American Bar Association Recommends Constrictor Ban

No BoaThe US Herpetoculture Alliance reported on September 1, 2014 that the Animal Law Committee of the American Bar Association (ABA) had taken a stand against “Dangerous Wild Animals,” recommending a ban on the private ownership of ALL large constrictors, venomous snakes and crocodilians.  640px-American_Bar_Association.svg

Today, the ABA House of Delegates approved ABA Animal Law Committee
Resolution 105
, urging the passage of laws that “prohibit, the possession,sale, breeding, import, or transfer of dangerous wild animals.”
 Resolution 105 states that:

“Dangerous wild animals do not make good pets. Only through private prohibition can there exist  a uniform U.S. legal regime that safeguards the public, protects animals, allocates legal liability and insurance risk properly, furthers a policy of respect for nature, and considers the interests of present and future generations in accordance with the goals of the American Bar Association.”

ABA’s list is broad and over-inclusive, and it has defined “Dangerous Wild Animals” to include, among multiple species of mammals, the following reptiles:

  • All species of alligators, crocodiles, caimans, gharials.
  • Family Atractaspidae: all species, such as mole vipers.
  • Anacondas (Genus Eunectes), boa constrictors (Boa constrictor), Burmese pythons (Python molurus), reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus), amethystine pythons (Morelia amethistinus), scrub pythons (Morelia kinghorni), Northern African pythons (Python sebae), Southern African pythons (Python natalensis).
  • Family Colubridae: boomslangs (Dispholidus typus), twig snakes (Genus Thelotornis).
  • Family Elapidae: all species, such as cobras, mambas, and coral snakes.
  • Family Hydrophiidae: all species, such as sea snakes.
  • Family Viperidae: all species, such as rattlesnakes, pit vipers, and puff adders.

The Report presents new problems for all exotic animal owners and keepers, including reptile owners.  The Report states that,

“the American Bar Association urges all federal, state, territorial, and local legislative bodies and/or governmental agencies to enact comprehensive laws that prohibit the private possession, sale, breeding, import, or transfer of dangerous wild animals, such as big cats, bears, wolves, primates, and dangerous reptiles, in order to protect public safety and health, and to ensure the humane treatment and welfare of such animals.”

This edict, adopted and approved by the ABA, will be a persuasive argument to politicians.

The Reptile Nation needs, now more than ever, effective advocacy, or the Lacey Act’s Injurious Wildlife List will be a moot point because large constrictors will be illegal at the state and local levels.

Kansas Seeks to Ban Venomous Snakes: SB 132

Kansas SB 132 Seeks to Ban ALL Non-native Venomous Snakes

Kansas SB 132 Seeks to Ban ALL Non-native Venomous Snakes

The Kansas State Senate has just introduced Senate Bill 132, that if passed as written, would ban the possession of all non-native venomous snakes in the Sunflower State. SB 132 is an amendment to the existing “Dangerous Regulated Animals” law passed in 2005.

Specifically, SB 132 would amend the definition of “Dangerous Regulated Animal” and removed the grandfather clause that has protected the rights of qualified venomous snake owners to keep and breed their animals, to read:

“Dangerous regulated animal” means a live or slaughtered parts of:  (1) Lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs and mountain lions, or any hybrid thereof; (2) bears or any hybrid thereof; and (3) any nonhuman primate; (4) any wolf, excluding hybrids; and (5) all non-native, venomous snakes.

Nicole Paquette, Vice President of Wildlife Protection for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), wrote this piece of legislation when she worked as General Counsel for the animal rights group now known as Born Free USA. The law passed in Kansas in 2005, is the basis for HSUS’ model Dangerous Wild Animal (DWA) legislative proposal that is being touted as the recommendation of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Animal Law Committee. This is a powerful endorsement for HSUS, and is gaining much traction with legislators and animal law attorneys across the country. 

