Possession and Exhibition of Elephants

Any person, firm or corporation possessing or exhibiting elephants must obtain a permit pursuant to Chapter 379.304, Florida Statutes (F.S.).

Effective July 1,2010, anyone possessing Class I wildlife is required to guarantee financial responsibility. This may be done by cash, cashier's check, certified check or bond in the sum of $10,000 and made payable to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). In lieu of the $10,000 financial responsibility guarantee, anyone possessing Class I wildlife may maintain comprehensive general liability insurance with minimum limits of $2 million per occurrence and $2 million annual aggregate.

Elephants are classified as Class I wildlife per Rule 68A-6.002, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) , and cannot be possessed as personal pets. All individuals not previously permitted to possess elephants must qualify for a license by meeting the following criteria:

a) Must be at least 18 years of age at the time of application.

b) Effective November 8, 2010, individuals applying for a new license must complete and submit a "Facility Location Information" form Adobe PDF with their application.

c) Must not have been convicted of any violation of captive wildlife regulations or venomous reptile or reptile of concern regulations involving unsafe housing of wildlife or that could potentially endanger the public; any violation involving the illegal commercialization of wildlife; any violation involving cruelty to animals; or any violation involving importation of wildlife within three (3) years of the date of the application.

d) Applicants must specify the location of the facility at which the elephant(s) will be maintained and the facility must be inspected and approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) prior to issuance of the license.

e) Elephants may not be possessed on any premises with less than five (5) acres of land area.

f) Applicants must demonstrate no less than one (1) year of substantial practical experience (to consist of no less than 1,000 hours) in the care, feeding, handling and husbandry of the species for which the permit is sought, or other species within the same biological family which are substantially similar in size, characteristics, care, and nutritional requirements to the species for which the permit is sought.

g) For the purposes of demonstrating compliance, applicants must submit documentation of such experience including a description of the specific experience acquired, the dates and times the experience was obtained, and the specific location(s) where the experience was acquired. The applicant must also provide references from no less than two (2) individuals having personal knowledge of the applicant's stated experience, one of which must be licensed by the FWC for wildlife of the same family for which the applicant is seeking authorization or a representative of a professional organization or government institution. Examples of such organizations or institutions include, but are not limited to, universities, public service agencies, zoological associations and veterinarians.

h) Additional information may include records of prior permits for the keeping of captive wildlife, employment records, and any other competent documentation of the requisite experience. Documented educational experience in zoology or other relevant biological sciences obtained at the college or technical school level or above, may substitute for up to six months or 500 hours of the required experience.

QUALIFICATIONS FOR ELEPHANT RIDE AUTHORIZATION

1) No person, firm, or corporation may use elephants for rides for the public without first obtaining special authorization added to their license issued under Section 379.304, F.S.

a) Safety record: Applicants for elephant rides must include in their initial application or application renewal, information that will identify, by drawings and/or photographs, the animal(s) that will be used in the rides. The application, or application renewal, must also include a certified statement on the complete safety record of the animal(s). No elephant that has caused a serious injury or death to a handler, trainer, member of the public, or other person within five (5) years prior to application, shall be used for rides. Incidents that occurred prior to the five-year period may be reviewed by the FWC for possible exclusion of the elephant for rides, in accordance with the following factors: 

  1. The circumstances surrounding the injuries caused by the elephant;
  2. The seriousness or extent of injuries, or number of individuals affected; and
  3. The number of incidents in which the elephant was involved.

