Your Latest Home Rule Issue: D.C.’s Pest Control Law
||Washington Post (DC)
||Friday, August 5, 2011
These days, many in Congress talk a lot about states’ rights, local solutions and a smaller federal government — until it comes to a view with which they disagree. Case in point is the District’s wildlife protection law, which was adopted last year by the D.C. Council but is in danger of being defunded when the D.C. appropriations bill comes up in the U.S. House of Representatives when Congress returns from recess.
The law was sponsored by D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) and strongly supported by the Washington Humane Society and the Humane Society of the United States. It protects wildlife and consumers in the District by bringing much-needed regulation to private wildlife control operators. In the past, some of these businesses have charged homeowners hundreds or even thousands of dollars for “solutions” to urban wildlife problems, using inhumane methods of killing animals while failing to address the long-term problems, such as openings in an attic or garage, that made their services necessary in the first place.
The D.C. legislation requires wildlife control operators working in the city to be trained and licensed, to pass a test, to disclose certain information to consumers and to report on their activities annually to the D.C. Department of the Environment. The measure prohibits killing animals using methods not approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association and puts a stop to practices such as drowning animals and injecting them with nail polish remover. It also prohibits the use of bird poisons and a small number of indiscriminate and cruel devices, such as leghold traps, body-crushing traps, and neck snares, which can kill pets and wildlife not being targeted. The District is, after all, a city.
The D.C. law provides modest parameters for regulating an industry that has a checkered history of overcharging consumers and using painful and indiscriminate killing methods. It establishes licensing and reporting requirements similar to those in 35 other states, including Maryland and Virginia.
But it’s also a question of home rule, and whether a local law that was carefully vetted, drafted and re-drafted until it was passed unanimously by the D.C. Council should be arbitrarily dismantled by Congress. Imagine if Congress took it upon itself to undo Virginia’s state wildlife regulations or hunting and trapping laws. Or Wyoming or Montana’s, for that matter.
If more clarity is needed, the D.C. Department of the Environment can handle that when the agency issues implementing regulations. But the law moves the District forward, and we shouldn’t roll back these important protections for wildlife and consumers.
Local residents and lawmakers have spoken, and Congress should respect their will.
The writer is chief operating officer of the Humane Society of the United States.
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