Adopted by the AZA Board of Directors
July 29, 2006
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) was established, among other reasons, to foster continued improvement in the zoological park and aquarium profession. One of its most important roles is to provide a forum for debate and consensus building among its members, the intent of which is to attain high ethical standards, especially those related to animal care and professional conduct. The stringent requirements for AZA accreditation and high standards of professional conduct are unmatched by similar organizations and also far surpass the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s requirements for licensed animal exhibitors. AZA member facilities must abide by a Code of Professional Ethics - a set of standards that guide all aspects of animal management and welfare. As a matter of priority, AZA institutions should acquire animals from other AZA institutions and dispose of animals to other AZA institutions.
AZA accredited zoological parks and aquariums cannot fulfill their important missions of conservation, education and science without living animals. Responsible management of living animal populations necessitates that some individuals be acquired and that others be removed from the collection at certain times. Acquisition of animals can occur through propagation, trade, donation, loan, purchase, capture, or rescue. Animals used as animal feed are not accessioned into the collection. Disposition occurs when an animal leaves the collection for any reason. Reasons for disposition vary widely, but include cooperative population management (genetic or demographic management), reintroduction, behavioral incompatibility, sexual maturation, animal health concerns, loan or transfer, or death. The AZA Acquisition/Disposition Policy (A/D) was created to help (1) guide and support member institutions in their animal acquisition and disposition decisions, and (2) ensure that all additions and removals are compatible with the Association’s stated commitment to “save and protect the wonders of the living natural world.” More specifically, the AZA A/D Policy is intended to:
- ensure that the welfare of individual animals and conservation of populations, species and ecosystems are carefully considered during acquisition and disposition activities;
- maintain a proper standard of conduct for AZA members during acquisition and disposition activities; and
- ensure that animals from AZA member institutions are not transferred to individuals or organizations that lack the appropriate expertise or facilities to care for them.
- support the goal of AZA’s cooperatively managed populations and associated programs [Species Survival Plans (SSPs), Population Management Plans (PMPs), and Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs)].
The AZA Acquisition/Disposition Policy will serve as the default policy for AZA member institutions. Institutions may develop their own A/D Policy in order to address specific local concerns. Any institutional policy must incorporate and not conflict with the AZA acquisition and disposition standards.
Violations of the AZA Acquisition/Disposition Policy will be dealt with in accordance with the AZA Code of Professional Ethics. Violations can result in an institution’s or individual’s expulsion from membership in the AZA.
II. GROUP OR COLONY BASED IDENTIFICATION
For some colonial, group-living, or prolific species, such as certain insects, aquatic invertebrates, schooling fish, rodents, and bats, it is often impossible or highly impractical to identify individual specimens. These species are therefore maintained, acquisitioned, and disposed of as a group or colony.
Therefore, when this A/D Policy refers to animals or specimens, it is in reference to both individuals and groups/colonies.
Acquisition and disposition of germplasm should follow the same guidelines outlined in this document if its intended use is to create live animal(s). Ownership of germplasm and any resulting animals should be clearly defined. Institutions acquiring or dispositioning germplasm or any animal parts or samples should consider not only its current use, but also future possible uses as new technologies become available.
IV. ACQUISITION REQUIREMENTS
A. General Acquisitions
Animals are to be acquisitioned into an AZA member institution’s collection if the following conditions are met:
- Acquisitions must meet the requirements of all applicable local, state, federal and international regulations and laws.
- The Director or Chief Executive Officer of the institution is charged with the final authority and responsibility for the monitoring and implementation of all acquisitions.
- Acquisitions must be consistent with the mission of the institution, as reflected in its Institutional Collection Plan, by addressing its exhibition/education, conservation, and/or scientific goals.
- Animals that are acquired for the collection, permanently or temporarily, must be listed on institutional records. All records should follow the Standards for Data Entry and Maintenance of North American Zoo and Aquarium Animal Records Databases©. (http://members.aza.org/Departments/ConScienceMO/DMR_MO/Documents/StandardsDataEntry.pdf)
- Animals may be acquired temporarily for reasons such as, holding for governmental agencies, rescue and/or rehabilitation, or special exhibits. Animals should only be accepted if they will not jeopardize the health, care or maintenance of the animals in the permanent collection or the animal being acquired.