The FWC will have final approval authority regarding the use of elephants authorized for rides. In addition, if an elephant(s) is involved in a safety incident subsequent to the approval of the application, but prior to entering the State of Florida, or while performing in the state, FWC law enforcement personnel may direct the animal to be removed from all exhibition activities until the conclusion of the investigation or prosecution.

b) Safeguards: Applicants must provide documentation of safeguards to ensure public safety to include: 

  1. An emergency plan for protecting the public that specifies what to do in case of elephant incidents; where tranquilization equipment and/or firearms are kept; who is to use tranquilization equipment, and when they will be used to capture, control or destroy escaped or out-of-control elephants.
  2. The equipment and an employee trained in the use of this equipment must be on the premises at all times when the elephants are in a public contact situation.

c) Experienced supervision: All elephant rides must be supervised by a minimum of one qualified handler and one assistant. Applicants must provide documentation that the handler has no less than six months of experience in elephant handling. Such handler and assistant must be in the immediate presence of the elephant at all times when the elephant is in a position to be in direct contact with the pUblic. Applicants must include the names of handlers and the experience documentation in their initial application and at times of license renewal. 

d) Barriers: A protective physical barrier must be present between the elephant and the public at all elephant ride sites. This barrier shall prevent bystanders from touching the animal. Applicants must include in their application package photos or drawings of barriers they intend to use and a description of materials used to construct the barriers. When not performing or being exercised, elephants must either be securely tethered or enclosed by an electric fence, under the supervision of at least one qualified handler and in an area not accessible to the public.

TRANSPORTATION REQUIREMENTS FOR ELEPHANTS; CAGING REQUIREMENTS FOR PERFORMING AND NONPERFORMING ELEPHANTS

1) General requirements for transporting wildlife in vehicles. No vehicle may be used in transporting any wildlife except as follows:

a) Vehicles must be equipped to provide fresh air without injurious drafts and adequate protection from the elements to all animals.

b) The animal traveling area must be free of engine exhaust fumes.

c) Fecal and food wastes must be removed from the animal quarters daily.

d) Animal cages must have openings for emergency removal of wildlife.

e) Wildlife in transport must be protected from extremes in temperature that could be detrimental to the health and welfare of the animal.

f) Wildlife transported in the same cage area shall be in compatible groups.

g) The animal's cage or enclosure must be of sufficient strength and security to prevent escape. The cage or enclosure must be large enough to ensure that each specimen has sufficient space to turn, stand erect, and lie naturally, provided, however, that certain species may be restricted in their movements according to professionally acceptable standards when such freedom of movement would constitute a danger to the animals, their handlers or other persons. Elephants shall be tethered during transport (except nursing young).

MOBILE EXHIBITS: PERFORMING ANIMALS

No mobile exhibit shall utilize the performing animal caging dimensions prior to approval by the FWC. To obtain such approval, the permittee must provide written schedules to the FWC of wildlife exercise intervals and scheduled performances. The exercise intervals must be of such frequency, intensity and duration as to provide for the health and welfare of the animal over an extended period; the animals shall not be caged without exercise or performances for more than a 72-hour period. Performing and exercise information must be verifiable by FWC personnel through inspections. Elephants, when not performing or being exercised, must either be:

  1. Securely tethered; or

  2. Enclosed by an electric fence, under the supervision of at least one qualified handler in accordance with Rule 68A-6.0042(2)(c), F.A.C., and in an area not accessible to the public.

For performing wildlife possessed by traveling zoos and other traveling acts, wildlife must be housed in cages or enclosures that meet or exceed the specifications as provided in Rule 68A-6.004, F.A.C., whenever such wildlife is housed in cages or enclosures for more than 90 days. Performing wildlife may not be kept in cages or enclosures below the size required by the standard caging requirements for more than a total of 90 days out of each 120-day period. Such mobile exhibits must provide an itinerary of planned exhibition times and locations with annual renewal applications.

MOBILE EXHIBITS: NONPERFORMING ANIMALS

Elephants in a nonperforming mobile exhibit may not be confined in any cage or enclosure that is smaller in dimension or not equipped as follows. For one animal in a nonperforming capacity, a paddock that is double the body length in length and equal to the body length in width. For two or more animals kept together, increase square footage by one third for each additional animal. Other than for exercise periods, elephants not kept in a paddock must either be:

  1. Securely tethered; or
  2. Enclosed by an electric fence under the direct, onsite supervision of at least one qualified handler in accordance with Rule 68A-6.0042(2)(c), F.A.C., and in an area not accessible to the public.

