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Introduction and General Information

Accommodation for wildlife casualties should be designed to reduce the risk of stress and further injury to the animal, while enabling necessary care and husbandry to be carried out with minimal risk to the care-taker.
  • The construction of suitable accommodation may vary widely depending on the species and age of the casualty, but there are several standard considerations which are relevant for all situations.
  • Appropriately designed accommodation will:
    • Minimise the risk of escape of the patient.
    • Minimise the risk of injury to the patient while in the accommodation.
    • Maximise the ease of treatment.
    • Minimise the risk of injury to the patient during capture for treatment.
    • Minimise the risk of injury to handlers (from cage furnishings and from the patient).
    • Minimise risk of transfer of pathogens between patients (and between patient and caretakers).
    • Enable cleaning and disinfection between patients, or be disposable.
    • Allow cleaning with minimum disturbance.
    • Allow feeding and watering with minimum disturbance.
    • Contain food/water dishes which can be easily reached by the occupant, while minimising the risk of soiling and spillage.
    • Provide sufficient ventilation, without draughts.
    • Provide heat safely, if required.
    • Preferably provide a normal light-dark cycle, ideally with natural daylight.
    • Provide seclusion from sight, sound and smell of humans, domestic animals and natural predators.
    • Fulfill the behavioural needs of the patient, as far as is practical.
    • Comply with legal requirements: a wild animal once held in captivity is protected under the same welfare legislation as domestic animals, e.g. Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000; under this legislation it is an offence to treat a captive animal cruelly or to cause it "unnecessary suffering".
      • This includes an obligation to keep all wildlife casualties in a fit manner, in accommodation of a size which allows reasonable movement and with an environment suitable for its normal way of life.
      • (J35.147.w1, P19.2.w1, D27, D28).
      • Under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 it is an offence to keep any bird (excluding poultry) in "a cage or other receptacle which is not sufficient in height, length or breadth to permit the bird to stretch its wings freely", except for birds which are undergoing examination or treatment by a veterinary surgeon, during transportation and for limited time periods (aggregate not exceeding 72 hours) for birds being shown at a public exhibition or competition.
  • IF THE CARER CANNOT PROVIDE SUITABLE ACCOMMODATION FOR A PARTICULAR ANIMAL, ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION, AT ANOTHER FACILITY, SHOULD BE SOUGHT. 
  • Standard cat and dog kennels are not generally appropriate for use with wild animals:
    • They are relatively cold and noisy (particularly steel kennels).
    • The gaps around doors/between bars are likely to allow the escape of smaller species.
    • They may not allow food and water to be provided safely without the risk of the occupant attacking the carer or escaping.
    • They may not allow safe capture of many species and safe removal from the cage.

(P19.1.w3, V.w5, D27, D28, B375.3.w3)

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Transport Containers

  • Transport containers (crates, cages, boxes, bags etc.) should be chosen for their suitability for the species to be transported.
    • This includes consideration of the risk of escape, particularly by large, strong and destructive species and, at the other end of the scale by very small species. 
    • It is recommended that the IATA Regulations below are consulted for crate construction and transport, particularly for species where very robust materials are required.
    • It must be remembered when crates, cages, boxes or bags are being chosen or designed that they may be used for the transport of strong, fit, lively animals ready for release as well as weakened casualties being brought in for treatment.
  • Containers should also be designed to minimise the stress affecting the animal.
  • Adequate ventilation and ambient temperature are usually critical.
  • The container should prevent injury to the handler by the animal.
  • It is important to consider the comfort and security of the animal to be transported.
    • This is particularly important when animals with traumatic injuries are being transported. 
  • Transport containers should be designed to ensure that the animal cannot injure itself on the container and to minimise the risk of existing injuries being exacerbated.
  • During container construction it is important to ensure that there are no sharp edges, nails, wire ends etc. on the inside of the container. Uprights should be placed on the outside of the container if possible, or alternatively "rounded-off" if it is necessary for them to be placed inside. 
  • Consideration should be given to the use of a soft lid to prevent head injury, or the use of a false ceiling or padded layer on the inside of the lid. This may be particularly useful for birds being transported in rigid (e.g. wooden) crates.
    • Cardboard boxes generally have sufficient "give" to minimise the risk of head injury in this way, but must be used with care to ensure the occupant cannot stick its head out (e.g. where flaps join). 
  • When bags or sacks are being used to transport an animal (e.g. a bat or snake), all seams should be on the outside of the bag, not on the inside where the occupant might become tangled in loose threads.
  • In most circumstances it is safest to transport animals with only one animal per container. Exceptions to this include litters / broods of infants and social species. Only animals of the same species should be placed in the same container, and if it is unclear whether or not the species is social, it is safer to keep each individual separate.
  • When putting more than one animal into a container the potential risks of overcrowding, overheating and insufficient ventilation must be considered.
  • The time for which the animal will be transported must be considered.
    • Provision of food and water is important for longer journeys although journey times should be minimised and journeys of more than a few hours should not be required for casualty animals.
    • Food and water should be provided if there is any chance that the individual (particularly small animals) may remain in the transport container for longer than the normal period between feeds for that species and age of animal.
  • Depending on the species and the duration of transport a variety of containers can be improvised in an emergency. Examples of these are cloth drawstring bags, cardboard boxes of varying sizes, plastic cat-carrying boxes, robust transport kennels (pet carriers), wooden crates, robust plastic dustbins, biscuit tins, jam jars and small plastic aquaria with plastic mesh lids.