- The institution must have the necessary resources to support and provide for the professional care and management of a species, so that the physical and social needs of both specimen and species are met.
- Attempts by members to circumvent AZA conservation programs in the acquisition of SSP animals are detrimental to the Association and its conservation programs. Such action may be detrimental to the species involved and is a violation of the Association’s Code of Professional Ethics. All AZA members must work through the SSP program in efforts to acquire SSP species and adhere to the AZA Full Participation policy.
- Animals are only to be acquired from sources that are known to operate legally and conduct their business in a manner that reflects and/or supports the spirit and intent of the AZA Code of Professional Ethics as well as this policy. Any convictions of state, federal, or international wildlife laws should be reviewed, as well as any previous dealings with other AZA accredited institutions.
- When acquiring specimens managed by a PMP, institutions should consult with the PMP manager.
- Institutions should consult AZA Wildlife Conservation and Management Committee (WCMC)-approved Regional Collection Plans (RCPs) when making acquisition decisions.
B. Acquisitions From the Wild
The maintenance of wild animal populations for education and wildlife conservation purposes is a unique responsibility of AZA member zoos and aquariums. To accomplish these goals, it may be necessary to acquire wild-caught specimens. Before acquiring animals from the wild, institutions are encouraged to examine sources including other AZA institutions or regional zoological associations. When acquiring animals from the wild, careful consideration must be taken to evaluate the long-term impacts on the wild population. Any capture of free-ranging animals should be done in accordance with all local, state, federal, and international wildlife laws and regulations and not be detrimental to the long-term viability of the species or the wild or captive population(s). In crisis situations, when the survival of a population is at risk, rescue decisions are to be made on a case-by-case basis.
V. DISPOSITION REQUIREMENTS
A. Living Animals
Successful conservation and animal management efforts rely on the cooperation of many entities, both within and outside of AZA. While preference is given to placing animals within AZA member institutions, it is important to foster a cooperative culture among those who share the primary mission of AZA accredited facilities. The AZA draws a strong distinction between the mission, stated or otherwise, of non-AZA member organizations and the mission of professionally managed zoological parks and aquariums accredited by the AZA. An accredited AZA member balances public display, recreation, and entertainment with demonstrated efforts in education, conservation, and science. While some non-AZA member organizations may meet minimum daily standards of animal care for wildlife, the AZA recognizes that this, by itself, is insufficient to warrant either AZA membership or participation in AZA’s cooperative animal management programs. When an animal is sent to a non-member of AZA, it is imperative that the member be confident that the animal will be cared for properly.
Animals may only be disposed of from an AZA member institution’s collection if the following conditions are met:
- Dispositions must meet the requirements of all applicable local, state, federal and international regulations and laws.
- The Director or Chief Executive Officer of the institution is charged with the final authority and responsibility for the monitoring and implementation of all dispositions.
- Any disposition must abide by the Mandatory Standards and General Advisories of the AZA Code of Professional Ethics (see Appendix I). Specifically, “a member shall make every effort to assure that all animals in his/her collection and under his/her care are disposed of in a manner which meets the current disposition standards of the Association and do not find their way into the hands of those not qualified to care for them properly.”
- Non-domesticated animals shall not be disposed of at animal auctions. Additionally, animals shall not be disposed of to any organization or individual that may use or sell the animal at an animal auction. In transactions with AZA non-members, the recipient must ensure in writing that neither the animal nor its offspring will be disposed of at a wild animal auction or to an individual or organization that allows the hunting of the animal.
- Animals shall not be disposed of to organizations or individuals that allow the hunting of these animals or their offspring. This does not apply to individuals or organizations which allow the hunting of only free-ranging game species (indigenous to North America) and established long-introduced species such as, but not limited to, white-tailed deer, quail, rabbit, waterfowl, boar, ring-necked pheasant, chukar, partridge, and trout. AZA distinguishes hunting/fishing for sport from culling for sustainable population management and wildlife conservation purposes.
