Guideline No. 42: Exotic animals
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- These guidelines are intended as safety recommendations for the cast and crew on a production when working with or around exotic animals. Specific regulations regarding animal safety and care can be found in other sources. The American Humane Association (AHA) guidelines are not in force in Canada, but are generally accepted and observed by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), in the absence of equivalent domestic guidelines.
- When potentially dangerous exotic animals are on set, the Animal Handler should provide the Producer with information instructing the cast and crew on how to behave in the presence of such animals. The information should be attached to the call sheet and must be conveyed to all persons working with or near exotic animals.
- Children should only be near potentially dangerous exotic animals while rehearsing or filming in a controlled environment monitored by an Animal Handler.
- When not on set and whenever possible, a quiet, private area should be provided to exotic animals. Smaller exotic animals should have a separate room that is temperature controlled when necessary. Larger exotic animals should be provided a separate sheltered area where cast and crew are prohibited from visiting.
- A plan should be in place to prevent the escape of any wild or exotic animals and to safely recapture them, without harm to the animal, should they escape.
Insects and arachnids
- Nothing should be done to an insect that would cause it permanent harm or permanently alter its physical characteristics or behaviour.
- When using insects, an Animal Handler knowledgeable of the particular insect(s) should be on set.
- Care should be taken to assure the collection of all insects used. No insect should be allowed to remain on the set or the location. Particular care should be taken when using an insect species that is not indigenous to the area.
- When insects are brought on set for filming, to the extent possible, precautions should be taken to minimize the number of insect that fly into the lights.
Apes and monkeys
- Stages, sets and locations should be checked by the Animal Handler for escape routes and potential hazards. Because apes and monkeys can quickly climb heights and are capable of opening and closing doors, drawers and other objects, any products containing harmful chemicals or sharp items should be removed from the area. Props used on set should be checked by the Animal Handler.
- Human contact with apes and monkeys should be limited to those persons necessary for filming. People with colds or other contagious viruses should remain at a distance from apes or monkeys.
- When apes are used in productions for two (2) or more consecutive days, care should be taken to ensure adequate rest. Animal Handlers should know each animal’s capabilities for dealing with work loads.
- When an ape is working on a set for more than three (3) consecutive full days (six or more hours per day) a play area, empty room or private park where the ape can relax and exercise should be provided.
- Apes should not work after sundown. If they do, it should only occur when the ape has been conditioned to work after sundown.
- Clothes used on apes should be loose fitting, easy to take on or off (Velcro is preferred), and should not obstruct the ape’s ability to walk, hear or see.
- Prior to filming, apes should be introduced to characters or moving objects that are frightening or otherwise unnatural. For example apes should be familiar with any animatronic objects or costumed persons such as clowns or beasts.
- Sets and locations should be kept cool around apes. Apes should not be on set for reasons other than filming, rehearsing, preparing, or otherwise becoming familiar with objects, persons, or other animals that will be in the scene. Apes should not be used as stand-ins or for lighting adjustments.
- When using snakes and other animals in the same scene, care should be taken to protect the safety of both the snakes and the other animals. Each should be accustomed to being around the other.
- Extreme caution should be taken when using exotic venomous reptiles. When venomous snakes are used with other animals or actors, safety precautions should be used for the welfare of all concerned. These precautions may include the use of barrier glass, the use of professional snake wranglers as stunt people, or if necessary, the mouth of the venomous snake may be sutured. Only personnel essential to the scene should be allowed within a fifty (50) metre distance of the reptile. Proper protection (i.e. barriers, gloves, adequate leg guards) for cast and crew who have to work closely with the reptile should be provided.
- The proper antidote (anti-venom) should be selected depending upon the type of reptile. Location of the antidote should be printed on the call sheet. When a live venomous reptile is to be used in close proximity to personnel, and the hazard exists that someone may be bitten, the proper anti-venom serum should be available. A medical attendant, qualified to perform injections and trained in the procedures of administering anti-venoms, should also be available on the set.
- In the event that suturing (closing of vomeronasal ducts) of venomous snakes is necessary, it should be done only by experienced snake handlers accustomed to the procedure. Such action should be approved in advance by the appropriate authorities and meet the following requirements:
- A topical application of a local anesthetic must be applied to the affected area prior to suturing.
- Sutures may not remain in the snake for more than 72 hours.
- When sutures are removed, antibiotics must be applied to the affected area.
- Under no circumstances can the fangs of snakes be pulled. Snake fangs may be cut only when necessary for suturing a venomous snake. Snakes may not be milked.
- Carbon dioxide or dry ice should not be used around snakes or other reptiles.
- It is the Producer’s responsibility to assure the safety of the natural animals in the filming area, and to consult the agency or persons responsible for the removal of wildlife from location sets. Any native animals that remain on the set are subject to the applicable animal safety guidelines and procedures. If native animals are not to remain on the set, they should be carefully removed, relocated, properly housed and cared for, then safely returned to their habitat after filming.
- The Production Company should not intentionally harm, and should take precautionary measures to protect nests, dens, caves, caverns, etc. Care should be taken to ensure that non indigenous animals are removed from the area after production.
- Exotic animals brought to a location can be affected by indigenous pests; this could range from distraction to life threatening situations or the transmittal of diseases between pests and animals. Notification should be provided to the trainer/wrangler/supplier of animal actors of the potential of indigenous pests in the area being filmed.
- For more information on exotic animals or specific guidelines on animal safety in film and television production, please consult an organization such as the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) or the American Humane Association (AHA). Please also refer to Guideline #40 Animal Handling, and Guideline #41 Indigenous Pests, for additional recommendations.