Ventilation:

  • Any container must provide adequate ventilation for the animal inside it, without draughts.
  • Care must be taken that ventilation holes do not become blocked or covered, for example when several carrying crates are being transported in one vehicle, or when a mesh or clear plastic container is covered with a cloth to provide a visual barrier for the animal inside.
  • Many modern commercially-produced animal containers (e.g. pet carriers designed for long distance transport) have sloping sides to ensure that ventilation is not blocked when containers are placed against one another.
  • Adequate ventilation in containers is particularly important for species which tend to get overheated (hyperthermic) and stressed, such as seal pups (particularly those in moderate to good body condition) and deer.
  • N.B. many species (including rodents, insectivores and carnivores) will gnaw at a small ventilation hole in a box made of cardboard or another relatively soft substance (even wood or plastic) and may enlarge it sufficiently to allow escape.

Temperature: 

  • A transport container should be designed to reduce as far as possible the exposure of the occupant to extremes of heat or cold, and to draughts.

Substrate & bedding materials:

  • The provision of secure footing during transport is always important but is particularly vital for long-legged animals.
  • Sufficient bedding should be provided for comfort, to absorb moisture and excreta, protect against jolts and vibration and to assist the animal in the maintenance of a comfortable temperature. 
  • Hay and straw are not very suitable: hay may easily twine around a limb and constrict it, while both hay and straw may contain spores of Aspergillus spp. fungi.
  • Shavings are generally better than sawdust, as it is less likely that bits will get into the eyes of the casualty and cause irritation. 
  • White shredded paper is a good bedding as it allows blood, urine and faeces to be seen easily.
    • Ideally shredded paper should be in short lengths to reduce the chance of pieces twining around limbs etc.
  • Soft towels may also be useful. 
  • Newspaper is commonly used to line the bottom of boxes and will absorb fluids, but may be too slippery if used as the only substrate for long-legged species.

Light / Visibility:

  • In most cases animals will be calmer if completely enclosed and in dim light. 
  • If one or more sides of the container are not solid they may be covered to provide darkness and privacy, for example using a blanket or towel.
    • Care must be taken that this does not interfere with ventilation inside the container.
  • A cardboard box of the correct size, with ventilation holes in it, may be placed upside down over a wire cat-basket to provide darkness and privacy with less risk of interference with ventilation, and is difficult for the animal to pull into the cage and rip or chew.
  • N.B. If small birds and mammals are to be left in a transport container (even for a few hours), sufficient light must enter the container to allow them to eat.

Carrying:

  • It is essential to remember that transport containers will need to be carried with the animal inside. 
  • Consideration should be given when crates, cages or boxes are constructed as to the likely weight of the container plus occupant.
  • The provision of carrying handles should be considered which will allow the container to be carried securely without excessive tilting or jolting. The handler should not need to put their hands inside the container to get an adequate grip or be close enough to wire mesh for the animal to bite or stab.
  • For large animals, consideration should be given to the possible need to use a removable carrying rods (run through external rings or similar structure), fork-lift truck, roll-bars, etc. to move very heavy crates.

Cleaning & Disinfection:

  • When containers are intended to be used more than once they should be able to be cleaned and sterilised and all bedding discarded and disposed of safely with minimum risk of disease transfer.
  • Containers which cannot be adequately cleaned and sterilised after use should be discarded.

Releasing the animal from the crate:

  • When choosing a transport container, consideration must be given to releasing the animal from the container at its destination with minimum risk of injury to the animal and the handler(s).

(B169.11.w11, D25, D27, P24.233.w11, P24.335.w20)

Legislation and Guidelines relating to animal transport:

The Animal Health Act 1981 (Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order 1997) requires that animals must be transported without causing "unnecessary suffering"; this includes invertebrates (P19.2.w1). See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties - Transportation of Animals for more information.

Standard Guidelines "Live Animal Regulations" (B56) for animal shipping are issued regularly by IATA (the International Air Transport Association) for the transport of animals by air. These provide detailed advice on transport container construction and protocols associated with transport, with particular relevance for long term travel. These regulations must be adhered to if transporting animals by air, and may be a very useful reference when preparing animals for long journeys. Specialist Animal Transport Companies (Shippers) will provide advice on these issues.

The following information is taken directly from the 1993 version of the "Live Animal Regulations" (B56):

General Container Requirements:

For general purposes animals will only be carried in closed containers; carriage in open stall must be especially arranged with the carriers concerned.

Construction

1. Size of aircraft compartment door and area of aircraft hold limit the acceptability of live animal consignments and must be considered when determining the size of the crate.

