001.0225 (Regulatory Analysis of Major Environmental Rules), does not apply to the proposed rules.

        (E) The department has determined that there will not be a taking of private real property, as defined by Government Code, Chapter 2007, as a result of the proposed rules.

        (F) In compliance with the requirements of Government Code, §2001.0221, the department has prepared the following Government Growth Impact Statement (GGIS).  The rules as proposed, if adopted, will:

                 (1) not create a government program;

                 (2) not result in an increase or decrease in the number of full-time equivalent employee needs;

                 (3) not result in a need for additional General Revenue funding;

                 (4) not affect the amount of any fee;

                 (5) create a new regulation (requirement for electronic reporting, daily log, deer identification, landfill disposal of expired wildlife, veterinary certification of non-releasability of rehabilitated wildlife);

                 (6) expand existing regulations but will not otherwise repeal or limit an existing regulation;

                 (7) neither increase nor decrease the number of individuals subject to regulation; and

                 (8) not positively or adversely affect the state’s economy.

4. Request for Public Comment.

        Comments on the proposal may be submitted to Meredith Longoria (512) 389-4410, e-mail: meredith.longoria@tpwd.texas.gov. Comments also may be submitted via the department’s website at http://www.tpwd.texas.gov/business/feedback/public_comment/.

5. Statutory Authority.

        The amendments are proposed under Parks and Wildlife Code, §43.022, which requires the commission to adopt rules to govern the collecting, holding, possession, propagation, release, display, or transport of protected wildlife for scientific research, educational display, zoological collection, or rehabilitation and authorizes the department to issue a permit to a qualified person to collect, hold, possess, display, transport, release, or propagate protected wildlife for scientific research, educational display, zoological collection, or rehabilitation.

        The proposed amendments affect Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 43, Subchapter C.

6. Rule Text.

        §69.43. Definitions. The following words and terms, when used in this subchapter, shall have the following meanings, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.

                 (1) – (7) (No change.)

                 [(8) Release to the wild — Release of wildlife to an area where it is capable of leaving at will.]

                 (8)[(9)] Socialize — Using a captive animal to teach wild behaviors to juvenile animals of the same species.

                 (9)[(10)] Subpermittee — A person authorized by a permittee[permit] to conduct activities governed by this subchapter[only while under the supervisory responsibility of a permit holder].

                 (10) Wildlife—Protected wildlife, as defined by Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 43, Subchapter C.

                 [(11) Supervisory responsibility — The responsibility that a permit holder has to direct the actions of an individual under his or her control, and for which that supervisor accepted legal responsibility.]

                 [(12) Transportation — The transfer of captive protected wildlife from one permit holder to another, from an out-of-state source to an in-state permit holder, from an in-state permit holder to an out-of-state destination, from site of legal capture to holding, or to site of final disposition.]

                 [(13) Volunteer — An individual who works with permitted wildlife in the presence of the permit holder or subpermittee.]

        §69.44. General Provisions.

                 (a) Activities authorized by a permit issued under this section shall be conducted[made] only by the permittee and/or subpermittees[permittee(s) or subpermittee(s)] named on the permit and only at a rehabilitation facility registered with the department via an electronic application designated by the department for that purpose, except for those activities necessary to retrieve, stabilize, and transport wildlife to a registered rehabilitation facility for further evaluation and treatment.

                 (b) A subpermittee shall conduct activities governed under a permit issued under this subchapter only at a rehabilitation facility registered with the department unless under the direct supervision of the permittee.[Volunteers may assist in these activities, but only when in the presence of a permittee or subpermittee. A permittee utilizing volunteers shall keep on file at the permitted facility a signed and dated affidavit authorizing the status of each volunteer.]

                 (c)[(b)] Wildlife[Protected wildlife] held under the authority of a [rehabilitation] permit issued under this subchapter may not be sold, bartered, or exchanged for any consideration. A permit issued under this subchapter[section] shall not authorize a person, firm, or corporation to engage in the propagation or commercial sale of [protected] wildlife.

                 (d) Wildlife held under the authority of a permit issued under this subchapter shall not be commingled with domestic pets, livestock, exotic livestock, exotic fowl, or non-indigenous wildlife.

                 (e)[(c)] A permittee[permit holder] shall conduct rehabilitation in an environment which minimizes human contact and prevents human and domestic animal imprinting or bonding.