640px-American_Bar_Association.svgNow, armed with the ABA Animal Law Committee recommendations, it appears a new pattern is emerging in the HSUS legislative strategy to separate animals from their owners. Not only is HSUS targeting states that have not traditionally embraced their extreme ideology, but Paquette and her legislative team are visiting states where dangerous animal legislation has succeeded in the past, and are attempting to make these laws even more restrictive. 

Some have argued that the ABA Animal Law Committee recommendations are somehow unimportant because they have not been fully adopted by the ABA House of Delegates. The US Herpetoculture Alliance cannot emphasize strongly enough that this position is naive and dangerous. HSUS is using these recommendations as a tool right now. Explaining to a legislator, after the fact, the nuances of whether the recommendations have been adopted by the full body is a subtly that will be lost on most lawmakers. HSUS’ model legislation is the recommendation of the ABA Animal Law Committee. That is more than enough for most politicians.

Look to see this pattern of returning to states with DWA legislation already on the books to add further restrictions continuing in 2015. Legislative season is just getting under way. Stay tuned to Herp Alliance for the best news and analysis in herpetoculure.

 

Texas House Resolution Celebrates Cruelty

jaycees logoThe big news for the Reptile Nation from the Texas legislature so far in 2015  is not big cats or primates, it’s the celebration of the Sweetwater Jaycees cruelty and gore exhibition:  the World’s Largest Rattlesnake Roundup.

On January 28, 2015, Representative Susan L. King (R-Abilene) filed Texas House Resolution 251, “Welcoming the Sweetwater Jaycees to the State Capitol for their Rattlesnake Roundup.”

jwj-rattlesnakes-0289

The Sweetwater Jaycees bring live rattlesnakes to the State Capitol each year to promote the World’s Largest Rattlesnake Roundup.

HR 251 claims that the Sweetwater Jaycees share, “valuable lessons about one
of the Lone Star State’s most feared creatures . . . the Western diamondback rattlesnake.”  It describes the Rattlesnake Roundup as, “a three-day extravaganza originally conceived by a group of area farmers and ranchers plagued by an overpopulation of rattlesnakes.”  HR 251 calls the marketing of the Rattlesnake Roundup at the State Capitol a “fun and informative event” and an “unforgettable presentation.”  HR 251 is intended to be an “expression of high regard by the Texas House of Representatives” to the Sweetwater Jaycees for their Rattlesnake Roundup.

children skinningThe Rattlesnake Roundup is a gruesome and barbaric celebration of the torture and slaughter of rattlesnakes.  Rattlesnakes are collected for weeks or months prior to the event each year, often by gassing or pouring ammonia into their underground burrows to force the snakes to surface.  These massive collections of snakes impact many other species as well, including bull snakes, gopher snakes and indigo snakes.  The population of the Western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox), although still plentiful, has suffered severe regional declines due to habitat destruction, road traffic, hunting and persecution for rattlesnake roundups.

headlessAt the 2014 event, 3,890 pounds of rattlesnakes were slaughtered.  Children are offered the opportunity to skin a snake, and afterward, press their hands covered with snake blood onto a wall of hand prints.

This is not an educational event.  It is not an enriching activity for families.  It is a lucrative money maker for the state of Texas, blood money that is reaped by teaching children to have a reckless disregard for the lives of animals and the ecology of our planet.

skinning table Texas residents should contact their Representatives and Rep. King and voice their reasoned opposition to HR 251.

Herp Alliance opposes and condemns HR 251.

Contact information for members of the Texas House of Representatives can be found by clicking on this link.

 

 

 

NC Reptile Ban: HSUS Dangerous Wild Animals

Reptile Ban: HSUS to Introduce DWA Legislation to NC in 2015

The Carolina Tiger Rescue (CTR) announced on their web site that, “Carolina Tiger [Rescue] will join the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in introducing legislation banning the private individual ownership of wild cats in NC.” However, this legislation may cover more than big cats. The HSUS model Dangerous Wild Animal (DWA) legislation, for which they received the stamp of approval from the American Bar Association (ABA) Animal Law Committee in 2014, includes large constrictors (even boa constrictors) and venomous snakes.

