U.S. Federal Laws

Some of these laws apply only to the United States and anyone wishing to import wildlife remains here. Others are international treaties the United States has agreed to join. To report broken links or additional information/laws not covered here, or if you feel there is a specific part of a law that ought to be highlighted in the Notes/Links section that is not already mentioned there, email me at lupa.greenwolf(at)gmail.com. Please include, if possible, links to any relevant laws or regulations, as opposed to anecdotal evidence. I am trying to primarily keep my information to official state and/or legal sources, with a minimum amount of news articles and other secondhand information. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice; when in doubt contact your state fish and game department.

Click here to return to the main Animal Parts Laws Page.

Name of Law Year Passed Countries Affected Notes and Links
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 1973 175 as of 2011; more information, including individual countries, here Main CITES website; searchable database of listed species; helpful FAQ; info on why pre-ban CITES I animal parts are not legal to sell except within one’s own state

This is the most widely adopted international law on the trade in animal parts. A tremendous number of species of animals and plants are affected, and anyone owning, buying or selling animal parts may find this helpful. Anecdotally speaking, when someone is speaking of “pre-ban” animal parts, such as large cat parts, they’re speaking pre-CITES. IT IS ILLEGAL TO SELL PRE-CITES APPENDIX I ANIMAL PARTS INTERSTATE OR INTERNATIONALLY.

Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) 1918 United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Russia Text of the MBTA; list of species covered by the MBTA; regulations on hunting migratory birds; US Fish and Wildlife Feather Atlas for identifying feathersDraft List of Bird Species to Which the Migratory Bird Treaty Act Does Not Apply

In the United States, almost all wild birds are protected by the MBTA; this includes many song birds, raptors, and waterfowl. Possession of any part of the birds or their eggs or nests is illegal under the MBTA, even molted feathers found on the ground (you can’t prove that you found it instead of ripping it off a bird you just shot).

Lacey Act 1900 United States Overview of the Lacey Act; USDA page on the Lacey Act (mostly concerned with plants)

While the Lacey Act is generally better known in the trade of plants and plant-based materials, it affects a wide variety of species of animal as well. It particularly makes prohibited trade in animal parts across state or national boundaries a federal offense (III, B, 2a)

Marine Mammal Protection Act 1972 United States Overview of the MMPA; species protected by the MMPA

This law makes it illegal to possess marine mammal parts (which includes polar bears) in the United States. There is still limited trade in antique parts that predate the law. Please also see the Fur Seal Act of 1966 further down this page for exceptions made for some indigenous peoples.

Endangered Species Act 1973 United States Overview of the ESA; species protected by the ESA; information specifically about the ban on elephant ivory

The Endangered Species Act is probably the best-known among the general American public. Debates about including or excluding species, and the effects these decisions have, crop up every so often in the media.

Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act 1940 United States Overview of the BGPA with a link to the summary and text; 2012 memorandum from the U.S. Attorney General on exceptions for indigenous people.

This is the infamous “eagle feather law”; occasionally there will be an article in the news about someone possessing eagle feathers, killing eagles to sell the feathers on the black market, and in one case, giving then-President Bill Clinton a dreamcatcher decorated with them! There is also debate among Native American communities about whether this law violates the right to practice indigenous religions, as eagle feathers are important culturally and spiritually to a number of indigenous peoples here.

Wild Bird Conservation Act 1992 United States Overview of the WBCA

This law, among other things, prevents the mass importation of wild birds from out of the country for the pet trade and other purposes. Most of the birds covered under the Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species are also covered here.

Fur Products Labeling Act/Fur Products Identification Act 1951/1998 United States Text of the FPLA; more information on complying with the FPLA

While these laws primarily apply to fur garments over $150 in value, they do cover the misrepresentation of furs. The FPIA seems to have been rolled into the Textile Products Identification Act.

Dog and Cat Protection Act 2000 United States  

Text of the DCPA

This law makes trade in domestic dog and cat fur illegal. It is particularly important because these furs are often misrepresented as “rabbit”, “Chinese wolf”, and any of a number of other misidentified or fake animals.

Fur Seal Act of 1966 1966 United States Overview of the Fur Seal Act of 1966; text of the Fur Seal Act of 1966

Prohibits the taking and trade of fur seals and sea otters and their remains, with exceptions made for north Pacific coastal Natives

Truth in Fur Labeling Act 2010 United States Overview of the TFA

An amendment to existing fur labeling laws, this removes exemptions for products that only includes a small amount of fur, but provides an exemption for fur from hunted or trapped animals, and certain crafted and other small-business items.

Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact various Most U.S. states Information on the IWVC

This is an agreement among the majority of the states in the U.S. that residents of one that who violate wildlife-related laws in another may be considered, for the intents and purposes of the violation, to be residents of the state in which the violation took place.

U.S. Customs, Federal Code Title 50 and Import/Export of Animal Parts in the U.S. various United States A nicely detailed explanation of everything needed to export animal parts out of the U.S. legally; an even more detailed rundown of what’s needed for import and export; yet another list of what you need for import/export; text of Title 50 regulations on import/export of live and dead animals; overview of import/export of animal parts; import/export of game animals and birds; import/export of endangered species remains; import/export of jewelry made with wildlife remains, including shellsanimal parts that do not require an import permit but are still subject to inspection; regulations on exporting animal parts from the U.S. including links to numerous other countries’ import regulations

International trade in animal parts requires a lot of paperwork and information; it is NOT as simple as putting a customs form on the package. This set of laws covers a wide range of trade in endangered species, including prohibition on importing and selling even pre-ban CITES I animal parts.

Federal Ban on Elephant Ivory Various United States USFWS Information Page – details what may and may not be traded and where; further legal commentary on the ivory ban
Applications For Federal Permits Various United States USFWS Application Forms – applications for permits to take and/or possess wildlife (live and dead) otherwise prohibited by the laws above (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird treaty Act, Wild Bird Conservation Act, Marine mammal Protection Act, Lacey Act)

Artist & Author Lupa

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