Wild Animals Are not pets

West Virginia Seeks to Prohibit All Exotic Animals

Wild Animals Are not petsAs the new legislative year begins, the first of eight state level bills of which Herp Alliance is aware, restricting the ownership of exotic animals, including reptiles and amphibians, was introduced yesterday in West Virginia.

Senate Bill 371 is clear in its intent:  “The purpose of this bill is to prohibit the possession of wild and exotic animals.”

The animal rights industry has been emboldened following its total victory in Ohio and the total ban on exotic animal ownership that was endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (see PIJAC’s press release here).  The end result has been that the State of Ohio has, as of January 10, 2014, failed and refused to issue a single permit for the ownership of any exotic animals, and through rulemaking, imposed such onerous caging requirements on large constrictors that it has turned into a de facto ban.

Herp Alliance has been aware of bills coming down the pike in at least eight states for many months now.  Although we are not longer an advocacy organization, we will continue to report on these bills and on the actions taken by the various trade organizations and animal rights organizations opposing and defending these bills.

The full text of WV SB 371 is included below.

Senate Bill No. 371

(By Senators Beach, Kessler (Mr. President), Fitzsimmons and Stollings)

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[Introduced January 16, 2014; referred to the Committee on Natural Resources; and then to the Committee on the Judiciary.]

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A BILL to repeal §20-2-51 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended; and to amend said code by adding thereto a new article, designated §20-17-1, §20-17-2, §20-17-3, §20-17-4, §20-17-5, §20-17-6 and §20-17-7, all relating to limiting the possession of wild and exotic animals; expressing legislative intent; authorizing agency jurisdiction; defining certain terms; permitting expansion of the definitions; limiting custody and control of wild and exotic animals; providing a permit for persons who possess a wild and exotic animal prior to effective date; establishing permit requirements; requiring a notarized permit application and fee; splitting of fee with Division of Natural Resources and county humane and animal control officer or the sheriff, in the alternative; providing exemptions; requiring interagency cooperation; and providing rule-making authority.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:

That §20-2-51 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be repealed; and that said code be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated §20-17-1, §20-17-2, §20-17-3, §20-17-4, §20-17-5, §20-17-6 and §20-17-7, all to read as follows:

ARTICLE 17. LIMITING POSSESSION OF WILD AND EXOTIC ANIMALS.

§20-17-1. Intent.

(a) It is the intent of the State of West Virginia to protect the public against health and safety risks that wild and exotic animals pose to the community and to protect the welfare of the individual animals held in private possession. Currently, West Virginia is one of only eight states that lack any restrictions for wild and exotic animals kept by private individuals.

(b) Wild and exotic animals should be regulated for the following reasons:

(1) To prevent the introduction or spread of disease or parasites harmful to humans, domestic livestock and poultry, native wildlife, and captive wild and exotic animals;

(2) To ensure the physical safety of humans;

(3) To prevent the escape or release of an animal injurious to or competitive with agricultural, horticultural, forestry, native wildlife and other natural resource interests;

(4) To prevent the mistreatment of wild and exotic animals; and

(5) To prevent the removal and use of native wildlife taken from the public domain.

§20-17-2. Jurisdiction.

(a) The Division of Natural Resources will be the lead regulatory agency for entry and intrastate movement, sale, transfer, exhibition, possession and release of wild and exotic animals. Determination of adverse environmental and disease consequences posed by wild and exotic animals to free-living native wildlife is the responsibility of the Division of Natural Resources. In regard to disease implications, the Division of Natural Resources should consult with other agencies and authorities.

(b) The Department of Agriculture reserves the right to immediate examination and testing of wild or exotic animals when there is probable cause that the animals are harboring diseases or parasites suspected of endangering domestic animals. Measures deemed necessary to protect domestic animals and agricultural, horticultural and forestry interests, including quarantine, seizure, indemnification and destruction within the legislative authority of the Department of Agriculture, may be carried out independently of other state agencies. The Division of Natural Resources and the Bureau for Public Health will be advised of these activities. Actions taken by the Department of Agriculture will be compatible with the Federal Endangered Species Act and other federal laws.

(c) The Bureau for Public Health reserves the right to an immediate examination and testing of wild or exotic animals when there is probable cause that the animals are harboring diseases or parasites suspected of endangering public health. Measures deemed necessary to protect the public health including quarantine, seizure, and destruction may be carried out independently of other state agencies within the legislative authority of the Bureau for Public Health. The Division of Natural Resources and the State Department of Agriculture will be advised of these activities. Actions taken by the Bureau for Public Health will be compatible with the Federal Endangered Species Act and other federal laws.

