Byline: Troy Anderson Staff Writer
Los Angeles County officials gave animal lovers some good news Tuesday, making it legal to operate small wildlife rehabilitation facilities in unincorporated areas and easing rules for raising llamas and alpacas.
The practice of rehabilitating small wildlife had been illegal in unincorporated areas but legal in the city of Los Angeles.
``I'm ecstatic,'' said Mary Cummins, president of the nonprofit animal rescue organization Animal Advocates, which has a wildlife permit to operate in the city. ``This amendment will help protect the public and save animals.''
Cummins said about 50 people and organizations have been illegally rehabilitating thousands of wild animals each year in the county.
Last year, wild animal rehabilitators saved more than 80,000 animals statewide, including bobcats, skunks, opossums, racoons, wild mice and pack rats, Cummins said.
The new ordinance approved by the Board of Supervisors will allow facilities to temporarily care for sick or injured small wild animals until they become healthy and can be put back in their native habitat, said Department of Regional Planning Ordinance Studies Section official Leonard Erlanger.
The new ordinance also is expected to help relieve the county's overburdened animal shelters.
``We do occasionally get opossums,'' said Brenda Sanchez, spokeswoman for the county Department of Animal Care and Control. ``A lot them are either trapped by residents in the area or injured and we have to euthanize them.''
The state Department of Fish and Game requires all licensed wildlife rehabilitation facilities to show they have zoning clearances before it will grant a wildlife rehabilitation permit.
Before Tuesday's vote, the county did not have a mechanism to provide such clearances.
Under the new ordinance, people seeking to operate such a facility will need to obtain a state permit for the animals. Under the new requirements, the animals also must be indigenous to the county, weigh less than 30 pounds and cannot be dangerous, such as bears and mountain lions.
The provision also limits the number of animals in a facility to 20, but that limit could be waived under some circumstances.
The supervisors also voted to make it easier for people to raise llamas and alpacas in unincorporated areas.
Currently, the county's zoning laws refer to alpacas and llamas as wild animals and prohibits them in light agricultural areas - which essentially precludes Antelope Valley residents from raising the animals.
The new ordinance allows the animals in light agricultural areas and classifies them as pets that can be kept in residentially zoned areas - just like horses, cattle, sheep and goats.
Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985
Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game. Mary Cummins is also a licensed real estate appraiser in Los Angeles, California.
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