                 (f)[(d)] Except for permitted educational purposes, wildlife possessed under a rehabilitation[the] permit shall not come in contact with anyone other than the permittee and/or subpermittees[permit holder, subpermittees, volunteers,], licensed veterinarians or the staff of licensed veterinarians.

                 (g)[(e)] A permittee[permit holder] shall not allow the viewing, exhibit, or display to the public of animals possessed under a rehabilitation permit unless specifically authorized by permit provision.

                 (h)[(f)] A permittee[permit holder] shall not conduct activities governed under this subchapter[rehabilitation] on the same property as a fur-bearing animal propagation facility or deer breeding facility unless specifically authorized in writing by the department. [This restriction may be waived by the department on a case-by-case basis.]

                 (i)[(g)] Non-releasable [protected] wildlife shall be euthanized except as provided by this subsection[unless the permittee meets the criteria established in paragraph (1) or (2) of this subsection for the retention of nonreleasable wildlife].

                         (1) Permission to retain non-releasable wildlife may be granted only to permittees[rehabilitators] who have at least three years’ experience as a permitted wildlife rehabilitator.

                         (2)[(1)] The department may permit the retention of ­non-releasable [nonreleasable] wildlife for approved educational, fostering, or socialization purposes, or for transfer to zoological, scientific, or educational permittees[permit holders]. Requests must be made in writing to the department and no transfer shall take place until the department has approved the request. A request to retain non-releasable wildlife under this subsection shall include a statement from a licensed veterinarian that the animal is non-releasable and the reasons why the animal is non-releasable. The department will not authorize the retention of an animal that because of a disease or condition poses a danger to humans, other animals, or itself.

                         [(2) Prior to December 31, 1997, the department may grant on a case-by-case basis, via letter of authorization, permission for permitted rehabilitators to retain nonreleasable wildlife.]

                 (j)[(h)] Permittees[Permit holders] possessing non-releasable raptors shall band the raptors with markers supplied by the department.

                 (k) All white-tailed or mule deer received by a permittee shall immediately be identified by the attachment to the pinna of either ear of:

                         (1) a Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) button tag approved by the department.; and

                         (2) a “dangle” type tag bearing the unique identifier assigned to the deer by the department.

                         (3) The RFID tag required by this subsection must have an associated 15-digit animal identification number conforming to the 840 standards of the United States Department of Agriculture, which number shall be reported to the department via an electronic application designated by the department for that purpose within 24 hours of the tag being applied to the deer. 

                         (4) The removal of a tag required by this subsection from a living white-tailed or mule deer is prohibited.

                         (5) A permittee shall report the mortality of any white-tailed or mule deer to the department within 24 hours of discovery via the electronic application specified by the department for that purpose.

                         (6) A transfer permit must be activated as prescribed by the department prior to the transfer of any white-tailed or mule deer from a wildlife rehabilitation facility. Not later than 48 hours following the completion of all activities authorized under a transfer permit, the permit shall be completed as prescribed by the department.

                 (l)[(i)] All medical treatment, including vaccinations, shall be performed in consultation with a licensed veterinarian and in accordance with all applicable laws regarding extra-label use of medications and biologicals.

                 (m)[(j)] Euthanized wildlife and wildlife that has died while under the care of a permittee shall be transferred within 72 hours to a person authorized by law to receive such wildlife or disposed of in a Type 1 landfill[may be retained by the permittee or transferred to another permitted wildlife rehabilitator]. White-tailed and mule deer mortalities in individuals older than six months of age shall be tested for chronic wasting disease in accordance with the applicable provisions of §65.92 of this title (relating to CWD Testing).

                 (n)[(k)] This subchapter does not apply to department personnel, or transport by animal control officers[,] or peace officers in the performance of official duties.

                 (o)[(l)] The department may temporarily waive any provision of this subchapter during a wildlife health crisis.

                 (p) The department may designate a manual process in lieu of any electronic application requirement of this subchapter if for whatever reason the electronic application is unavailable.

        §69.45. Permit Required.

                 (a) No person may possess wildlife for purposes of rehabilitation unless the person possesses a valid permit issued under the provisions of this subchapter.[No permit is required to rehabilitate nongame species for which there is no open season or possession limit, or for which there are no provisions by rule or statute that would otherwise restrict possession.]