(d) Any action taken by the Division of Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture or the Bureau for Public Health is subject to the provisions of the state’s Administrative Procedures Act.

§20-17-3. Definitions.

(1) “Bureau” means the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health;

(2) “Department” means the West Virginia Department of Agriculture;

(3) “Division” means the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources;

(4) “Domestic animal,” or the plural, means an animal which, through extremely long association with humans, predominately as companions and pets, has been bred to a degree which has resulted in genetic changes affecting the temperament, color, conformation or other attributes of the species to an extent that makes them unique and distinguishable from wild individuals of their species. A comprehensive list of “domestic animals” shall be set forth by the division, in consultation with the department and the bureau, pursuant to the rulemaking authority of this article or the current legislative authority of the division.

(5) “Livestock animal” means a captive animal raised solely for meat or animal by-products or as brood-stock held in cages, pens, fences, enclosures or other man-made means of secure confinement that limit their movement within definite boundaries or as further defined in chapter nineteen of this code.

(6) “Wild and exotic animal,” “animal” or the plural mean any animals other than those defined as domestic and livestock, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fresh water fish that are either native wildlife or exotic, including hybrids thereof, which, due to their inherent nature, may be considered dangerous to humans, other animals or the environment. A comprehensive list of “wild and exotic animals” shall be set forth by the division, in consultation with the department and the bureau, pursuant to the rule-making authority of this article or the current legislative authority of the division.

(7) “Person” means any individual, partnership, corporation, organization, trade or professional association, firm, limited liability company, joint venture, association, trust, estate or any other legal entity and any officer, member, shareholder, director, employee, agent or representative thereof.

(8) “Possessor” means any person who owns, possesses, breeds, transports, releases or has custody or control of a wild and exotic animal.

(9) “Wildlife” means all animals occurring naturally in the state, either presently or historically, as defined by section two, article one of this chapter. “Wildlife” are “wild and exotic animals” for purposes of this article, but to the extent that any other provision of chapter twenty of this code conflicts with these provisions, the division will need to clarify the applicability.

(10) “Wildlife sanctuary” means a nonprofit organization as described in Section 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) of the Internal Revenue Code 1986, and its subsequent amendments, that operates a facility that is a place of refuge where abused, neglected, unwanted, impounded, abandoned, orphaned or displaced animals are provided care for their lifetime or released back to their natural habitat and is a facility with the following characteristics:

(A) No activity that is not inherent to the animal’s nature, natural conduct or the animal in its natural habitat is conducted except as needed for routine animal husbandry;

(B) No commercial activity involving any animal occurs including, but not limited to, the sale of or trade in animals, animal parts, animal by-products or animal offspring or the sale of photographic opportunities involving any animal or the use of any animal for any type of entertainment purpose;

(C) No unescorted public visitations or direct contact between the public and any animal; and

(D) No breeding of an animal(s) occurs in the facility.

§20-17-4. Possessing Wild and Exotic Animals Limited.

(a) Unless the activity is specifically exempted, no person may own, possess, breed, harbor, transport, release or have custody or control of a wild and exotic animal.

(b) Permit.– The division may issue a personal possession permit to a possessor of a wild and exotic animal prior to the effective date if:

(1) The possessor was in legal possession of the wild and exotic animal prior to the effective date of this article; and

(2) The possessor completes a notarized permit application for each wild and exotic animal by January 1 of each year containing:

(A) The name, address, telephone number and date of birth of the possessor.

(B) A description of each animal the applicant possesses, including the scientific name, sex, age, color, weight and any distinguishing marks or coloration that would aid in the identification of the animal.

(C) The exact location where the animal is kept and an accurate description of the secure, safe and humane enclosure where the animal is housed.

(D) The names, addresses and telephone number of the person from whom the possessor obtained the animal, if known.

(E) The name, address, and phone number of the veterinarian providing veterinary care to the animal and a certificate of good health, including proof that the animal has been sterilized, from the possessor’s veterinarian.

(F) Certification that the possessor is eighteen years of age or older and that the possessor has not been convicted of or found responsible for violating a local or state law prohibiting cruelty, neglect, or mistreatment of an animal and has not within the past ten years been convicted of a felony or been convicted for possession, sale or use of illegal narcotics.

(G) A fee of $200 has been made. The division shall keep fifty percent of the fee for handling its duties and remit the remaining fifty percent of the fee to the county human or animal control officer, or the sheriff in the alternative, to offset the cost of assisting in inspecting and controlling these animals. This will also provide the counties with important information about the wild and exotic animals in their vicinities.