2. Container must be suitable to keep the animal inside at all times.

3. There must be adequate ventilation on three sides, with the majority of the ventilation provided on the upper part of the container, but note must be taken that there are exceptions to these usual requirements which are stated for the individual species and crate type. Any labelling must not occlude ventilation openings.

4. Container must protect the animal from unauthorised access i.e. doors must be constructed so that accidental opening cannot occur, either from the inside or the outside, and the ventilation openings must be small enough to prevent the escape of the animal.

5. Container must be able to withstand other freight damaging it or causing the structure to buckle or bend. Joints of a wooden container must be made so that they cannot be damaged but the animal gnawing or clawing the container from the inside.

6. Container must be rigid enough to prevent the animal escaping at the seams or joints.

7. Container must not cause the animal to damage itself, i.e. all inside edges must be smooth or rounded. There must be no sharp projections (such as nails) upon which the animal could hurt itself. The ventilation openings must be small enough to prevent any part of the animal to protrude from the container.

8. Container, in general must allow the animal to stand, turn and lie down in a natural manner. (Exceptions noted in the individual species and crate type information)

9. Container must be clean and, if being reused, it must have been thoroughly disinfected or sterilised.

10. Container must be leak-proof. Absorbent bedding must be provided by the shipper that is suitable for the species. Straw is unacceptable as many countries prohibit its importation.

11. Container must be constructed of non-toxic materials. Chemically impregnated wood may be poisonous, as are soldered tin water containers.

12. Container must be easy for staff to handle. Spacer devices should be incorporated into the design as they will provide handles for moving the container as well as prevent the ventilation openings becoming blocked by other freight.

13. Container must give handlers protection from being clawed or bitten by the animal.

14. If Forklift spacers are required they must be at least 5cm (2 inches) thick. Allowance for the extra height must be made when calculating the dimensions of the container.

15. Food and Water containers must be provided, either fixed inside the container or attached to it, with a means of access provided, in case of undue delays during the journey. These containers must have rounded edges and be made of non-toxic materials suitable for the species.


Labelling and Attachments for Crate Transport:

Labels:

1. Contents: Identify the crate with a sign stating "Live Animals".

2. Direction Marks: Show which part of the crate should be up.

Documentation attached to crate:

1. The container must be correctly labelled and marked with the sender's and the receiver's name, address and telephone number. (Labels must not block ventilation holes, especially on small containers)

2. If tranquillisation/sedatives have been used, the name of the sedative (trade and generic), time of administration and route of administration must be clearly marked on the container.

3. Feeding and Watering Instructions must be affixed to the container and a copy accompany the documents. Any feed or water given must be recorded on the container instructions with the date and time of supply.

4. Copies of necessary permits, CITES licenses, health certificates etc. may need to be attached to the crate in an envelope.

Food:

Must be provided by the shipper in accordance with the species requirements. It must be checked that the food does not contravene any regulations of the country(ies) of transit or importation. In the case of sealed containers, feeding is not possible and the shipper must be aware of this fact. Likewise, products of animal origin, such as meat or food containing meat, should not be accepted inside the container for the same reason.

Transport containers - Mammal Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Transport Containers" section above)
Mammal Considerations
  • Many mammals are destructive and/or escape artists.
  • Security (prevention of escape) must be considered in the choice and design of transport containers for the safety of both the animal and the handler(s).
  • Mammals are generally able to fit their whole body through any hole sufficiently large for their head to fit through; this is usually a much smaller space than might be expected.
  • Small holes may be enlarged by gnawing, clawing or pressure; the possibility of air holes being enlarged in this manner and permitting escape must always be considered.
  • Cardboard containers have a very limited applicability for mammals due to the risk of the occupant chewing or clawing through the cardboard.
  • N.B. there is a considerable risk of a severely debilitated/unconscious animal making a sudden recovery, which could result in their escape from a non-secure transport container.

(V.w5, V.w6).

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Transport containers - Bird Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Transport Containers" section above)
Bird Considerations
  • Cardboard boxes are suitable for most birds.
  • Plastic and wooden boxes may also be used.
  • Boxes should be lined with newspaper; a towel or piece of carpeting should be placed on top of the paper if available to provide grip.
  • Wire cages are not usually suitable. They tend to cause stress and also risk severe feather damage.
  • The bird should be transported in a container which is sufficiently large to hold the bird but small enough to prevent it flapping around.
  • Ensure ventilation is adequate: if unsure, make small air holes low down on the sides of the box, not at the eye level of the bird being transported.
  • Transport containers made of porous materials which cannot be adequately disinfected should be discarded after use due to the risk of disease transfer.
  • N.B. Long-legged birds should always be transported standing-up in a vertical container sufficiently tall for the bird to stand comfortably with appropriate head room. The head-room should encourage the bird to stand, but not be so great that it attempts vertical "take-offs". Long-legged birds transported with their legs folded may become permanently paralysed and never stand again (see: Leg Paralysis) (B118.18.w18, V.w5, V.w6).
  • N.B. there is a considerable risk of a severely debilitated/unconscious bird (particularly a large bird of prey) making a sudden recovery, which could result in their escape from a non-secure transport container.