The CTR is formerly the Carnivore Preservation Trust (CPT) whose image was tarnished in 2007 when then CPT board member Lorraine Smith was fired after engaging in illegal lobbying activities as the Curator of Mammals for the NC Zoo in Asheboro. CPT has since changed their name to CTR in an effort to reinvent themselves in the mold of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida.

Smith lobbied door-to-door in the legislature with Nicole Paquette, then Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Born Free USA, advocating for the dangerous animal bill Paquette wrote. The NC Zoo is an agency of the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources. State employees are not allowed by law to lobby the legislature. Smith was subsequently fired.

Nicole Paquette is The HSUS's Vice President of Wildlife Protection.  Photo: Pete Marovich/For The HSUS

Nicole Paquette is The HSUS’s Vice President of Wildlife Protection.
Photo: Pete Marovich/For The HSUS

Interestingly, Paquette now works for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) as the Vice President of Wildlife Protection, and the bill she wrote for NC in 2005 has evolved into HSUS’s model DWA legislation endorsed by the ABA Animal Law Committee. If HSUS plans on introducing their model DWA legislation, it will include reptiles.

As of today, the HSUS DWA bill has not been introduced in NC. We don’t know yet who the sponsor will be or what the precise language of the bill will be. The North Carolina 2015 Legislative session just began last week and will run through the end of June. We expect that this bill will be introduced relatively soon.

… and so it begins. ~ J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

It is likely that in 2015 HSUS will seek to capitalize on the endorsement of their DWA legislation by the ABA Animal Law Committee by pushing for an aggressive state level campaign to install their model as law in as many states as possible. Stay tuned to Herp Alliance for the most accurate news and analysis in herpetoculture.


“In the Summer of 2014 the sins of HSUS hit home with a vengeance when HSUS, Born Free USA and other co-defendants agreed to pay $15.75 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed against them by Feld Entertainment under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. As a result, the charity watchdog group, Charity Navigator, revoked HSUS’ mediocre 3-star rating and issued a “Donor Advisory” warning. Charity Navigator issued the warning soon after news of the HSUS settlement made the news. The animal rights behemoth lost its insurance coverage in 2010 likely putting donors on the hook for HSUS’ legal misadventures.” ~ The Last Word, November 6, 2014

Dunedin Votes to Kill Snake Ban

Dunedin City Commission

Dunedin City Commission Votes to Kill Snake Ban

In a move foreshadowed to the US Herpetoculture Alliance by Dunedin City officials on Monday, December 15th, the City Commission voted minutes ago to remove all references to snakes from from ordinance 14-30 (Animals).

On December 3rd the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) reported that, “Dunedin, Florida will likely pass a ban on nearly all snakes…” USARK was referring to a proposed amendment by the Dunedin City Commission of an ordinance banning “poisonous” snakes, adding “constrictor snakes more than 4 ft long.”

The US Herpetoculture Alliance also reported back on the 3rd of December, and again last Monday, that according to the Florida State Constitution, regulation of wildlife was solely under the authority of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and thus ordinance 14-30 and the proposed amendment to add constricting snakes was unconstitutional.

“We are happy to be constitutionally compliant.” ~ Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski

Dr Don Woodman, DVM

Dr Don Woodman, DVM

Fortunately, Dunedin City officials were open to a reasonable conversation. Dr. Don Woodman, DVM immediately went to work personally contacting the City Commission and explaining the constitutional conundrum. At the suggestion of the US Herpetoculture Alliance, Dr Woodman supplied case law to City Attorney Thomas Trask demonstrating legal precedent for our constitutional argument. Tonight, with Dr. Woodman in attendance, the City Commission voted to strike all reference to snakes from ordinance 14-30.

“Thank you to the Dunedin City Commission for considering legal precedent in their decision.” ~ Dr. Don Woodman, DVM

This was truly a team victory. USARK was able to raise the profile of the issue with a large grass roots email campaign, and Dr. Woodman was able to make a well supported and effective legal argument. Dunedin herpers can now breath a sigh of relief. The Dunedin snake ban has been averted!

