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Wildlife
Ethical and legal implications of treating casualty wild animals
  1. John Cooper

    John and Margaret Cooper are a husband and wife team. Margaret is a lawyer who has made a special study of animal and conservation law. John trained as a veterinary surgeon and is now a specialist pathologist, with particular interests in wildlife, tropical diseases and comparative medicine. The couple have lived and worked in East and Central Africa and continue to teach there, as well as at various universities in Britain. They currently work at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago. They have been married for 36 years and have a daughter in the USA and a son in the UK.

    and
  2. Margaret E. Cooper

    John and Margaret Cooper are a husband and wife team. Margaret is a lawyer who has made a special study of animal and conservation law. John trained as a veterinary surgeon and is now a specialist pathologist, with particular interests in wildlife, tropical diseases and comparative medicine. The couple have lived and worked in East and Central Africa and continue to teach there, as well as at various universities in Britain. They currently work at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago. They have been married for 36 years and have a daughter in the USA and a son in the UK.

Abstract

THE care of wildlife presents many veterinary challenges and dilemmas. The animals are, by definition, ‘wild’ and as such have no owner. Diagnosis and treatment can be time‐consuming, frustrating and expensive. Care of wild animals is complicated by their being particularly susceptible to stressors and other adverse effects of close contact with humans and confinement in captivity. Despite great advances in wildlife, zoo and exotic animal medicine in recent years, relatively little information is available about the biology, let alone the veterinary care, of the majority of wild species that may be presented for examination and treatment. These difficulties are compounded by the fact that in the UK, and many other countries, wildlife species are protected under national legislation and other statutes may apply to some of them. Veterinary surgeons who are involved in treating casualty wild animals must, therefore, be aware of the relevant legislation and abide by it. They also need to be able to advise clients appropriately. In addition to the practicalities and legal considerations of wildlife care outlined above, there are numerous ethical dilemmas confronting those who involve themselves in such work. These are often complex and the solutions are usually not clear cut. This article discusses ethical and legal aspects of treating casualty wild animals, with particular reference to the situation, as it stands, in the UK, but drawing, where appropriate, on the authors’ own experience and relevant information from elsewhere.

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