(H) A plan for the quick and safe recapture of the wild and exotic animal if the animal escapes.

(I) Documentation that the possessor maintains liability insurance coverage in an amount of not less than $250,000 for damages stemming from destruction of property and death and bodily injury to a person caused by a wild and exotic animal.

(c) The county humane and animal control officers, or the sheriffs in the alternative, may be asked by the above agencies to inspect the wild and exotic animal and its enclosure. An inspection may be required by the division prior to issuing a permit. The possessor shall allow the division, department, bureau, county humane and animal control officers, and sheriffs, and their agents, to enter the premises where the animal is kept to ensure compliance with this article and other applicable laws.

(d) The division shall provide all possessor information obtained in the application to the department, bureau, county humane and animal control officers, or the sheriffs in the alternative, and shall strive to create a database tracking wild and exotic animals that these agencies can access.

(e) The division, department, bureau, county humane and animal control officers, or the sheriffs in the alternative, shall work together to share information regarding wild and exotic animals and to devise emergency response plans for emergent situations involving wild and exotic animals. Emergency contact information shall be provided to possessors in the application.

(f) The possessor shall use the emergency contact information immediately if it suspects the wild or exotic animal has a disease, injures a person, escapes or if any emergency arises involving the animal.

(g) Any possessor granted a permit shall notify the division of any changes to the stated information in the permit application at any time. Any changes will be disseminated to the other agencies.

(h) The possessor shall state in its notarized application that it will contact the division, the department, a wildlife sanctuary or an American Zoo and Aquarium Association accredited facility if the possessor can no longer care for the wild and exotic animal prior to releasing or euthanizing the wild and exotic animal.

§20-17-5. Exemptions.

The provisions of this article do not apply to:

(1) Institutions accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association or being mentored through the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

(2) Duly incorporated nonprofit animal protection organizations housing a wild and exotic animal at the written request of the division.

(3) Animal control or law-enforcement agencies or officers acting under the authority of this article.

(4) A person who is licensed by the division to rehabilitate native wildlife. Persons are only exempt for the native wildlife in their possession.

(5) Licensed veterinary hospitals or clinics treating wild and exotic animals.

(6) A wildlife sanctuary as defined under this article.

(7) A licensed or accredited research or medical institution.

(8) A licensed or accredited educational institution.

(9) A lawfully operated circus or rodeo.

(10) A person temporarily transporting a wild and exotic animal through the state if the transit time is not more than ninety-six hours and the animal is at all times confined sufficiently to prevent the wild and exotic animal from escaping.

§20-17-6. Confiscation and disposition of wild and exotic animals.

(a) The division, department or bureau may immediately confiscate any wild and exotic animal if the animal is kept in contravention of this article. The possessor is liable for the costs of placement and care for the wild and exotic animal from the time of confiscation until the time of return to the possessor or until the time the animal has been relocated to an approved facility, such as a wildlife sanctuary as defined under this article or an institution accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

(b) If a wild and exotic animal is confiscated due to the animal being kept in contravention of this article, the possessor must post a security bond or cash with the division, department or bureau in an amount sufficient to guarantee payment of all reasonable expenses expected to be incurred in caring and providing for the animal including, but not limited to, the estimated cost of feeding, medical care and housing for at least thirty days. The security bond or cash does not prevent the division from disposing of the animal after thirty days unless the person claiming the animal posts an additional security bond or cash with the division, department or bureau to secure payment of all reasonable expenses expected to be incurred in caring and providing for the animal for an additional thirty days and does so prior to the expiration of the first thirty day period. The amount of the security bond or cash shall be determined by the division and based on the current rate to feed, provide medical care and house the animal.

(c) If the possessor of a confiscated animal cannot be located or if a confiscated animal remains unclaimed, the division, department or bureau may contact an approved facility, such as a wildlife sanctuary as defined under this article or an institution accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association; allow the animal to be adopted by a person who currently possesses a personal possession permit; or, may euthanize the animal.

(d) If the wild and exotic animal cannot be taken up or recaptured safely by the division, department or bureau or if proper and safe housing cannot be found, the division, department or bureau may immediately euthanize the animal.

§20-17-7. Rule-making authority and agency cooperation.

(a) The division, department and bureau may develop inter-agency agreements or propose rules for legislative approval in accordance with article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code to implement this article and to take other action as may be necessary for the proper and effective enforcement of these provisions.

(b) The division, department and bureau shall cooperate to implement the provisions of this article and to take other action as may be necessary for the proper and effective enforcement of these provisions.