UPDATE: Florida Ban May Strike All Language Pertaining To Snakes

Dunedin May Strike All Language Pertaining To Snakes From City Ordinance

Dunedin May Strike All Language Pertaining To Reptiles From City Ordinance

The City of Dunedin, Florida has proposed to add a clause prohibiting “constrictor snakes more than 4 feet long” to an existing City ordinance banning “poisonous” snakes.

On December 3rd the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) reported that “almost all snakes will be banned within the city of Dunedin, Florida.” Both USARK and the City of Dunedin were apparently unaware that under the Florida State Constitution, only the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has authority to regulate wildlife in the sunshine state. The US Herpeteculture Alliance pointed out this constitutional nuance of Florida wildlife law less than an hour after the USARK alert.

The reality of this situation is that the ordinance banning “poisonous” snakes and the proposed addition of constrictor snakes more than 4 feet long is unconstitutional under Florida law.

On December 11th the Tampa Bay Times ran an article entitled, Dunedin to take longer look at banning longer snakes, underscoring the constitutional authority over wildlife regulation by FWC. Since then Thomas Trask, Dunedin City Attorney, has been reviewing the constitutionality of the proposed ordinance. Now the Herp Alliance has learned that it is possible that the Dunedin City Commission may strike all language pertaining to snakes from the ordinance.

Reptile Ban in Dunedin Florida Unconstitutional

10511425_665398470208776_5576830582514919296_oAbout an hour ago the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) reported that almost all snakes will be banned within the city of Dunedin, Florida. They did not include a copy of the proposed ordinance. However, if they are correct, the move would contravene Florida’s State Constitution.

“Dunedin, Florida will likely pass a ban on nearly all snakes unless they hear resistance. Tomorrow (12/4/14) at 6:30 PM the revised ordinance will be heard and could pass including a ban on nearly all snakes.” ~ USARK

USARK sent out an action alert with a form letter to their membership encouraging opposition to the proposed ordinance. In the alert they urge Florida residents and parties outside the state to contact the city commission citing reasons to oppose the proposal. What USARK overlooks is that only Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has the authority under the Florida State Constitution to regulate “wildlife.”

“If an ordinance is to be considered, input from citizens and alternatives to over-reaching bans should be at the forefront of discussions.” ~ excerpt USARK form letter

The appeal to city commissioners by USARK attempts to make several arguments, except the most salient one: the Dunedin City Commission cannot pass and enforce an ordinance that is in violation of the Florida Constitution.

It is likely that the City of Dunedin, like USARK, is unaware that this proposed ordinance violates State Constitution. We commend USARK for the effort. However we suggest they refocus their argument on the issue of preemption.

If you plan to contact the Dunedin City Commission consider focusing on educating them to the fact that the authority to regulate wildlife is under the sole purview of FWC.

Link to USARK Action Alert

American Bar Association Recommends Constrictor Ban

No Boa
640px-American_Bar_Association.svgThe US Herpetoculture Alliance has learned that in August, the American Bar Association (ABA) Animal Law Committee took a stand against “Dangerous Wild Animals” in a report that can be read in its entirety here: ABA Animal Law Committee August 2014 Report on Dangerous Wild Animals.  The Report, which recommends a ban on the private ownership of ALL large constrictors, venomous snakes and crocodilians,  concluded that:

“Dangerous wild animals do not make good pets. Only through private prohibition can there exist  a uniform U.S. legal regime that safeguards the public, protects animals, allocates legal liability and insurance risk properly, furthers a policy of respect for nature, and considers the interests of present and future generations in accordance with the goals of the American Bar Association.”