(D24, D26, B118.18.w18, B169.43.w43, V.w5, V.w6).

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Transport containers - Reptile Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Transport Containers" section above)
Reptile Considerations
  • Transport containers for reptiles must be escape proof; a tight-fitting lid is important.
  • Temperature, shade and ventilation aspects must not be forgotten.

    (D28, V.w6)

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Transport containers - Amphibian Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Transport Containers" section above)
Amphibian Considerations
  • Transport containers for amphibians must be escape proof; a tight-fitting lid is important.
  • Transport containers for amphibians should always be damp internally. Substrates used during transportation such as moss / absorbent paper etc. should be soaked with ambient temperature water before transportation.
  • Tadpoles must be transported in water.
  • Metamorphosing amphibians must be able to leave the water if the journey may be prolonged.
  • Temperature, shade, humidity and ventilation aspects must not be forgotten.

    (D28, V.w6)

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Transport Vehicles

  • Vehicles used for transporting wildlife casualties should be selected, as far as possible, to ensure that the animals are transported in a comfortable environment.
  • Vehicles used for transporting wildlife casualties should ideally:
  • Protect the occupants from excessive noise and vibration
  • Protect the occupants from extremes of temperature
  • Provide protection from the wind, rain, direct sunlight and draughts.
  • Provide sufficient ventilation for the animals being transported
    • The degree of ventilation should be controllable.
    • Adequate ventilation should not be dependant on the vehicle being in motion or the engine being switched on.
  • Prevent the animals being transported from escaping.
  • Prevent animals or containers from falling out of the vehicle.
  • Vehicles used for transporting wildlife casualties should be driven carefully at all times, e.g. driven slowly around corners.
  • Minimising noise may include keeping voices down and the radio/cassette player switched off.
  • Vehicles used for carrying transport containers must be carefully measured to ensure that the container will fit inside, before boxing/crating the animals and attempting to load the container.
  • Long or unfamiliar routes must be carefully planned before commencing the journey to ensure that there are no physical barriers (e.g. low bridges may be a problem if a high vehicle is used.) and that the journey is as short and trouble-free as possible.
  • Vehicles should be clean and, where appropriate, disinfected before and after the journey.
  • Vehicle design should allow the animal maximum privacy whilst enabling the accompanying persons to discretely view them as necessary.
  • If possible, wild animals should not be transported in the same vehicle as dogs or other domestic animals.
    • If transport in the same vehicle is necessary, every effort should be made to keep the dogs away from the wild animals, and not to have them in the same compartment.
  • In general, prey and predator species should be transported separately, so that they cannot see, hear or smell one another.

(B36.6.w6, B169.11.w11, D28, P24.233.w11, V.w5, V.w6)

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Short-Term (Immediate/Emergency) Accommodation 

  • Immediate / emergency accommodation is designed to be used for a short period of time only, for example:
    • prior to examination
    • to allow basic first-aid to be carried out, while an animal requires intensive care
    • while specialist accommodation is being prepared.

The most important requirements are warmth, quiet and dark or dim lighting. Special considerations apply for larger and stronger species with a greater potential for destructive behaviour. In general:

  • Short-term accommodation may be relatively small.
  • Short-term accommodation should be disposable or easily cleaned and sterilised between occupants.
  • Short-term accommodation for a wide variety of species may be provided by a supply of cardboard boxes of various sizes, wire cat cages and small glass or plastic aquarium/vivarium tanks with appropriate lids. These should be escape-proof for the species concerned, while providing good ventilation.
  • Wild animals, and prey species in particular, are unlikely to relax in the presence (sight, sound, smell) of their natural predators, including domestic cats and dogs (and humans).

(P19.1.w3, V.w5).

Short-term Accommodation - Mammal Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Short-term Accommodation" section above)
Mammal Considerations
  • Many mammals are destructive and/or escape artists.
  • Security (prevention of escape) must be considered even for short-term accommodation.
  • Mammals are generally able to fit their whole body through any hole sufficiently large for their head to fit through; this is usually a much smaller space than might be expected.
  • Small holes may be enlarged by gnawing, clawing or pressure; the possibility of air holes being enlarged in this manner and permitting escape must always be considered.
  • Open-topped and cardboard containers have very limited applicability, although they may be used under some conditions for seriously debilitated individuals requiring intensive care or for unconscious animals.
    • N.B. there is a considerable risk of a sudden recovery resulting in escape of the severely debilitated/unconscious animal from non-secure accommodation.
  • Specialist accommodation is required for marine mammals.