- Attempts by members to circumvent AZA conservation programs in the disposition of SSP animals are detrimental to the Association and its conservation programs. Such action may be detrimental to the species involved and is a violation of the Association’s Code of Professional Ethics. All AZA members must work through the SSP program in efforts to deacquisition SSP species and adhere to the AZA Full Participation policy.
- Domesticated animals are to be disposed of in a manner consistent with acceptable farm practices and subject to all relevant laws and regulations.
- Live specimens may be released within native ranges, subject to all relevant laws and regulations. Releases may be a part of a recovery program and any release must be compatible with the AZA Guidelines for Reintroduction of Animals Born or Held in Captivity, dated June 3, 1992 (http://www.aza.org/reintroduction/).
- Detailed disposition records of all living or dead specimens must be maintained. Where applicable, proper animal identification techniques should be utilized.
- It is the obligation of every loaning institution to monitor, at least annually, the conditions of any loaned specimens and the ability of the recipient to provide proper care. If the conditions and care of animals are in violation of the loan agreement, it is the obligation of the loaning institution to recall the animal. Furthermore, an institution’s loaning policy must not be in conflict with this A/D Policy.
- If live specimens are euthanized, it must be done in accordance with the established policy of the institution and the Report of the American Veterinary Medical Association Panel on Euthanasia (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 218 (5): 669-696, 2001). [Renamed “The AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia”, current edition June 2007].
- In dispositions to non-AZA members, the non-AZA member’s mission (stated or implied) must not be in conflict with the mission of AZA, or with this A/D Policy.
- In dispositions to non-AZA member facilities that are open to the public, the non-AZA member must balance public display, recreation, and entertainment with demonstrated efforts in conservation, education, and science.
- In dispositions to non-AZA members, the AZA members must be convinced that the recipient has the expertise, records management practices, financial stability, facilities, and resources required to properly care for and maintain the animals and their offspring. It is recommended that this documentation be kept in the permanent record of the animals at the AZA member institution.
- If living animals are sent to a non-AZA member research institution, the institution must be registered under the Animal Welfare Act by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. For international transactions, the receiving facility should be registered by that country’s equivalent body with enforcement over animal welfare.
- No animal disposition should occur if it would create a health or safety risk (to the animal or humans) or have a negative impact on the conservation of the species.
- Inherently dangerous wild animals or invasive species should not be dispositioned to the pet trade or those unqualified to care for them.
- Under no circumstances should any primates be dispositioned to a private individual or to the pet trade.
Fish and aquatic invertebrate species that meet ANY of the following are inappropriate to be disposed of to private individuals or the pet trade:
- species that grow too large to be housed in a 72-inch long, 180 gallon aquarium (the largest tank commonly sold in retail stores)
- species that require extraordinary life support equipment to maintain an appropriate captive environment (e.g., cold water fish and invertebrates)
- species deemed invasive (e.g., snakeheads)
- species capable of inflicting a serious bite or venomous sting (e.g., piranha, lion fish, blue-ringed octopus)
- species of wildlife conservation concern
- When dispositioning specimens managed by a PMP, institutions should consult with the PMP manager.
- Institutions should consult WCMC-approved RCPs when making disposition decisions.
B. Dead Specimens
Dead specimens (including animal parts and samples) are only to be disposed of from an AZA member institution’s collection if the following conditions are met:
- Dispositions of dead specimens must meet the requirements of all applicable local, state, federal and international regulations and laws.
- Maximum utilization is to be made of the remains, which could include use in educational programs or exhibits.
- Consideration is given to scientific projects that provide data for species management and/or conservation.
- Records (including ownership information) are to be kept on all dispositions, including animal body parts, when possible.
- SSP and TAG necropsy protocols are to be accommodated insofar as possible.
VI. TRANSACTION FORMS
AZA member institutions will develop transaction forms to record animal acquisitions and dispositions. These forms will require the potential recipient or provider to adhere to the AZA Code of Professional Ethics, the AZA Acquisition/Disposition Policy, and all relevant AZA and member policies, procedures and guidelines. In addition, transaction forms must insist on compliance with the applicable laws and regulations of local, state, federal and international authorities.