ABA’s list is broad and over-inclusive, and it has defined “Dangerous Wild Animals” to include, among multiple species of mammals, the following reptiles:

  • All species of alligators, crocodiles, caimans, gharials.
  • Family Atractaspidae: all species, such as mole vipers.
  • Anacondas (Genus Eunectes), boa constrictors (Boa constrictor), Burmese pythons (Python molurus), reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus), amethystine pythons (Morelia amethistinus), scrub pythons (Morelia kinghorni), Northern African pythons (Python sebae), Southern African pythons (Python natalensis).
  • Family Colubridae: boomslangs (Dispholidus typus), twig snakes (Genus Thelotornis).
  • Family Elapidae: all species, such as cobras, mambas, and coral snakes.
  • Family Hydrophiidae: all species, such as sea snakes.
  • Family Viperidae: all species, such as rattlesnakes, pit vipers, and puff adders.

The Report presents new problems for all exotic animal owners and keepers, including reptile owners.  The Report states that,

“the American Bar Association urges all federal, state, territorial, and local legislative bodies and/or governmental agencies to enact comprehensive laws that prohibit the private possession, sale, breeding, import, or transfer of dangerous wild animals, such as big cats, bears, wolves, primates, and dangerous reptiles, in order to protect public safety and health, and to ensure the humane treatment and welfare of such animals.”

Without question, this Report will make its way into legislatures across the country as anti-reptile bills are introduced, and an edict from the ABA will be a persuasive argument to politicians.

The Reptile Nation needs, now more than ever, effective advocacy, or the Lacey Act’s Injurious Wildlife List will be a moot point because large constrictors will be illegal at the state and local levels.

PIJAC President / USARK Partner: the Many Faces of Ed Sayres

OPINION

In the wake of the pet industry hiring of animal rights veteran Ed Sayres, questions have emerged regarding reptile industry ties and allegiance to this firebrand. Where does the US Association of Reptiles Keepers (USARK) stand? It has been over a week since the announcement. The Reptile Nation wants to know, does USARK support Ed Sayres?

ASPCA_EdSayresOn August 22, 2014, PIJAC announced that it had appointed Ed Sayres, a 40-year animal rights veteran with a written track record of opposition to reptile and amphibian ownership, as its president and CEO.  Almost immediately, some, but not all, members of the reptile community renounced PIJAC and withdrew financial support.

For forty years, Sayres was an animal rights activist.  And now he is a lobbyist for the largest puppy broker in the world, the Hunte Corporation who shuttles more than 100,000 puppies per year to pet stores all over the world.

In 2012, Ed Sayres said his aim was to raise awareness about puppy mill cruelty and to reduce the demand for puppies that come from puppy mills by asking consumers to pledge not to purchase anything from pet stores or websites that sell puppies.”  Sayres, E.  (2012, June 1).  ASPCA Pummels Puppy Mills With Pressure from Consumers, Politicians.  The Huffington Post.

In 2014, Sayres did an about-face, stating, “I am especially interested in the
challenge of breeding pure-bred dogs on a large scale with humane care standards that prioritize the care and conditions that matter most to the well being and lifetime care of the dog. . . In the future, we will not be debating adoption vs. purchase
.
”  E. Sayres, An Open  Letter to the Pet Breeding Community, August 22, 2014.

aspca quote on reptilesFor ten years, he spearheaded the ASPCA, which has an expressed policy against all reptile and amphibian ownership, stating that ownership of all reptiles and amphibians, including corn snakes, leopard geckos and dart frogs is, “bad for the animals, bad for us and bad for the environment.

Now he says, I strongly believe that responsible reptile owners, which are the vast majority, should be able to keep their pets and not be punished due to the actions of a few bad keepers.”  See  http://pijac.org/blog/my-stance-reptile-ownership-ed-sayres#sthash.OSinBbkk.dpuf.

The best we can say about the many faces of Ed Sayres is that he enjoys a whimsical decision-making style, flitting from one position to the next like a butterfly in a field of poppies.  However, the more accurate description is probably that Sayres is a seasoned politician, talking out of both sides of his mouth to curry favor with whatever audience stands to profit him best at the moment.