For nonperforming elephants possessed by traveling zoos and other traveling acts, the elephants must be housed in standard cage specifications as provided in Rule 68A-6.004, F.A.C., whenever the elephant(s) is(are) present in travel cages or enclosures for more than 45 days. Nonperforming elephants may not be kept in cages or enclosures below the size required by the standard caging requirements for more than a total of 45 days out of each 90-day period. Mobile exhibits must provide an itinerary of planned exhibition times and locations with annual renewal applications.

STANDARD CAGING REQUIREMENTS

Nonperforming elephants: One animal in a nonperforming static facility must be confined in a paddock enclosing 1,500 square feet, 6 feet high, with access to a shelter. For each additional animal, increase the paddock size by 50 percent of the original area. Elephants which are tethered within such enclosure must be provided with daily, unrestrained movement periods, unless daily tethering is necessary due to the following situations:

  1. The elephant needs restraining due to a training period;
  2. The elephant is aggressive toward people or other animals in the compound;
  3. The elephant is undergoing medical treatment or research;
  4. The elephant is restrained for security or breeding purposes;
  5. Constant tethering shall not exceed 14 days without a written justification from a veterinarian; and
  6. Tethering must permit normal postural movement of the elephant.

Performing elephants: One performing animal must be caged in a paddock enclosing not less than 700 square feet, 6 feet high, with access to a shelter. For each additional animal, increase the paddock size by 50 percent of the original area. Elephants may be tethered in such enclosure; however, such restraint shall permit normal postural movements. No facility may utilize the performing elephant paddock dimensions prior to written approval by the FWC. To obtain such approval, the permittee must provide written documentation to the FWC of exercise intervals and scheduled performances. The exercise intervals must be of such frequency, intensity and duration as to provide for the health and welfare of the animal over an extended period. Such information shall be verifiable by FWC personnel through inspections. When not kept in a paddock, performing, or being exercised, elephants must be either (1) tethered or (2) enclosed by an electric  fence under the direct, on-site supervision of at least one qualified trainer/handler (see Rule 68A-6.0042(2)(3)(c), F.A.C.), in an area not accessible to the pUblic. Construction materials for indoor and outdoor facilities are to consist of steel bars, masonry block, or equivalent.

PUBLIC CONTACT WITH ELEPHANTS

All wildlife that will be used for contact with the public shall have been evaluated by the exhibitor to ensure compatibility with the uses intended. All wildlife shall be exhibited in a manner that prevents injuries to the public and the wildlife. The exhibitor shall take reasonable sanitary precautions to minimize the possibility of diseases or parasite transmission which could adversely affect the health or welfare of citizens or wildlife. When any condition exists that results in a threat to human safety, or the welfare of the wildlife, the animal(s) shall, at the direction of an FWC officer, be immediately removed from public contact for an interval necessary to correct the unsafe or deficient condition.

Elephants (as approved in Rule 68A-6.0042, F.A.C.), may have full or incidental contact with the public. Full contact is defined as situations in which an exhibitor/employee handler maintains rigid supervision, while temporarily surrendering physical possession or custody of the animal to another. Incidental contact is defined as situations in which an exhibitor/employee handler maintains rigid control, custody, and supervision of the animal while permitting the public to come into contact with it. Public contact/handling intervals for elephants shall be limited as to frequency, intensity and duration so that such handling shall not adversely affect the health, welfare or safety of the animals, nor expose the public to injury.

For a complete listing of Captive Wildlife Regulations and applications, please visit FWC's Captive Wildlife web site.

Thank you for your interest in the possession and exhibition of elephants. If you have any questions, please visit Ask FWC, write to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Division of Law Enforcement, Captive Wildlife Office, 620 South Meridian Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1600, or call (850) 488-6253.

Elephant Regulations Memo PDF Document



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