The New England Chapter of BHA has introduced legislation in the RI General Assembly that if passed would protect Rhode Island’s wildlife, and in particular our wild deer. H5864, introduced by Rep. Scott Slater (D – District 10) and S607, introduced by Sen. Matt LaMountain (D – District 31) are a continuation of our efforts during prior legislative sessions to prevent the establishment of big game captive hunting facilities in our Rhode Island. These bills seeks to prohibit importing native and non-native big game animals to conduct captive hunts within private facilities, and are a direct response to bills from the prior legislative session that would have paved the way to establish a new captive hunting industry in Rhode Island (H8090 & S2929A). These bills made it to the House and Senate floor and were postponed at the last minute due to public opposition. Since 2018 over a dozen bills have been introduced in the RI General Assembly with the intention of prohibiting captive big game hunting, but the legislature has yet to take action on the issue.
Chronic Wasting Disease is an always-fatal prion disease that affects all members of the deer family. Infected animals can transmit the disease to others by direct or environmental contact, and once it is introduced to new areas there are few management options to limit or stop its continued spread. Because it can take years for infected animals to show signs of illness and there is no live-animal test capable of reliably detected infection the AFWA Best Management Practices for CWD recommends prohibiting the transportation of live animals. While there are no known cases where CWD has spread to humans, the CDC recommends that infected venison not be consumed.
In the last couple years several prominent CWD outbreaks have been linked to infected animals that are moved between captive breeding and hunting facilities (for example, in Wisconsin and Texas). In addition, the disease is now endemic in 30 US states and 4 Canadian provinces, increased from 24 states and 2 provinces when we began this effort in 2018. As an issue of growing national prominence, US Congress signed the CWD Research and Management Act into law in late 2022, which allocates $70 million annually until 2028 for much needed research and management of CWD across the US.
This Thursday, March 9th, the RI House Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hold a public hearing on H5864 at the Rise of the House (the hearing will start around 4:30PM). All members of the public are encouraged to participate, and can share verbal testimony in person at the hearing or submit written testimony following the Committee’s instructions.