At this moment, Sayres is feathering his nest with a fat salary from the pet industry, including the world’s largest puppy broker, Petland pet stores (the Hunte Corporation’s largest customer) . . . and with money raised in auctions and in micro donations to PIJAC, hard earned dollars from members of the Reptile Nation.

Politics Make Strange Bedfellows.  USARK has chosen to remain silent on its position, posting only a few comments on its Facebook page:

USARK on PIJAC

I am not sure what is meant by, “USARK is USARK and PIJAC is PIJAC.”  However, USARK changed its position on PIJAC rather drastically in 2013 and proclaimed that USARK and PIJAC were partnering.  In January 2013, USARK issued a press release that stated that,

“USARK is committed to working closely with PIJAC (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council) on the issue of the release/escape of non-native species in the US. This is an extremely important issue for the reptile industry and for USARK stakeholders. PIJAC has a 10 year head start on this issue and USARK needs to partner with them and report back to you, our esteemed membership.”

In March 2013,  USARK announced that:

“USARK has established an open line of communication with PIJAC in 2013. The PIJAC Board of Directors voted unanimously to provide USARK an honorary membership. USARK looks forward to a working relationship with PIJAC, who has been protecting the pet industry over 40 years.”

And USARK reaffirmed its partnership with PIJAC in its 2014 USARK Promotion:

“USARK is committed to a working relationship with PIJAC (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council) on issues concerning the entire pet community. This is an important connection for the reptile industry and for USARK stakeholders. PIJAC is an established organization dealing with anti -pet legislation and USARK will partner with them and make the entire American pet community stronger. “

While at least one other organization (Pet Industry Distributors Association) has been deleted from the PIJAC list of Association Representatives since Sayres’ appointment, as of today, Phil Goss and USARK remain on PIJAC’s “Association Representatives” list.

It is disappointing that USARK has not spoken out on behalf of its members against the appointment of Sayres as PIJAC’s president, implying that USARK intends to stay in bed with PIJAC, notwithstanding PIJAC’s hiring of Sayres.

photo 1It is disappointing, but perhaps not surprising.  USARK’s Board is heavily stacked with members of the pet industry.  Gary Bagnall, chairman of the USARK board, is also the principal of Zoo Med, a manufacturer of reptile and amphibian pet products that are sold heavily through PETCO and other retail outlets.  Zoo Med is the largest (by far) single contributor to the USARK coffers, giving Bagnall if not exclusive control, disproportionate influence on the direction of the company.

Todd Goodman is the president/CEO of Timberline Live Pet Foods, the photo 2world’s largest supplier of live foods (crickets, meal worms, etc.), also sold heavily through retail outlets.  Although Timberline has made no public statement on their website or their Facebook page, through personal correspondence, Goodman has advised us that, “Tuesday, August 26th, Timberline informed PIJAC that they would no longer sponsor their Top To Top conference nor be a member of PIJAC, specifically because of the Sayres hiring.”  (PIJAC still lists Timberline as a 2015 Top2Top conference sponsor on their web site.) 

Loren Leigh is the founder and owner of LLLReptile & Supply Company, Inc. with four retail pet outlets throughout southern California.  USARK’s president, Phil Goss, was a sales manager for years for Zoo Med before he was promoted to his position at USARK.

The USARK board is the pet industry and the USARK board is beholden to pet industry mega stores, such as PETCO (which has two representatives on the PIJAC board).  Zoo Med cannot bump heads with PETCO without impacting its lifeline business relationship.  We respect and salute Timberline for taking a stand against Sayres, but it makes it even more curious why USARK has not taken a public position.

It is therefore, not shocking news that while most USARK members and donors have expressed outrage at the appointment of a fox in the hen house, USARK has failed to criticize in any way the appointment of Sayres as PIJAC’s leader.

Herp Alliance has supported and endorsed USARK in the past.  We have commended them on the filing of a federal lawsuit challenging the Lacey Act rule making that placed five species of large constrictors on the Injurious Wildlife List.  We have repeatedly asked people to donate to their cause.

