Definition of Wildlife Rehabilitation

Wildlife rehabilitation is the process of recusing, raising, and arranging for veterinary medical care of orphaned, sick, displaced, or injured wild animals with a goal of releasing them back to their natural habitats. For rehabilitation to be successful, these released animals must be able to truly function as wild animals. This includes being able to recognize and obtain the appropriate foods, select mates of their own and reproduce, and show the appropriate fear of potential dangers.

Each animal is examined, diagnosed and treated through an individually tailored program of veterinary care, hospital care, feeding, medicating, physical therapy, exercising and pre-release conditioning. Releases are planned for appropriate weather, season, habitat and location for each specific species. Long-term survival is the goal when releasing these animals back into their natural habitats.

A wildlife rehabilitator is any person who carries out the above activities. In most areas of the United States, a special state license is required to legally perform wildlife rehabilitation. In addition, federal licenses are required to handle migratory birds, endangered species, or marine mammals and sea turtles.

A common misconception is that the state pays for wildlife care.  In reality, most of the expenses associated with wildlife rehabilitation are paid by the rehabilitator.  Happy Feet Rescue relies on the contributions and donations of people like you to ensure our goal of providing each and every animal in our care proper treatment and release into their natural habitats.

Wildlife Rehabilitator's Code of Ethics

Courtesy of National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association

  1. A wildlife rehabilitator should strive to achieve high standards of animal care through knowledge and an understanding of the field. Continuing efforts must be made to keep informed of current rehabilitation information, methods, and regulations.

  2. A wildlife rehabilitator should be responsible, conscientious, and dedicated, and should continuously work toward improving the quality of care given to wild animals undergoing rehabilitation.

  3. A wildlife rehabilitator must abide by local, state, provincial and federal laws concerning wildlife, wildlife rehabilitation and associated activities.

  4. A wildlife rehabilitator should establish safe work habits and conditions, abiding by current health and safety practices at all times.

  5. A wildlife rehabilitator should acknowledge limitations and enlist the assistance of a veterinarian or other trained professional when appropriate.

  6. A wildlife rehabilitator should respect other rehabilitators and persons in related fields, sharing skills and knowledge in the spirit of cooperation for the welfare of animals.

  7. A wildlife rehabilitator should place optimum animal care above personal gain.

  8. A wildlife rehabilitator should strive to provide professional and humane care in all phases of wildlife rehabilitation, respecting the wildness and maintaining the dignity of each animal in life and in death. Releasable animals should be maintained in a wild condition and released as soon as appropriate. Non–releasable animals that are inappropriate for education, foster–parenting, or captive breeding have a right to euthanasia.

  9. A wildlife rehabilitator should encourage community support and involvement through volunteer training and public education. The common goal should be to promote a responsible concern for living beings and the welfare of the environment.

  10. A wildlife rehabilitator should work on the basis of sound ecological principles, incorporating appropriate conservation ethics and an attitude of stewardship.

  11. A wildlife rehabilitator should conduct all business and activities in a professional manner, with honesty, integrity, compassion, and commitment, realizing that an individual's conduct reflects on the entire field of wildlife rehabilitation.