Tuesday, March 10, 2015

#Wolf People appealing license suspension

Company availing itself of judicial review process

Tuesday, March 10, 2015
COCOLALLA - Wolf People intends to appeal the Idaho Department of Fish and Game's suspension of the wolf advocacy company's wildlife exhibition license.
IDFG put Wolf People on notice last year that it planned to suspend the exhibition license for failing to prevent visitors from touching wolves or put up $50,000 to guarantee compliance with a 2012 consent agreement with the state.
Wolf People challenged the planned licensing action and an evidentiary hearing was held last November. IDFG Director Virgil Moore issued a final order last month suspending Wolf People's license.

Wolf People moved for reconsideration, but Moore affirmed his position on Feb. 26, according to an order denying the motion.

The only avenue left in the administrative appeal process is to ask a 1st District Court judge to review Moore's decision.

Coeur d'Alene attorney Art Bistline, who represents Wolf People and its founder Nancy Taylor, said his client will be availing herself of the judicial appeal process.

Bistline argues that Fish and Game's order simply punishes Taylor.

"This is pretty much just a completely punitive measure they're taking without any designs on changing anything," Bistline said.

Moreover, Bistline said the consent agreement established methods for keeping the wolves and public separate, but did not expressly forbid people from touching them.

"The agreement doesn't say a thing about preventing all contact between humans and wolves at all. It never said that," said Bistline, adding that such contact occurs at other wolf education facilities around the country.

Wolf People also has an enclosure which photographers are allowed to enter. The Fish and Game compliance investigation alleged that people were allowed to enter the enclosure with unrestrained wolves.

Bistline, however, disputes that allegation. He said photographers were only allowed in when the wolves were on leashes and under the direct control of a handler.

Bistline likened the wolf photographers to others who engage in pursuits which can place them in harm's way, such as skydivers.

"If somebody wants to get in the pen with a wolf, then let 'em get in the pen," Bistline said.

Some have interpreted the pending license suspension as a closure of Wolf People. The business, however, remains open and would still be allowed to operate even if its exhibition license is suspended for a year.