(V.w5, J15.20.w1)

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Short-term Accommodation - Bird Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Short-term Accommodation" section above)
Bird Considerations For casualty birds the most important requirements for short term/emergency accommodation are warmth, quiet, seclusion, and dim light.
  • Warmth: for sick birds a room temperature of 70F/21C should be provided; for small birds up to 86F/30C may be appropriate (D29);  casualty birds should be maintained at up to 30C for the first 24 hours (B118.18.w18) [in general, smaller birds will require a higher temperature than larger birds].
    • In addition to, or as an alternative to, raising the room temperature, commercially-available or home-constructed hospital cages, incubators, infra-red lamps or even a red light bulb in a desk lamp can be used to provide supplemental heat.
    • (In an emergency an ordinary incandescent bulb has been suggested, but this should be avoided if possible as it keeps the bird in constant bright light.)
  • A cardboard box of an appropriate size is suitable for most bird species for initial accommodation.
  • For small birds, bird breeder cages (if available) provide good accommodation. These are usually wooden cages with a wire front.
  • The floor of the container should be covered with a thick layer of newspaper or a towel; this should be changed daily.
  • Shavings or kitchen paper towelling may be used on top of newspaper, but hay or straw should not be used due to the risks of their containing spores of Aspergillus spp. fungi and also of the material becoming entangled around the feet.
  • Ventilation holes should be provided low down in the box so that the bird cannot see out through them.
  • Whilst the light should be maintained at a dimmed level, sufficient light should enter the container to allow the occupant(s) to feed.
  • Perching facilities should be available for appropriate bird species.
  • Food and water should be easily available but placed where they are unlikely to get contaminated with faeces.
  • Provision of additional oxygen may be beneficial for birds which are having difficulty breathing (dyspnoeic) or are anaemic. This can be made available in a temporary "oxygen tent" using plastic sheeting.
  • Accommodation should be designed to minimise the risk of damage to the bird's flight feathers and other plumage.
    • N.B. Tail feathers may be protected by sandwiching them between two pieces of X-Ray film, or as a lighter-weight alternative a plastic autoclave bag cut to fit and held in place with an appropriate tape which will not harm the feathers on its removal, e.g. Micropore (3M).

(B118.18.w18, B118.20.w20, B156.15.w15, D29)

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Short-term Accommodation - Reptile Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Short-term Accommodation" section above)
Reptile Considerations

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Short-term Accommodation - Amphibian Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Short-term Accommodation" section above)
Amphibian Considerations
  • See: Accommodation of Casualty Amphibia.
  • Temporary accommodation for amphibians must be escape proof; a tight-fitting lid is important.
  • Temporary accommodation for amphibians should always be damp.
  • Tadpoles must be maintained in water.
  • Metamorphosing amphibians must be able to leave the water.
  • (D28)

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Medium-Term  (Hospitalisation) Accommodation

Medium-term hospital accommodation is designed for the short-term care of individual animals or groups of animals, particularly during treatment and rehabilitation.

Hospital accommodation is commonly constructed with hygiene and easy cleaning as the most important considerations, but the specific needs of the patients, including behavioural needs, should also be considered.

N.B. Standard cat and dog kennels are not generally appropriate for use with wild animals due to their general construction, particularly swing, wire doors:

  • They can be relatively cold and noisy (particularly steel kennels)
  • The gaps around doors/between bars are likely to allow the escape of smaller species.
  • They do not allow food and water to be provided safely without the risk of the occupant attacking the carer or escaping.
  • They do not allow safe capture of the animal and safe removal from the cage.

Hygiene Requirements:

  • The possibility of patient to patient spread of infection and the risk of zoonoses must be minimised.
  • Good ventilation is required to reduce the risk of aerosol spread of infectious agents.
  • Rooms should be easily cleaned and dust-traps avoided.
  • Cages should be constructed from impermeable materials (e.g. metal, plastic, fibreglass, sealed concrete) which can be easily cleaned and disinfected.
    • In practice, wood may be used (it is warm, relatively cheap and less noisy) but this is less easy to clean and disinfect and may need to be discarded and replaced if it becomes heavily soiled.
  • Consideration of hygiene should be made in placing food and water containers in an enclosure in order to minimise the risk of faecal and substrate contamination.
  • It should be possible to clean floors and change bedding with minimum disturbance to the occupant of the cage. If such cleaning or changing would require removal of the occupant, the use of a divided cage should be considered. Cleaning may also be timed to coincide with catching and handling of the occupant (e.g. assisted feeding, medication).
    • With a divided cage, the partition can be slid into place so that the patient is safely held in one portion of the cage. The empty portion is then cleaned and food and water replenished. The partition is then removed allowing the occupant to  move into the other side (this is encouraged by the provision of fresh food in that side). Once the animal has moved the partition is replaced and the second part of the cage is cleaned. This is particularly relevant for animals that may become highly stressed and either attack the carer, or damage themselves (e.g. deer and carnivores).

Construction:

  • Construction should take into account the size, strength and capabilities of any potential occupants.
    • This includes destructive ability (e.g. digging species, large carnivores, large herbivores), climbing ability (including foxes and hedgehogs), flying requirements for birds and bats and the abilities of many species to escape through holes much smaller than the apparent size of the animal.
  • The design and construction of any cage / enclosure and its furnishings should minimise the risk of injury to the animal: sharp ends of wire ties, nails, protruding corners etc. should be avoided.

Height:

  • In general, terrestrial (ground-dwelling) species will feel more comfortable if maintained at ground level, while predominantly arboreal (tree-dwelling) species will prefer to be maintained at a distance from the ground.
  • Consideration should be given to the provision of sufficient height for climbing within accommodation for arboreal species.

