Author Archives: Herp Alliance

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.

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

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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).

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

PIJAC Hires Animal Rights Fat Cat as CEO

Ed Sayres, who resigned his 10 year tenure as president and CEO of the ASPCA in June 2012.

Ed Sayres, who resigned his 10 year tenure as president and CEO of the ASPCA in June 2012.  Sayres has spent 40 years as a career animal rights activist.

In a shocking development this week, PIJAC announced today 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).

The ASPCA has a written policy against exotic animal ownership, including all reptiles and amphibians.

In fact, ASPCA’s web site states that ownership of reptiles, even corn snakes, leopard geckos and dart frogs is, “bad for the animals, bad for us and bad for the environment.”

In recent years, there has been a split in the reptile community about PIJAC and PIJAC’s intentions.  However, certain members of the industry have encouraged the reptile community to cozy up to PIJAC.  PIJAC has raked in tens of thousands of donation and auction dollars from individual donors, NARBC auctions, and Ship Your Reptiles’ donation program.  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.”

As of today, Phil Goss and USARK are “Association Representatives” of PIJAC.  Reptile insider, John Mack, sits on the PIJAC board of directors.

In the wake of PIJAC’s announcement today, some industry members have sought to distance themselves from PIJAC.  NARBC announced that it will now be donating all of its auction proceeds to USARK (who, at this time, is still in bed with PIJAC).  Presumably, USARK will also eventually break its ties to PIJAC, but that remains to be seen.

aspca quote on reptilesNonetheless, the damage is done.  PIJAC has entrenched itself for years with the reptile community and several industry leaders have served on the controversial PIJAC Herp Committee, which has discussed, among other things, the reptile community’s greatest vulnerability:  the regulation of feeder rodents. In fact, the PIJAC Herp Committee published its PIJAC Herp Community Feeder Rodent Best Management Practices  in September 2013.

All the sensitive information collected in those PIJAC Herp Committee meetings is now at the disposal of Sayres, who for the last decade has spearheaded an animal rights organization with a written policy against the keeping of any reptile or amphibian.

And the acquisition of Sayres did not likely come cheaply.  According to the New York Times,

Several [ASPCA] board members had voiced misgivings about his $566,064 salary, more than double that of Wayne Pacelle, his counterpart at the Humane Society of the United States.

Bernstein, J. June 28, 2013.  Angst at the A.S.P.C.A., New York Times.

In addition to his fat cat salary, Sayres’ actions at ASPCA raised a number of eyebrows regarding financial improprieties, including the $9.3M payout to Feld Entertainment for a lawsuit alleging mistreatment of elephants when it was discovered that ASPCA’s key witness was receiving monies from the other animal rights groups that had joined the suit, including HSUS.

The ASPCA board treasurer, James W. Gerard, was reported to have been livid over a $400,000 payment made to a consultant that netted just $14,000 for a dog cause, which Gerard called, “a failure of management disclosure to the board . . .As stewards of private donors’ monies, I felt it was an inappropriate expenditure.”  Ibid.

Ed Sayres, a career animal rights activist who has lined his pockets with a salary in excess of a half a million dollars, a man who left ASPCA amid questions regarding financial improprieties, and a man who opposes all exotic animal ownership, including reptiles and amphibians, this is who PIJAC has chosen as its new leader, and a leader that the reptile industry, through its auctions and donations has helped to fund.

NO PIJACToday on Facebook, some members of the reptile community were suggesting a “wait and see” approach, likening the Sayres appointment to a BlackOps mission.  Rest assured, Sayres is not a double agent for the reptile community, or even the animal community at large.  If this is like a BlackOps mission, it is the opposite:  the coup is that the animal rights industry just took over PIJAC.

We hope that USARK will join the rest of the reptile community in boycotting PIJAC.

Herp Alliance Comments on Federal Boa & Python Ban: Did you?

US Fish & Wildlife Seeks to Add Five Snakes to Injurious List

US Fish & Wildlife Seeks to Add Five Snakes to Injurious List

Will 5 More Constricting Snakes be Added
to the Injurious Wildlife List?