 

NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to prohibit the possession of wild and exotic animals. The bill provides for a permit for those in possession on the effective date for limited exceptions to the prohibition and for removing the animals if they are being kept in violation of this article. The bill expresses legislative intent. The bill establishes agency jurisdiction. The bill defines certain terms. The bill permits expansion of the definitions. The bill limits custody and control of wild and exotic animals. The bill provides a permit for persons who possess a wild and exotic animal prior to effective date. The bill sets forth permit requirements. The bill requires a notarized permit application and fee. The bill splits the fee with Division of Natural Resources and county humane and animal control officer or the sheriff, in the alternative. The bill provides exemptions. The bill requires interagency cooperation. The bill provides rule-making authority.

 

The bill repeals §20-2-51.

 

27 thoughts on “West Virginia Seeks to Prohibit All Exotic Animals”

  1. Some BULLSHIT who in the hell is the government to say what we can and cannot own, jesus we pay taxes,we pay for everything. Land of the free my ass, America controls every aspecT of our lives its a wonder we arent paying for the air we breathe yet. Oh damn I just gave them another idea….. why dont you all worry about politics and important things that actually affect americans NOT WHAT PETS THEY OWN.

  2. People who are being suckered into this “movement” need to keep in mind “Exotic Pets”, which is what they are really referring to, could apply to ANY “non native”, captive bred animal that people keep as pets. Do they not realize that the following animals fall under the definition of Exotic?; Parakeets, Canaries, Finches, Hamsters, Gerbils, Ferrets, Iguanas, Hermit Crabs, ALL Tropical fish, Ball Pythons, Bearded Dragons, Sugar Gliders… the list goes on and on..
    I wish more people would put forth the effort hear both sides of the issue with an open mind and then read the fine print before they fall for the scare tactics the media feeds them. Organizations like Peta and HSUS paint a picture of people going out and capturing wild born animals and keeping them as pets which is a total lie. Obvously this was a common practice years ago but there are already laws in place for that. They use these scare tactics to brainwash people into opening their wallets for their so called CAUSE.
    People need to just educate themselves and not blindly allow themselves to be brainwashed sheep following the wolf in sheeps clothing and hear out the arguments and read the find print before they vote on anything!
    If “Exotic Pets” (AKA “Wild”) are made illegal do people even realize that leaves such a grey area it could mean Grandma can’t keep her Canary or Finches anymore. Maybe they wouldn’t but they have that loop hole. There is a HUGE difference between “Wild Caught” and Captive Bred Exotics. But sadly some people won’t think for themselves and believe the lies the media is feeding them.

  3. The HSUS are about as stupid as the rest, your not going to tell me what i can own first of all. Second Do a little more research, because your just blowing smoke out of your ass. Last but not least we pay your taxes so stop being a douche. whats next are they going to ban cars because people get get hurt an killed in them everyday

  4. There will be a campaign to remove from office anyone that signs on or votes for this legislation. There are those of us who are tired of having to defend our lawful ownership of animals because of ignorant and uneducated people making false claims and pursuing legislation based on fear mongering and out right lies. So, we feel the solution to this issue is to work with other groups and combine our efforts to see that these people lose elections and justify their stance when their stance is based upon things other than fact and the truth.

  5. Here we go again just like last year. I have several different type of exotics from birds to reptiles and there is no way I would give any of them up because of a few bad seeds in the group. There needs to be some rules and regulations other than all they need is food and water . they need a lot more than that

  6. This is bullshit! people should be able to own whatever animals they want it! If this shit passes I know alot of people that will be leaving the state!.

  7. what is with hermit crabs? they are not bad animals
    they cant do anything to anyone
    if they got out of their cage what are they going to do to people NOTHING (the do pinch sometimes but that’s it)
    this is stupid
    I own hermit crabs and I will always own them
    they cant tell me that I cant
    if this stupid bill passes I will keep on owning hermit crabs
    and I wont pay a fine for it because you cant find me

  8. Follow the money… more taxes and fees. I don’t own exotics but you should have the right to own what the hell you want. I like aquariums and should get mine set back up. They can kiss the bottom side if they think they can tell me i can’t enjoy having a tank full of guppies, swordtails or even paranas. Another thing this law is all about control and power of the Elite.

