HSUS Pushes to Finalize the Constrictor Rule

US Fish & Wildlife Service Seeks CatX to Avoid Due Process For Injurious Listings

Herp Alliance has learned this morning that the Humane Society of the United States has been pushing and is gaining support to finalize the Constrictor Rule of the Lacey Act to include all nine species of large constrictor snakes originally proposed.

Below is the text of a letter from Mike Markarian of HSUS trying to get members of Congress to sign a bipartisan letter in support of listing all  five remaining constrictor snakes and to elicit support for the finalization of the Constrictor Rule to include all nine species:  Burmese python, yellow anaconda, northern African rock python, southern African rock python, reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda, Beni anaconda, and boa constrictor.

January XX, 2014

Secretary Sally Jewell
United States Department of the Interior
Office of the Secretary
1849 C Street NW, Room 6156
Washington, DC 20240

Administrator Howard Shelanski
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Office of Management and Budget
Executive Office of the President
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
1650 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Room 262
Washington, DC 20503

Dear Secretary Jewell and Administrator Shelanski,

We are writing to request that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) move quickly—and with support from OMB and the White House—to complete its ruling on large non-native constrictor snakes by issuing a final regulation listing the reticulated python, the DeSchauensee’s anaconda, the green anaconda, the Beni anaconda and the boa constrictor as injurious under the Lacey Act.

These snakes pose an unacceptable and preventable risk to the safety of the American people, and to some of our most treasured natural places.  Since 1990, 12 people have died from encounters with “pet” constrictor snakes, including a two year old Florida girl and a three year old Illinois boy who were both strangled in their cribs. Dozens more have been injured or sickened.  Further, these snakes have shown that they can adapt to, invade, and severely damaged native ecosystems, as we have seen with the Burmese python’s decimation of mammal populations in the Florida Everglades, and the boa constrictors displacement of native reptiles in Puerto Rico.  We cannot afford to risk the introduction of additional invasive species that will be expensive and difficult to eradicate.

In a comprehensive 323-page report issued in 2009, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) concluded that nine species of dangerous exotic constrictor snakes present a “high” or “medium” risk of becoming invasive since unwanted snakes commonly escape from cages,  or are turned loose by owners who were never informed their “pets” would grow to over 15 feet long. On January 23, 2012, FWS issued a rule listing four of the nine species—Burmese pythons, yellow anacondas, and northern and southern African pythons, which represent about 30 percent of the trade—as injurious under the Lacey Act. Unfortunately, two years have passed and FWS has failed to take action on the remaining 70 percent of the trade in large constrictor snakes. Unless these species are added to the list of injurious species, the trade will continue to threaten the environment as well as public safety.

The largely unregulated reptile industry poses a significant burden to taxpayers. The FWS, in partnership with many organizations, has spent more than $6 million since 2005 attempting to combat the growing problem of Burmese pythons and other large invasive constrictor snakes in Florida where they are consuming endangered and threatened species, have decimated as much as 99 percent of the area’s small and medium sized native mammals, and are killing family pets in residential neighborhoods.

The ability of an individual to own or sell a dangerous and exotic animal must be balanced against the interests of all Americans in preserving public safety.

Thank you for attention to this urgent matter.



Cc:          Jeanne A. Hulit
Acting Administrator
Office of the Administrator
United States Small Business Administration
409 Third Street, SW, Suite 7000
Washington, DC 20416

3 thoughts on “HSUS Pushes to Finalize the Constrictor Rule”

  1. The humane society needs to look to the animals it takes care of and the destructiveness of feral cats and the problem they pose, listed as the #1 invasive species and having an expansion base much larger than the snakes. But, as with anything, never let a crisis go unused. Snakes are scary so get rid of them. Wonder how many people have been killed/sickened/injured by small dogs this year?

  2. I’m not even going to bother to refute HSUS’s lies, here, because it’s not even necessary to do so, to point out why this is a bad idea.

    The Lacey Act was create to protect the environment and agricultural interests of the country as a whole. It wasn’t created to dictate what people should be allowed to keep as pets, if those interests are not involved. These snakes do not pose any threat to non-tropical areas of the United States, and actual tests have shown that they can’t survive outside of South Florida, on the mainland.

    Even if that were not the case… (yes, even that is actually irrelevant), the fact of the matter is, the Lacey Act only prevents inter-state commerce. It doesn’t prevent ownership, breeding, or sale of the animals. I can still buy a Burmese python. I could buy one tomorrow, and I live in Nebraska. I can do this, because Burmese pythons, like all the snakes of economic importance on the list, are kept and bred in every State in the U.S. where they are legal (which is almost all of them). And several States in which they are not legal.

    This type of ruling, therefore, doesn’t keep people from buying the animals as pets. What it does, is make it illegal for them to take their pet with them, if they move to another State. What should they do with it, then? Well, you know, we hope that people will be responsible, and sell, give away, or place the animal in a rescue… but some people who have to go on short notice very well might just release it. A thing which would not have happened, if they’d been legally allowed to simply take it with them.

    And what is the risk of allowing the current movement of these animals to continue? Um… You know what… I can’t think of anything that would change. It’s not going to result in more releases, after all… it’s banning interstate movement that results in that. So, what exactly does it do? I can’t think of anything.

    Now, what the Lacey Act addition will certainly do, is devalue all of these species overnight, and put many hardworking small business owners out of business. It will destroy their livelihoods, and leave them destitute.

    Now, instead of having a thriving trade in animals valued up to $10,000 apiece, you have hundreds of thousands of animals that are impossible to sell, and hard to give away. Thousands will wind up in the hands of unprepared owners, and rescues will not be able to take them all. Releases will skyrocket. Hobbyists will still breed the animals, because that’s what they enjoy doing, and they will still exist in large numbers in every State.

    Then, of course, a smuggling trade will begin, because those hobbyists will still want to trade cool-looking genes. Since crossing a State line is as easy as driving down the interstate, enforcement will be utterly impossible.

    So now, you’ve replaced a thriving trade in legal, valuable animals conducted by responsible, hardworking families, with an underground trade in devalued, common animals conducted by lawbreakers who don’t care about the welfare of the animals or the environment.

    I say that you’ve done this, because you already did it with the Burmese python. Adding boas will ludicrously compound the issue.

    Well done, UFWS. Very well done, indeed.

  3. Donna, informed people like yourself, shouldn’t only be posting this information here, but sending it to the same bureaucrats the above letters were sent to – Sally Jewell, et al. If they aren’t given the other side, they won’t know it and cannot make an informed decision.

    Even if they throw your letter away as “irrelevant” they have read it and have absorbed its information, whether they like it or not.

    PLEASE, for the sake of the issue, become actively involved.

    ~ Jeanjaz

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