The US Herpetoculture Alliance alerted the reptile community back in May that US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) planned to re-open the public comment period regarding the “Constrictor Rule.” On June 23rd FWS officially announced the re-opening of a 30 day public comment period as expected; deadline of July 24th at 11:59pm EDT. Herp Alliance filed detailed public comments prior to the deadline. Did you make public comment? Please share your official comment in our comment section below.

In January 2012 FWS published a rule in the Federal Register that added the Burmese python, Indian python, northern and southern African pythons, and the yellow anaconda to the Injurious Wildlife List of the Lacey Act. The Constrictor Rule added 5 of the 10 snakes originally proposed for listing, however five remaining snakes (Boa constrictor, reticulated python,  green anaconda, DeShauensee’s anaconda and Beni anaconda) were not listed at that time, but remained “under consideration.”

Although the reopening of public comment was welcome news and an additional opportunity to provide critical information for the public record, the Herp Alliance believes this action is a clear signal that FWS is prepared to finalize the Constrictor Rule that was finalized in part on January 23, 2012 (77 FR 3330)– adding some or all of the remaining five species of constricting snakes to the Injurious List. Any species listed on the Injurious List cannot be imported into the country nor transported across state lines without a special permit from FWS.

The US Herpetoculture Alliance filed detailed public comment with FWS opposing the proposed rule to add the remaining five species to the Injurious list. We urge you to read them. Our argument focused on the “best available economic and scientific data” and pointed out the egregious flaws in the FWS justification for rule making. Some of the points included:

  1. Major Rule
  2. Scientific Underpinnings
  3. Best Available Science
  4. Arbitrary and Capricious
  5. Conclusions

Additionally, Herp Alliance worked with the best and the brightest in the scientific and legal community coordinating many high quality comments. Please read our public comment and post your thoughts below in our comment section. If you made public comment with FWS, please SHARE with us and please include the tracking number assigned to you.

Herp Alliance tracking number: 1jy-8der-hvz9

Read the US Herpetoculture Alliance Official Public Comments here.

HR 2158 “Snakes on a Plane” Goes to Markup

OperatingAirlinesHeader_tcm14-4317The US Herpetoculture Alliance has learned that, HR 2158: Expedited Departure of Certain Snake Species Act, dubbed the “snakes on a plane” act will go to a markup hearing tomorrow, July 16th, before the full US House Natural Resources Committee. Congressman John Fleming (R-LA), Chair of the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs, is the sponsor.

HR 2158 would allow for greater flexibility in the export of Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus), Indian pythons (Python molurus molurus), Northern African pythons (Python sebae), Southern African pythons (Python natalensis) and Yellow anacondas (Eunectes notaeus) out of the United States.

Currently export may occur only through designated ports as defined by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  When an aircraft departs with export from one of these ports, it may not land within the United States.

HR 2158 would continue to allow for export from 17 designated ports. In addition, it would allow such carriers to make  intermediate stops in other states prior to final departure within a 48 hour time period as long as secure containment protocols are maintained.  HR 2158 does NOT address interstate transport.

Herp Alliance expects that HR 2158 will be marked up and reported out of the US House Natural Resources Committee tomorrow. Whether this bill has the momentum to move further than this remains to be seen.

Stay tuned for updates and analysis from the Herp Alliance.

FWS To Finalize Python Ban: Public Comment Reopens Tomorrow!

The US Herpetoculture Alliance has just learned that the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) will reopen public comment on the “Constrictor Rule” tomorrow. The FWS has announced that public comment will be reopened for 30 days. Further, FWS has decided to reopen the public comment period, but only for the five remaining species that were NOT listed in 2012. The Herp Alliance expects to see FWS publish this announcement in the Federal Register on June 24, 2014.

This action was announced by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) last month, but when reported on by Herp Alliance, was discounted by those with poor access to information in Washington DC as “fear mongering.” Our information is always the most accurate and timely available regarding the future of herpetoculture.

Although reopening public comment is positive news, the Herp Alliance believes this action to be a clear signal that FWS is prepared to finalize the Constrictor Rule that was finalized in part on January 23, 2012 (77 FR 3330)– adding 4 species of constricting snakes to the In jurious Wildlife List of the Lacey Act. Any species listed on the Injurious List cannot be imported into the country nor transported across state lines without a special permit from FWS.