Substrate:

  • Solid floors should ideally be impervious to organic substances and therefore be easily sanitised, and should have adequate slope and drainage to remove urine and wash-down water.
  • The substrate should be such as to make the patient feel secure and comfortable.
  • Non-slip flooring is particularly important for animals that are likely to damage themselves by falling and/or splaying their legs, particularly long-legged species such as deer and herons.
  • The substrate should be non-abrasive and easily cleaned/replaced.
  • For burrowing/digging animals the provision of a substrate in which to dig is important.
  • The substrate or furnishings should provide an opportunity for seclusion.

Heat:

  • Supplementary heat should always be available for hospitalised animals.
  • A temperature gradient should be provided within the accommodation to allow the casualty to select its preferred ambient temperature.
  • Depending on the animal and the type of accommodation, heat may be provided using heat pads, hot water bottles, infra red heat lamps, a desk lamp with a red bulb, a radiant heater or by increasing the ambient room temperature. (In an emergency an ordinary incandescent bulb has been suggested, but this should be avoided if possible as it keeps the animal in constant bright light.)
  • Heating should be safe and controllable.
  • It is important to consider whether an animal may approach too close to a heat source and harm itself (e.g. receive burns).
  • The heat source should always be out of reach such that direct contact by the animal is not possible.
  • Particular care should be taken with a recumbent animal or a newborn animal (particularly those born without fur or feathers) which may not have the ability to move away from excess heat (e.g. heating pad, heat lamp, hot water bottle) or to approach a heat source if it is too cold.

Ventilation:

  • Adequate, controllable but draught-free ventilation should be provided at all times.
  • Diseases can be transmitted through air-borne spread of agents (viruses, bacteria, fungi etc.).
  • For prey species the scent of predators can be highly stressful: air should not be coming from predator species (e.g. cats).

Lighting:

  • In many cases it is appropriate to keep casualty wild animals under a natural light regime.
  • It is useful to have the ability to reduce the lighting within a room and / or of individual cages as many species are calmer in dim or dark conditions.

Water containers:

  • Appropriate water containers should be provided for the species concerned.
  • Important factors include the position of the container (e.g. not directly under a perch, to reduce the risk of contamination with droppings) as well as size and construction: a small plastic bowl may be quickly destroyed by a badger, whilst a small rodent may easily drown if provided with a large non-tip metal bowl suitable for a badger.
  • Where there is a risk of drowning or the animal being trapped in the water bowl, stones and/ or ramps should be provided within water bowls (even for species such as waterfowl).

Privacy:

  • Wild animals should be protected as far as possible from the sight, sound and smell of humans and domestic animals.
  • Consideration should also be given to keeping predator and prey species separated as far as possible.
  • Accommodation should provide the occupant with an opportunity to hide; this will usually be by means of ample bedding material, a box or a screen.

Social requirements:

  • In general, wildlife casualties are best housed individually.
  • Some social species may benefit from being group housed or housed in sight/sound/smell of conspecifics (animals of the same species). With species such as waders, whereby some species are social and others highly territorial, the information on species-specific behaviour should be consulted.
  • Juveniles of most species benefit from being maintained in group-housing accommodation.

Monitoring:

  • Ideally it should be possible to visually monitor a casualty without the animal being aware that it is being watched.
  • Prey species in particular will "mask" their injury or ill health when under observation and a better assessment of their state may be made if the animal does not know it is being watched.
  • A variety of techniques can be used to view the animal discretely including:
    • peep-holes with a wide-angle lens
    • small windows in otherwise solid door
    • one-way glass panels
    • close circuit television

Handling:

  • The area should be small enough to allow catching without chasing when the occupant requires frequent handling for assisted feeding, medication etc. (unless there are specific catch-up facilities available).

(B11.4.w17, B11.14. B14, B36.6.w6, B64.2.w1, B64.3.w2, B105.16.w3, B117.w1, P24.335.w14, V.w5, V.w6).

Medium-term Accommodation - Mammal Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Medium-term Accommodation" section above)
Mammal Considerations
  • Many mammals are destructive and/or escape artists.
  • Security (prevention of escape) must be considered; accommodation should be checked daily to ensure that no weaknesses are developing/being created which might allow escape.
  • Mammals are generally able to fit their whole body through any hole sufficiently large for their head to fit through; this is usually a much smaller space than might be expected.
  • Small holes may be enlarged by gnawing, clawing or pressure; the possibility of gaps such as air holes being enlarged in this manner and permitting escape must always be considered.
  • An area in which the animal can hide is very important for most species (although in designing the accommodation consideration must also be given to catching the animal at a later stage).
    • Stress may be increased greatly if this is not provided.
  • Consideration should be given to the normal life-style of the species, e.g. burrowing, climbing, flying.
  • Specialist accommodation is required for marine mammals.

