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Rhode Island lawmakers approve bill to ban “captive hunting” operations

By The Associated Press - | Jun 13, 2024

FILE - Sun shines on the Rhode Island Statehouse Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2004, in Providence, R.I. Rhode Island lawmakers have approved legislation Tuesday, June 11, 2024, that would let it join more than half of states with a full or partial ban on “captive hunting” — a hunt that occurs within a structure designed to restrict the free movement of animals and prevent them from escaping. (AP Photo/Victoria Arocho, File)

Lawmakers have approved legislation that would let Rhode Island join the more than half of states with a full or partial ban on “captive hunting” — a hunt that occurs within a structure designed to restrict the free movement of animals and prevent them from escaping.

The bill would bar the use of manmade or natural barriers intended to prevent animals from fleeing the confined area of a hunt. Private lands set up as hunting or shooting preserves, or game ranches, are included.

The legislation also states no species of animal may be imported or captured for use in captive hunting. The bill was first proposed after a sporting club had sought permission to import exotic animals, like elk and boar, for members to hunt on its property.

The legislation would not apply to the release of domestic game birds on public property, or on private property licensed by the state Department of Environmental Management as a shooting preserve for the purpose of hunting.

“Physically preventing an animal from escaping death is not hunting, and I do not know a single active hunter who thinks such practices are acceptable,” said state Rep. Scott Slater, a Democrat, one of the sponsors of the bill.

Joanne Bourbeau, northeast regional director at the Humane Society of the United States, said killing animals for trophies and bragging rights is unacceptable.

“The captive trophy hunting industry breeds animals solely to be shot and killed within fenced enclosures,” she said. “This critical legislation would allow Rhode Island to join the other 26 states that already have full or partial bans on captive hunting.”

Lawmakers have also approved a second bill meant to update the protocols for reporting car accidents involving wildlife and for collecting the resulting roadkill for consumption.

The bill would broaden reporting requirements for collisions with deer to any accident involving wildlife that substantially damage the vehicle, such as collisions with turkeys or bears.

It would also make reporting these collisions easier for drivers by allowing them to report directly to the Department of Environmental Management through an online portal or phone number rather than having to contact a conservation officer.

Data from wildlife collisions are used in statistical models by environmental officials to estimate wildlife population. The legislation would also let the state salvage unwanted roadkill for general consumption.

Currently only the parties directly involved in the collision can salvage deer for their own enjoyment. This change would let wildlife salvaged from a collision be used by organizations or individuals who have the capability to process it.

“As populations of large animals like deer, bears and turkeys increase in Rhode Island, an increase in vehicle collisions is bound to follow,” said Rep. David Bennett, a Democrat. “Allowing large animals killed in these collisions to be distributed to those who know how to process them will reduce waste and allow those who like game to enjoy it.”

Both bills, given final approval Tuesday by lawmakers. now head to Democratic Gov. Daniel McKee’s office for his signature.

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