                 (b) Except as otherwise provided under Chapter 65, Subchapter B, of this title (relating to Disease Detection and Response), licensed[Licensed] veterinarians may hold, possess, and transport [protected] wildlife to provide emergency medical care or stabilization care for periods of up to 48 hours, after which time the wildlife must be transferred to a permitted rehabilitator.

                 [(c) Subpermittees may possess protected wildlife for rehabilitation purposes provided they have in their possession a copy of the valid permit naming them as a subpermittee.]

                 (c)[(d)]No permittee shall change facility location or[, consulting veterinarian, or subpermittees] receive unauthorized species, or conduct unauthorized activities unless the permittee possesses an amended permit authorizing such activity.

                 (d)[(e)] Permits issued under this section may be issued for any period of time not exceeding three years from the date of issuance.

        §69.46. Application for Permit.

                 (a) An applicant for a permit under this subchapter must be at least 18 years of age.

                 (b)[(a)]Applications shall be made on forms supplied or approved by the department[, and shall be submitted with the letters of recommendation required by §69.47 of this title (relating to Qualifications)]. Incomplete applications will not be processed.

                 (c)[(b)] Applications must be accompanied by [evidence of one the following]:

                         (1) a copy of the certificate of completion of a training course offered by the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition or the National Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Association within the preceding three years;

                         (2) a letter of recommendation from a licensed veterinarian and/or permitted wildlife rehabilitator with at least three years’ experience as a permitted wildlife rehabilitator who has known the applicant for at least two years; and[attendance at a national wildlife rehabilitation conference within the preceding three years;]

                         [(3) membership in a state or national wildlife rehabilitation organization; or]

                         (3)[(4)] a test score of 100[80 or above] on a department-administered wildlife rehabilitation examination.

                 (d)[(c)] Permits for the taking or holding of federally protected species shall not be valid unless the permittee[permit holder] also possesses a valid federal permit authorizing possession of those species.

                 (e)[(d)] Except for persons authorized to do so under the terms of[holders of] zoological permits, no person holding a permit authorizing the propagation for sale of [protected] wildlife shall be authorized to rehabilitate those species.

        §69.47. Refusal of Permit Issuance or Renewal; Review[Qualifications].

                 [(a) Wildlife rehabilitation permits may be issued only to qualified individuals who:]

                         [(1) are 18 years of age or older; and]

                         [(2) have letters of recommendation from two persons who have known the applicant for at least two years. The letters of recommendation must be from:]

                                  [(A) conservation scientists or game wardens currently employed by the department;]

                                  [(B) licensed veterinarians; or]

                                  [(C) permitted wildlife rehabilitators.]

                 [(b) Evidence of certification by the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition or the National Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Association can be substituted for one of the required letters of recommendation.]

                 (a)[(c)] The department may refuse permit issuance or renewal to any person who has been finally convicted of, pleaded nolo contendere to, or received deferred adjudication or been assessed an administrative penalty for a violation of:

                         (1) Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 43[88];

                         (2) – (3) (No change.)

                 (b)[(d)] The department may prohibit any person from acting as an agent of any permittee if the person has been convicted of, pleaded nolo contendere to, received deferred adjudication, or assessed an administrative penalty for an offense listed in subsection (a)[(c)] of this section.

                 (c)[(e)] The department may refuse to issue a permit to any person the department has evidence is acting on behalf of or as a surrogate for another person who is prohibited by the provisions of this section from engaging in permitted activities.

                 (d)[(f)] The department may refuse to issue or renew a permit to any person who is not in compliance with applicable reporting or recordkeeping requirements.

                 (e)[(g)] An applicant for a permit or permit renewal may request a review of a decision of the department to refuse issuance of a permit or permit renewal (as applicable).

                 (f)[(h)] An applicant seeking review of a decision of the department with respect to permit issuance must request the review within 10 working days of being notified by the department that the application for a permit or permit renewal has been denied.

                         (1) – (4) (No change.)

        §69.48. Permit Renewals.

                 (a) (No change.)

                 (b) Renewal applications shall not be processed until the department has received all reports required by §69.52 of this title [(relating to Reports)] accompanied by evidence of at least one of the following:

                         (1) completion of a training course offered by the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition or the National Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Association within the preceding three years;

                         (2) a current Wildlife Rehabilitator Certification provided by International Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition; or

                         (3) attendance at a national wildlife rehabilitators conference within the preceding three years. 

