Oiled Sea Otter Rehabilitation Course

Chapter 7 – Introduction

Specific requirements have been established under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA, 1992) for the care of captive sea otters and other marine mammals. These regulations pertain to the long-term captivity of animals in aquaria and zoos. Marine mammals taken into custody for treatment of oil contamination are not considered captive animals under the AWA, because they are being held for veterinary treatment and eventual release to their natural habitat (USDA Regulatory Enforcement and Animal Care Memorandum No. 210). Despite this exemption, the USDA standards should be used when planning rehabilitation facilities and caring for oiled sea otters.

The purpose of this chapter is to describe husbandry techniques that will minimize stress and achieve the highest levels of sea otter well-being in the rehabilitation center. Good husbandry is accomplished by providing for the animal’s physiological needs, safety, and behavioral needs. Physiological needs include proper nutrition, an appropriate thermal environment, good sanitation, and disease control. Providing for the otter’s safety and behavioral needs involves proper techniques of handling and transport, the placement of animals in compatible social groups, and appropriately designed cages, pens and pools.