(V.w5, LCofC2)

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Medium-term Accommodation - Bird Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Medium-term Accommodation" section above)
Bird Considerations
  • Birds will generally feel more secure in a cage which is open on one side only.
  • Cages with vertical bars is preferred for most species; the bar spacing must be suitable for the size of the bird.
  • Wire netting may be used if suitable barring is not available, but there is more risk of feather damage.
  • Most birds prefer to be located high up, where they can look down on intruders.
  • Cages should be kept as clean as possible.
  • Periodically wash accommodation with hot soapy water or disinfectant e.g. cetrimide (Hibiscrub). (B118.20.w20)

Size:

Accommodation should be sufficiently large to:

  • Allow the bird to stretch its wings fully.
    • N.B. this is a legal requirement, except for birds which are undergoing examination or treatment by a veterinary surgeon, during transportation and for limited time periods (aggregate not exceeding 72 hours) for birds being shown at a public exhibition or competition (Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981).
  • Allow perching birds to perch comfortably on a suitably positioned perch, which ensures that the tail feathers remain clear of the floor and do not become damaged.
  • Allow the bird to stand up straight and stretch its neck.

Substrate:

  • Cage floors may be covered with disposable paper and/or constructed with a removable tray-type floor.
  • Floors should be non-slip (particularly for long-legged birds), non-abrasive and easily cleaned.
  • A net-bottomed cage (floor made of plastic-covered small-mesh netting) may be used for water birds.
  • The use of straw and hay should be avoided, due to the risk of Aspergillus spp. spores.
  • Clean newspaper is often used, being widely available at little cost, and is unlikely to contain Aspergillus spp. spores.

Seclusion:

  • It should be possible to cover the front of the cage with light cloth e.g. linen, stretched taut, or net curtain, to provide seclusion while allowing light into the cage.
  • If an all-wire cage is used, cloth should be used as a cover, over all except one side or part of one side.
  • A box within a larger enclosure may be used to provide a secluded area.
  • Leafy branches may be placed within a cage to provide shelter.
  • N.B. If sheds or stables are used to provide larger enclosed areas (e.g. for herons), windows should be screened, or have vertical bars (e.g. wooden dowels), which are round in cross section.

Perches:

  • Perches should be provided for most species of birds.
  • The size of the perches should be appropriate for the species of birds being hospitalised.
  • The perch should be of such a height which ensures that the tail feathers remain clear of the floor so they do not become damaged or contaminated with droppings or substrate.
  • More than one perch should provided if possible, and with variable diameter and surface texture.
    • Natural branches complete with bark are preferable to smooth, even-diameter wooden dowels.
    • The use of materials such as artificial turf or carpet to cover larger perches may be helpful.

N.B. Tail feathers may be protected by sandwiching them between two pieces of X-Ray film, or as a lighter-weight alternative a plastic autoclave bag cut to fit and held in place with an appropriate tape which will not harm the feathers on its removal, e.g. Micropore (3M).

For sick birds:

  • Thermostatically controlled hospital cages are available. Incubators may also be used.
  • A box cage may be adapted by the addition of a heat source (e.g. from an infrared bulb, or using a heat pad), and by providing only a single perch, near the floor.
  • Usually an ambient temperature of 25-32C should be provided (B118.20.w20) [in general, smaller birds will require a higher temperature than larger birds].
  • Provision of additional oxygen may be beneficial for birds which are having difficulty breathing (dyspnoeic) or are anaemic. This can be made available in a temporary "oxygen tent" using plastic sheeting.

(B118.20.w20, B203, P19.1.w3, V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)

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Medium-term Accommodation - Reptile Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Medium-term Accommodation" section above)
Reptile Considerations
  • See: Accommodation of Casualty Reptiles.
  • Accommodation should be designed to minimise the risk of escape while providing adequate ventilation.
  • The preferred temperature and humidity varies during the day and with the season of the year.
  • Consideration should be given to the native climatic zone of the species: temperate species may require lower temperatures compared with the temperatures used for tropical species.
  • Accommodation which supplies a gradient (range) of temperature and humidity should be provided, allowing the animal to choose a position which is most suitable.
    • Reptiles use behavioural means to maintain their preferred body temperature.
  • An area for seclusion should be provided to reduce stress.

(D28, B151)

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Medium-term Accommodation - Amphibian Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Medium-term Accommodation" section above)
Amphibian Considerations
  • See: Accommodation of Casualty Amphibia.
  • Accommodation should be designed to minimise the risk of escape.
  • The preferred temperature and humidity varies during the day and with the season of the year.
  • Accommodation which provides a range of temperatures and humidity should be provided, allowing the animal to chose a position which is most suitable.
    • Amphibians use behavioural means to maintain their preferred body temperature.

(D28, B151)

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Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation

This section should be read in association with the overview page: Wildlife Casualty Long-term Care. Further reading on the requirements for long-term care is also available in Secretary of State's Standards for Modern Zoos.

Long-term rehabilitation and permanent facilities for wildlife are generally larger and more complex than accommodation designed only for temporary occupancy.

