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. Introduced by Rep. Scott Slater (D – District 10), H7439 is a continuation of our efforts during prior legislative sessions to prevent the establishment of big game captive hunting facilities in our Rhode Island. The bill seeks to prohibit importing native and non-native big game animals to conduct captive hunts within private facilities, and is a direct response to bills from the 2018 RI legislative session that would have paved the way to legalize captive hunting in Rhode Island (H8090 & S2929A). The 2018 bills made it to the House and Senate floor and postponed at the last minute due to public opposition. Since 2018 thirteen bills have been introduced in the RI General Assembly with the intention of prohibiting captive big game hunting, but none have been passed yet.
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 recommend 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 12 months two prominent CWD outbreaks have been linked to infected animals that are moved between captive breeding and hunting facilities in Wisconsin and Texas . In addition, the disease has been detected for the first time in Idaho, Alabama, and Louisiana, bringing the total number of CWD-endemic states in the US to 29. As an issue of growing national prominence, the US House of Representatives recently voted in overwhelming support of HR5608, the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act, which if passed would allocate $70 billion annually until 2028 for much needed research and management of CWD across the Country.
Next Thursday, February 17th, the RI House Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hear two of the latest bills related to captive hunting – H7439 & H7169 (Rep. McNamara, D – District 19). H7439 would better address the issue, as it clearly defines “captive hunting” as a practice that law enforcement officers can identify and addresses both native species like whitetail deer and non-native species like elk. In contrast, H7169 only addresses non-native species, and relies on the motivation for engaging in captive hunting, which leaves too much room for judicial interpretation especially when captive hunting game meat is consumed.
You can protect Rhode Island’s wild deer by sending a letter to the Committee in support of H7439 using our Action Alert below: