The Ornithological Council is pleased to provide this bimonthly report covering activities from Jan – Feb 2019

The Ornithological Council seeks to:

  • Ensure that the best ornithological science is incorporated into legislative, regulatory, and management decisions that affect birds;
  • Enhance the ability of ornithologists to pursue professional activities; and
  • Promote the influence of ornithology in public affairs.

Our work focuses on animal welfare issues, permits, research funding, and other policies that affect ornithologists and ornithological societies.

Please contact our Executive Director with questions or concerns about this report or about any other matter of concern to your society or your society’s members. 

Note: We apologize for not submitting this report earlier in March; our executive director has been addressing a serious family medical problem for the past two weeks.

In this time period, the Ornithological Council’s major activities were as follows:


Efforts to resolve challenges to imports resulted from Customs and Border Protection procedures

A letter from a CBP official, received just prior to the government shut-down, confirmed that we have reached an impasse in our conversation with that agency about problems encountered by importers that result from the implementation of the CBP’s “ACE” declaration system. In essence, CBP confirmed that the best option to reduce uncertainty and maximize the likelihood of a problem-free hand-carried entry is to use a customs broker. OC has been working with the ornithological community and a customs broker that specializes in imports of wildlife-derived scientific specimens and samples and results have been excellent. However, problems remain, including one specific kind of import for which a pre-import declaration by a customs brokers is not feasible. In addition, there continues to be a need for training and guidance as some port inspectors seem to have erroneous information. Due to the shutdown, OC waited to reply, but we have now asked for continuing dialogue about these remaining issues. We have been told that a meeting will be scheduled in the near future.


Limits on use of controlled substances in field research

In September 2019, OC opened a discussion with the Drug Enforcement Agency regarding the use of federally controlled substances in field research. We have not yet had a substantive response from the DEA but we continue to press for a meeting. Although researchers can obtain DEA licenses, the DEA restricts use of the substances to the registered location, making an exception only for veterinarians pursuant to a recent change in the law. State restrictions on the use of state-controlled substances such as isoflurane, also pose barriers to field research that requires the use of anesthesia or chemical substances for euthanasia. Even if the American Veterinary Medical Association opts to recognized rapid cardiac compression as an acceptable means of euthanasia (as now seems unlikely), ornithologists will still need to use both federally controlled and state-controlled substances in the field for anesthesia and for birds for which rapid cardiac compression is not appropriate.


Status of classification of rapid cardiac compression

The AVMA has not yet published its interim update to its guidelines on euthanasia. The update is supposed to be published in 2018. A veterinarian who attended the AVMA’s November 2018 conference on the euthanasia guidelines reported that the AVMA stated that it would NOT change the classification of rapid cardiac compression, but no reasons were given. It was hoped that the Paul-Murphy paper and the Engilis paper resulted from research funded by the AOS (then AOU) and the OC, after consultation with the AVMA as to the evidence they would need to revise the classification, would provide ample scientific basis for a change in the classification. The Paul-Murphy paper, which was published in an AVMA journal, demonstrated that the method is at least as fast as the AVMA-approved method that was used as a reference. Dr. Paul-Murphy is considered one of the world’s best avian veterinary researchers and was on the panel that wrote the current (2013) version of those guidelines. This new research  also proved definitively that it is cardiac compression and not a crushing of the thorax, as the name “thoracic compression” implied. One of the AVMA’s objections prior to the publication of these papers was that it was a crushing of the thorax, leading to slow suffocation.

When the Paul-Murphy paper came out, the OC wrote to all the IACUCs to be sure they were aware of that research and to urge them to consider the findings to be the “scientific justification” that is legally required to support a decision by the IACUC to approve a deviation from the requirement in the ILAR Guide (Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals) and the Public Health Service Policy that euthanasia conform to the AVMA Guidelines. Based on the feedback we have had, it appears that IACUCs have indeed done just that.

When the new AVMA revision is published, the OC will again communicate with all the IACUCs to fortify our message and their decision and will prepare and send a position statement to the two federal agencies and the several private organizations that implement animal welfare law in the research context and to relevant scientific societies.


State restrictions on use of controlled substances

The OC is continuing its effort to communicate with each state legislature and/or relevant regulatory agency regarding restrictions on access to and the use of state-controlled substances in ornithological research. All but two states require a “Veterinary Client Patient Relationship” – which makes an AVMA ethical standard a legal requirement in these states. That standard requires conditions that rarely occur in field biology, such as the knowledge on the part of the veterinarian who is using or prescribing these substances to have ” sufficient knowledge of the patient to initiate at least a general or preliminary diagnosis of the medical condition” of the animal, to provide continuing care and treatment, to oversee treatment, compliance, and outcome. Failure to abide by these requirements could cause the loss or suspension of a license. Therefore, some veterinarians may be reluctant to provide ornithologists with state-controlled substances for use in analgesia or euthanasia.


Impact of shutdown on permit issuance

OC published an article on the homepage of OrnithologyExchange explaining the automatic extension of MBTA permits. When the shutdown ended, OC contacted the Bird Banding Lab to determine the impact of the shutdown on the banding permits and reported that information on OrnithologyExchange.


Other activities

  • Continued to monitor the progress of the lawsuits (one filed by several states and the other filed by several conservation organizations) seeking the overturn of a USFWS policy decision that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act does not apply to incidental take; the information is published on OrnithologyExchange
  • Update societies on the status of the nomination of Aurelia Skipwith to head the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Assistance with permits

  • Brian O’Shea – request from USFWS Law Enforcement for additional information
  • Anna Robuck – import from South Africa
  • Pete Hosner – secondary screening by CPB
  • Andy Jones – citizen salvage
  • Jason Weckstein – clearance of import on a CITES permit
  • John Bates – Endangered Species Act permit
  • Sarah Bush, MBTA import permit
  • Joel Slade, banding permits
  • Anjolene Hunt, CITES import permit, Mexico
  • Andrea Townsend, transfer of rehab bird
  • Jean Woods – citizen salvage
  • Kristof Zyskowski – import of fertilized ostrich eggs
  • Rauri Bowie – Wild Bird Conservation Act


Assistance with animal welfare issues

  • Clint Boal and Lou Dinsmore – IACUC request for justification for scientific collecting
  • John Smallwood – IACUC requirement for lit search



  • prepare for Annual OC Board meeting (April 8)
  • Renewal of DC biannual corporate registration