  • This type of accommodation is often unsuitable for animals which require daily treatment.
  • A period in rehabilitation accommodation prior to release is important when an animal has been hospitalised for some time.
  • Long-term accommodation may also be required, for example:
  • Birds which have damaged their flight feathers and cannot be released until these have moulted back.
  • When time required for recovery would make the animal too late for migration.
  • Hand-reared animals prior to release.
  • If an animal is maintained in long-term care accommodation for a substantial period of time, the animal must have some form of environmental enrichment to encourage natural behaviours (possibly through food presentation techniques, cage furniture that encourages activity, or play items that would be found in its native environment). This is to reduce the risk of boredom as the animal becomes accustomed to its enclosure and the possible development of stereotypies indicative of behavioural problems (abnormal repetitive movements such as pacing etc.) (V.w6).
  • Rehabilitation enclosures should be designed to approximate the environmental conditions found in the wild, allowing the occupant(s) to carry out normal behaviours including e.g. digging, climbing, swimming or flying, as appropriate for the species.
  • The size of the enclosure should be sufficient to accommodate a group of animals for social species.
  • Where the enclosure may be used for more than one individual consideration should also be given to the need for visual barriers allowing, for example subordinate animals to get out of sight of dominant individuals, and for the provision of multiple access points to vital resources such as shelter, food and water.

It is particularly important to provide:

  • Privacy: (minimum of one side of the enclosure should be out-of bounds to all personnel and visitors).
  • Water: for drinking, bathing, swimming, as appropriate.
  • Sufficient space for exercise to maintain/regain fitness: including provision of structures for climbing as appropriate.
  • Flight space: for most birds and for bats.
  • Earth/sand for digging: species dependant.
  • Exposure to weather: to assist in regaining waterproofing and general coat/plumage condition.
  • Shelter: from wind and rain.
  • Protection from predators.

(B375.3.w3, D28, V.w5, LCofC2)

Long-term Accommodation - Mammal Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Long-term Accommodation" section above)
Mammal Considerations
  • It is very important to consider the natural history of the species concerned when designing rehabilitation accommodation for wild mammals.
  • Depending on the species, accommodation must include facilities for digging, climbing, swimming or flying and provide environmental enrichment.
  • It must be remembered that animals in this type of accommodation will be (or become) fit, healthy and strong: their potential to damage structures and to escape is greater than for sick/injured individuals requiring hospitalisation.

(V.w5, LCofC2)

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Long-term Accommodation - Bird Considerations
(The species-specific sections should be read in association with the general "Long-term Accommodation" section above)
Bird Considerations
  • Larger aviaries are suitable for many birds during recuperation. They usually:
    • are best placed on well-drained ground
    • are rectangular
    • use a mesh size of 1cm or one inch by half inch (2.5 by 1.25 cm) will keep small birds in and local residents such as sparrows out.
    • use mesh buried to at least 3cm, or mesh the whole floor of the aviary, to exclude rats.
    • have a sheltered section to provide protection from inclement weather.
    • have perches placed at each end of the aviary encourage flying. A "ladder" arrangement of perches may be used to assist birds with flight problems. Perches should vary in thickness and not all be rigid in construction. Natural branches covered in bark are generally more suitable than smooth perches.
  • In many cases, such aviaries may be used for several birds at one time.
    • Care must be taken to ensure that birds are not being bullied and that adequate sheltered areas, with appropriate perches, are available for all the occupants to shelter from bad weather.
  • At least one side of the aviary should be solid to provide seclusion; preferably more sides should be solid or otherwise screened from view.
    • e.g. bushes may be planted close the the aviary.
  • All sides may need to be covered, with only part of the roof open to the elements, in order to provide sufficient seclusion for highly strung birds.
  • Vertical battens (wooden poles) about every 5-6cm on the inside of the wire may be useful to prevent larger birds repeatedly flying into the wire.
  • An aviary height of two metres is sufficient for small passerines.
  • Greater heights (not exceeding aviary length) may be useful for larger birds as flying upwards assists in development of fitness.
  • A bathing area should be available, with water no deeper than the leg length of the occupants, and with a rock or other perch nearby for use while drying after bathing.
  • Feeding hatches may be built into the aviary to allow feeding without entering the aviary: this is particularly useful for species that are easily stressed.
  • To minimise the risk of escapes:
    • The door should open inward and be low in height (minimum acceptable precaution); and/or
    • A safety porch should be used; or
    • Aviaries should open onto a corridor with a door to the outside which is never open when any aviary door is open.
  • Rooms may be adapted as indoor aviaries by:
    • protecting windows with wire netting or close vertical dowels;
    • erecting perches at either end of the room.
    • providing a suitable screened area (with perch as suitable for the species) in which the bird may hide.
  • N.B. an "indoor aviary" does not provide exposure to the elements to encourage preening.

Specialised accommodation is required for some birds such as water birds.

  • Larger and deeper water areas may be required, with sloping sides to allow easy entry into and exit from the water. 

(B118.20.w20, B156.15.w15, V.w5, V.w6, V.w26, LCofC2)

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Detailed Individual / Species-specific Techniques

Associated techniques linked from Wildpro MAMMALS

BIRDS

REPTILES

AMPHIBIA

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UK Contact Organisations and Published Guidelines for Further Reading (Electronic Library)

ORGANISATIONS
(UK Contacts)

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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Authors & Referees

Author Debra Bourne
Referees Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

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