USARK-needs-to-clearlyUSARK needs to clearly and unequivocally state its position on Ed Sayres so that the Reptile Nation can decide if it wants to partner with a 40-year  animal rights veteran with a written policy against reptile ownership.

It makes no difference what Sayres is saying today about reptiles because he has demonstrated that he is willing to say whatever he needs to say to ensure that Ed Sayres is as profitable as possible.  His contradictory statements are not credible and the Reptile Nation is not rich with cash to pay his salary while we all wait to see which way the wind will blow Sayres’ opinions next.

Until USARK loudly and firmly denounces PIJAC’s current leadership, Herp Alliance will not support it and will not recommend it.

 

Sleeping With The Enemy: Why is PIJAC in bed with Animal Rights?

pijac-642x336

Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC)

by the US Herpetoculture Alliance

The short answer as to why PIJAC is in bed with animal rights is ‘Puppy Mills’; or maybe more specifically, the money represented by PIJAC’s biggest constituent, the Hunte Corporation (the largest puppy mill broker in US).  But why would the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) hire an Animal Rights  “fat cat” to run the pet industry. In a word? —  SURVIVAL.

In a shocking development, PIJAC announced that it had hired as its President and CEO, Ed Sayres, a man who has made his 40-year career in the animal rights industry, including a decade as the president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

ed1

Ed Sayres, former President and CEO of ASPCA, current President and CEO of PIJAC

Ed Sayres is a man with a storied career as a mercenary for the animal rights industry. While others exhibit ideological zeal, Sayres displays the kind of cold calculation attributed to a contract killer. He has left a wake of controversy involving ethical dealings with other organizations, as well as possible financial improprieties. Last year he oversaw the ASPCA’s payment of $9.3 million to settle a RICO lawsuit filed by Ringling Brothers Circus after the judge threw out a frivolous lawsuit discovering that Sayres’ key witness was on the take from the animal rights plaintiffs.

Sayres’ strengths are fundraising and political deal making. Some in the pet industry have suggested that he is an intelligence asset that has been flipped from animal rights advocate to pet advocate like some cloak and dagger spy novel. It is naive to think that after investing his entire 40 year career in animal rights, that he has suddenly had a change of heart.  Sayres appears more like a conquering general sent to administer the occupation of a fallen enemy.

It may seem counter-intuitive on its face that a pet advocate like PIJAC would seek to hire someone with such strong ties to the likes of Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the zealous world of animal rights. Clearly Ed Sayres is a committed animal rights soldier, but PIJAC’s downward slide since the resignation of its founder and CEO, Marshall Myers in 2010 may have left them with few alternatives. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

MCheadshot

Mike Canning, former President and CEO of PIJAC

To fill the vacuum created by the resignation of Myers, PIJAC appointed Mike Canning as President and CEO in September of 2010. Coming from the financial industry, Canning appeared inept in dealing with legislative challenges at the local, state and federal level. Canning’s presidency left a wake of legislative losses across the country, losing on puppy mill legislation at every level of government. Oddly enough, his one victory was in Ohio where state legislators intimated that he traded his support of a draconian anti-reptile/exotic animal bill (SB 310), for consideration on a simultaneous piece of puppy mill legislation.

Through Canning, the North American Reptile Breeders Conference (NARBC) used auction monies to fund a contract lobbyist in Ohio that acquiesced to SB 310.

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Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS

PIJAC may have been desperate when it decided to join forces with HSUS and the ASPCA on a definition of “puppy mill.” Certainly, PIJAC wanted and needed to slow the legislative march and strong public support of putting puppy mills out of business. In December 2013 HSUS dropped a press release with the headline, Pet Industry and Animal Welfare Organizations Join Forces to Address Puppy Mill Abuse.  In it, Wayne Pacelle of HSUS and Ed Sayres of ASPCA both sang the praises of PIJAC.

“We are pleased that the industry has come together in a meaningful way to acknowledge this abuse, and confront it head on.”  ~ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres.