In January 2012 FWS published a rule in the Federal Register that added the Burmese python, northern African python, southern African python and yellow anaconda to the Injurious Wildlife List of the Lacey Act. The Constrictor Rule accounted for 4 of the 9 snakes originally proposed for listing. The remaining 5 snakes, Boa constrictor, reticulated python,  green anaconda, DeShauensee’s anaconda and Beni anaconda were not listed at that time, but remained “under consideration.”

FWS is likely hoping to add information to support their case to list the 5 remaining snakes.  It is imperative that the Reptile Nation respond with quality comments to counter their case. Time is of the essence. Hopefully the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) has been coaching it’s members in making quality comment, apprising members of the scientific community of the impending comment period, and updating economic surveys and profiles since the economic survey done in 2011. This is an unparalleled opportunity to influence the final disposition of the Constrictor Rule. The Reptile Nation cannot afford a misstep now.

Read Public Announcement Here

 

 

 

FWS to Re-open Public Comment on Boas and Pythons!

Boas, retics and green anacondas could be listed as Injurious under the Lacey Act.

Boas, retics and green anacondas could be listed as Injurious under the Lacey Act.

The US Herpetoculture Alliance has just learned that US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has given notice to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) that public comment on the Constrictor Rule will be re-opened. Although positive news, the Herp Alliance believes this action to be a clear signal that FWS is prepared to finalize the Constrictor Rule that was finalized in part on January 23, 2012 (77 FR 3330)– adding 4 species of constricting snakes to the In jurious Wildlife List of the Lacey Act. Any species listed on the Injurious List cannot be imported into the country nor transported across state lines without a special permit from FWS.

In January 2012 FWS published a rule in the Federal Register that added the Burmese python, northern African python, southern African python and yellow anaconda to the Injurious Wildlife List of the Lacey Act. The Constrictor Rule accounted for 4 of the 9 snakes originally proposed for listing. The remaining 5 snakes, Boa constrictor, reticulated python,  green anaconda, DeShauensee’s anaconda and Beni anaconda were not listed at that time, but remained “under consideration.”

FWS has now given formal notice to OIRA that is is prepared to move forward to finalize the rule adding Boas, Retics and 3 anacondas to the Injurious List. Although FWS has announced to OIRA that they will re-open public comment on the Constrictor Rule, they have not indicated when it will re-open, or for how long. Details will be published in the Federal Register. Herp Alliance expects it to be very soon.

Stay tuned to Herp Alliance for fast breaking updates, news and analysis.

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.

Sincerely,

 

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

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)

____________

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

____________

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.

 

UPDATE: Reticulated Pythons To Be Added To Lacey Act

retic5The US Herpetoculture Alliance has just learned that reticulated pythons and green anacondas, along with two obscure species of anaconda, will be added to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act. Boa constrictor will remain under consideration, but will not be listed at this time.

“We are making a final determination to list four species of large constrictor snakes as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act: Reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda, and Beni anaconda. The boa constrictor is still under consideration for listing.” ~ US Fish & Wildlife Service 7/23/13

The Herp Alliance has not engaged in advocacy for some time. Funding for a first class federal advocacy program is extremely costly. We have reorganized as a conservation and education organization.

The Herp Alliance broke this story yesterday. We are incorporating a news and commentary component to our mission. To that end, this information was first published last July in the Department of Interior Semiannual Regulatory Agenda. This notice provides the semiannual agenda of rules scheduled for review or development between spring 2013 and spring 2014. So this information has been available for some time.

Reticulated pythons and the anacondas will officially be added to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act when US Fish and Wildlife Service publishes the finalized portion of the ‘Constrictor Rule’ in the Federal Register.

The reptile and pet trade associations cannot sit fat, dumb and happy while the rights of herpetoculturists are regulated into oblivion.  By the time the collective coma is shaken off, the days of breeding Burmese pythons, reticulated pythons and Boa constrictors may be lost forever.

It is the opinion of the US Herpetoculture Alliance that the only real recourse is for one or both of the trade associations to file a federal lawsuit against the US Fish & Wildlife Service challenging the merits of the original ‘Constrictor Rule’ of 2012.