  9. I think WV senate and legisative reps are trying to capitalize and profit on 1 idiots decision to realese a bunch of animals into his community and then kill himself. Just a prime example of how one person can ruin everything for everyone else and the govt not caring if everyone is responsible and caring with the best of intentions, in this case the animals well being. Its one thing to fashion an exotic animal bill to outlay the law on animal cruelty and abuse, that I’m all for, but to take away respectable animal owners the right to be around these animals I am against. These animals are not just commodities they are part of our families. They are a big part of part of our life. I love all of the varrious animals I have the honor to be around and am close to. From feathers to fur, and exoskeleton to scales. They are our friends, our children, or babies. Also There is no “exotic” animals. Just animals, living beings. Every organism and living creature came from the same place, earth, and at some time couldn’t always choose where they want to reside or live. That dosnt make them exotic. It just makes them more beautiful and intriguing to people who don’t see them in everyday life. Its bs to say that “exotic” animals are a danger to the community. Domesticated animals and pets can also cause a lot of damage or harm to a person. Thousands of people across the globe go to the hospital over dog attacks and cat bites. And native species can carry just as many dangers and diseases as animals from around the world. Why single out a group just bc people don’t know, understand, or respect the species that they classified as “exotic”. Anyone in their right mind who works with, lives with, or loves/treat as a family member should know and respect the cautions of being close to an animal. This is just one bill formed by a select few people that plainly show that Big Brother is always watching and the US will never be as free as people wish or want to believe it is. I can only hope that the state of WV stays the way it is and the states citizens have the right to be around these amazing beings.

  10. im from Maryland and moved to West Virginia because I fell in love with the state people where free from the stress of a over powered government telling you cant do anything I do own these animals and continue to there are a lot of people in this wonderful state who love these pets and they shouldn’t be told they cant smash this bill and keep our freedom this is the USA this is wild and wonderful West Virginia keep this state free

  11. I was born and raised in WV and am appalled that they are even considering this law. I think PETA is getting way too out of hand. A lot of people don’t realize that their long goal is to do away with all animals as pets…period. If they keep getting away with getting these kinds of laws they will eventually achieve their goal.

  12. I think people are overreacting about this. There is nothing wrong with having an exotic animal I mean seriously. There are a lot of people I know that have & love their pets. They all take great care of them. So I don’t think this should be passed. Seriously just drop this nonsense.

  13. If they do decide to pass this, I won’t only be losing both of my ferrets, my parakeet, and my betta, but I will also lose my Nicarguan Boa, who is my service animal. I don’t think it’s right that I will have to have panic attacks and anxiety problems just so someone can make a few bucks off of my baby. This is honestly one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard.

  14. If this garbage passes they gonna have to pay me 50k to get rid of my reptiles they were here before this nonsense. Only way my reptiles are going anywhere is they have to force me out of the state.

  15. West Virginia

    Category: N

    Summary of Law: The state only regulates native species to the state. A person possessing a native animal in captivity as a “pet” must obtain a permit. However, there are no state laws governing private possession of exotic animals. (Nor should there be!)

    Citation: W. VA. CODE § 20-2-51

  16. This Is An Outrage How Dare Fish And Wildlife And Protesters That Are Clearly Grouped Up With PETA A Known Activist That Claims The Love Animals Yet Peta Is All For Euthization Of Animals Wich In My Books Peta IsA Fake And A Poser :-( You Shouldnt Have To Have A Permit For Domesticly Bred Exotic Animals,Birds ,Reptiles And Such ??? These Are Not Wild Animals And Exotic Parrots Do Have Feelings This Is Wrong Wrong Wrong I Opose This New Bill On Behalf Of My Friends In The USA :-(

    But Nobady Seems To Care What The Birds Think This New Bill Is Coming To Light Because Of Rescues,Shelters That Alot Of Them Are Fakes And Are Not What They Seem ? They Have Many Peo

  17. I have had my cockatiel for 19 years if he was a health hazard I’d be dead already. Nobody on this earth is going to tell me I have to pay to keep him or that I have to get rid of him. He belonged to my daughter that passed away, I promised her I’d take care of him until he was gone and that is what I AM going to do. PETA can kiss where the sun don’t shine!

  18. Hey, PETA, the pets we own are none of your damned business. For many of us, they are a member of our family. Would you like if we took away a member of your family? Or is it that you heartless bastards wouldn’t actually care? hmmmm….

  19. I own many species of exotics..reticulated pythons, ball pythons, Asian water monitor, and many more. ……..I also own many smith n wessons, remingtons, and rugers..lets see em TRY n take my pets!! not gonna happen. West Virginia IS wild and wonderful, and so am I!!!

  20. LOL. That’s freaking hilarious…let’s SAVE the exotic animals by EUTHANIZING them? Did anyone with a brain even READ the bill? 20-17-6(C)

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