It is likely that in the course of their close work together on puppy mills, the negotiations with Sayres, ASPCA and HSUS for control of the pet industry began, cloaked as “cooperation.”

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the joint venture between PIJAC, ASPCA and HSUS, the legislative pressure to ban puppy mills continued in 2014. More ground was lost by the pet industry. One small victory in Ohio back in 2012 was not likely enough to satisfy PIJAC’s largest constituent, the Hunte Corporation, America’s largest supplier of pet shop puppies, trafficking approximately 90,000 puppies per year (as of 2007) all over the world.

Since the departure of Marshall Myers from PIJAC, the regulatory environment for Hunte to continue to broker mass produced puppies to the nation’s pet stores had been significantly inhibited. PIJAC’s savvy opponents in the animal rights industry were steam rolling Canning, who quietly left PIJAC in early 2014. With continued pressure from Sayres and Pacelle, the Hunte Corporation seems to have become convinced that the best chance for continued profitability from commercially produced puppies was to try to borrow the mantle of humane treatment from an unlikely source:  the animal rights industry itself with Sayres championing Hunte’s cause.

“As animal welfare and pet industry leaders, we have no greater responsibility than to ensure that dogs in our country are treated humanely”  ~Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS

Likely Sayres will create a set of PIJAC “best management practices” (BMP’s).  Already, he has issued a public statement extolling the virtues of the Hunte Corporation after visiting their headquarters in the puppy mill capitol of Missouri. If PIJAC follows its prior strategies regarding reptile breeders and feeder rodent suppliers, it may create some kind of accreditation process that could be offered to Hunte Corporation puppy suppliers. A move like this would legitimize Hunte suppliers, while leaving other puppy mill interests on the outside looking in. Future legislation could be crafted to exempt PIJAC accredited facilities. This scenario would offer salvation to Hunte, unite the pet and animal rights industries, and give both PIJAC and their new partners  kudos and fundraising opportunities while they claim to have “cleaned up” puppy mills.

Hunte

Make no mistake, this is about money, big money. The pet industry represents approximately $58 billion in annual sales. The Hunte Corporation controls PIJAC and they will do whatever is necessary to keep their puppy mills in operation. If that entails cozying up to former enemies, so be it. PIJAC lost all autonomy with the resignation of Marshall Myers. They have now become a tool of the Hunte Corporation. PIJAC has sold the rest of the pet industry down the river so that Hunte can keep their puppy mills operating. Meanwhile, the animal rights industry has pulled off the biggest coup d’état in the history of the pet industry. As of yet, the repercussions of this upheaval are not quite clear, but this unprecedented development will likely have a negative impact on pets and pet owners for years to come.

Hats off to Ed Sayres for this apparent takeover of PIJAC and the pet industry by the animal rights industry. It was masterful chess move in the fight to decide animal policy in America. Although most animal interests will oppose this unholy marriage, large pet interests will support the move because they want to continue to sell pet food and supplies (and in some cases mass produced puppies). However, trusting people who are against the idea of animals in captivity to preserve the rights of people to keep animals puts the future of owning pets in the United States into question.

Last year the US Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK), the reptile industry trade association, went to great lengths to ‘swear fealty’ and follow the lead of PIJAC. The big question for herpetoculture and the reptile community is whether USARK  will continue to toe the line for PIJAC under the new regime.

Ed Sayers may ultimately be good for the Hunte Corporation, but his long time anti-reptile stance is counter to the interests and the future of herpetoculture and the Reptile Nation. Look for the pet industry to support or turn the other cheek at future bans on reptile shows and internet sales. Further, look for the pet industry to support heavy regulation of feeder animal production. And finally, look for pet industry support on invasive species and dangerous animal legislation that is contrary to herpetoculture. The agenda of animal rights is about to become the agenda of the pet industry. The US Herpetoculture Alliance urges USARK not to compound past mistakes by continuing to support PIJAC.

Say NO to Ed Sayers. Say NO to Hunte Corporation. Say NO to PIJAC. Say NO to the Animal Rights infiltration of the pet industry!