                 (c) The department may deny a renewal as provided in §69.47 of this title (relating to Refusal of Permit Issuance or Renewal; Review [if the permittee has violated any of the provisions of the permit, regulations of the department, or federal or state wildlife laws].

        §69.49. General Facilities Standards.

                 (a) All facilities shall be subject to inspections by the department. A first-time applicant’s facilities shall be inspected by the department and no permit shall be issued until the facilities are determined to satisfy all of the applicable facilities standards of this subchapter.

                         (1) – (5) (No change.)

                 (b) White-tailed deer and mule deer held under a permit issued under this subchapter shall be confined at all times within a department-approved enclosure (indoor, outdoor, or both) that is constructed in such a fashion as to prevent both escape and contact with other deer or susceptible species as defined in Chapter 65, Subchapter B, of this title (relating to Disease Detection and Response). The department will not authorize the rehabilitation of deer by a permittee if the permittee’s facility is not in compliance with this subsection.

        §69.50. Transfers.

                 (a) Except as provided by federal law, Chapter 65, Subchapter B, of this title, or a provision of state law, a[A wildlife rehabilitation] permit issued under this subchapter authorizes the permittee[permit holder] to transfer wildlife to:

                         (1) other wildlife rehabilitators legally permitted to hold that species in Texas; or[.]

                         (2) [Wildlife rehabilitators may transfer lawfully held live] wildlife [to] rehabilitators permitted in other states, provided a letter of authorization from the department has been obtained prior to the transfer.

                 (b) The transfer to or receipt of white-tailed or mule deer from another state is prohibited.

        §69.51. Release of Rehabilitated Wildlife.

                 (a) (No change.)

                 (b) A permittee[permit holder] shall not release, or cause or allow the release of wildlife in such a manner or at such a location so that the released animals are likely to become a nuisance, a disease threat or a depredation threat.

                 (c) Except as provided by subsection (e) of this section,[Wildlife] releases shall not be made in or to fenced or enclosed areas that prevent the animal from leaving at will.

                 (d) Wildlife[Protected wildlife] shall be released only to habitat appropriate for the species.

                 (e) No person may release or allow the release of white-tailed deer or mule deer held under the provisions of this subchapter unless:

                         (1) the deer are released within a site that is completely surrounded by a fence of at least seven feet in height and capable of retaining deer at all times under reasonable and ordinary circumstances;

                         (2) the owner of the release site has agreed in writing to be responsible for ensuring that the fence surrounding the release site is in compliance at all times with the provisions of paragraph (1) of this subsection; and

                         (3) the release site has been, prior to receiving deer under this subsection, registered with the department via an electronic application designated by the department for that purpose.

                 (f)[(e)] Permittees may not release wildlife on department property without the permission of the department.

                 (g)[(f)] A permittee commits an offense if the permittee releases or effects the release of wildlife held under the provisions of this subchapter[is] on private property without having[and fails to have] on their person the written permission of the landowner, lessee, or operator to be on that property.

                 (h) Nothing in this section shall be construed to exempt any person from any applicable provision of local, state, or federal law.

        §69.52. Reports and Recordkeeping.

                 (a) Each permittee shall maintain, on a form provided or approved by the department, a daily log of all animals acquired or received for rehabilitation. The daily log shall, at a minimum, consist of the following:

                         (1) the species and sex of each animal acquired or received;

                         (2) the date and time that each animal was acquired or received; 

                         (2) the name, address, phone number, and, if possible, an email address for each person from whom an animal is acquired or received;

                         (3) the approximate geographical location where each animal was found before being acquired or obtained; and

                         (4) the date and time of final disposition of each animal, to include method and location of disposal, for animals that are euthanized.

                 (b) A permittee[Permit holders] shall complete and submit an annual report on a form provided by the department. The report shall include the activities of all individuals listed on the permit.

                 (c)[(b)] Reports must be received by the department by January 15 of each year.

                 (d)[(c)] Copies of all reports shall be retained at the permitted facility and kept available for inspection by the department for a period of two years.

                 (e) The daily log required by this subchapter shall be retained at the permitted facility and kept available for inspection by the department for a period of two years from the last date of entry.

        This agency hereby certifies that the proposal has been reviewed by legal counsel and found to be within the agency’s authority to adopt.

        Issued in Austin, Texas, on

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