Author Archives: Herp Alliance

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.]

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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.

 

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.

 

 

RED ALERT: Catx Deadline July 31st at Midnight!

redalert_square

CatX Deadline July 31st at Midnight!

“The US Herpetoculure Alliance has just received word from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that we will receive the extension on “Public Comment” that we requested!” ~ Herp Alliance CEO Andrew Wyatt 

The US Herpetoculture Alliance broke the news regarding the unprecedented and devastating impact the proposed “Categorical Exclusion” (CatX) could have on the herpetoculture community. There is no doubt that CatX is potentially the gravest threat herpetoculture has ever faced. It could remove all meaningful due process from adding animals to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act; allowing US Fish & Wildlife Service to arbitrarily add animals in mass. DON”T LET THIS HAPPEN!

Two weeks ago Herp Alliance CEO, Andrew Wyatt, led a delegation to Washington, DC. Together with our counterparts at the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the Zoological Association of America (ZAA), we made our case to the Small Business Administration (SBA).

We received letters of support from the Committee Chairs of the US House Natural Resources Committee (HNR) and the Ranking Member of the Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee (EPW). Additionally, Congressman Tom McClintock pledged his support in getting answers from the Secretary of Interior.

The Senate EPW asked for a 90 day extension on public comment. The HNR asked that the CatX be completely withdrawn. We will likely not get any answers from FWS in the next few days. Stay tuned for updates.take-action

PLEASE DO YOUR PART! The Herp Alliance has been working hard for you, now you must take action on the most important issue in the history of herpetoculture! SEND AN EMAIL TO FWS WITH YOUR PUBLIC COMMENT!

 

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Send an Email to FWS!

***Copy and paste the following template into an email and send it to FWS (making a comment in the comment section of our blog page is NOT making “public comment” to FWS). Be sure to include the subject line. Make public comment prior to July 31 deadline. Email FWS directly:

Email Address: prevent_invasives@fws.gov

Subject Line: Categorical Exclusion; FWS–HQ–FHC–2013–N044

As a member of the herpetoculture community I am against the proposed US Fish & Wildlife “Categorical Exclusion” from NEPA mandates and I would like to support Senate EPW Ranking Member Vitter’s request for a 90 day extension on the public comment period.

This type of Categorical Exclusion is too far reaching and without precedent. It could facilitate the arbitrary addition of animals to the injurious wildlife list of the Lacey Act; potentially threatening the entire $1.4 billion annual commerce in reptiles and amphibians. Not only would it negate due process, but it would also negate legal recourse under NEPA. Categorical Exclusion could potentially become a tool to destroy my small business. Please consider the following points:

  1. The proposed categorical exclusion bypasses the requirement to consider economic and social impacts under NEPA.
  2. A categorical exclusion would not allow FWS to fully consider the beneficial impacts of declining to list a species under the Lacey Act.
  3. The proposed categorical exclusion is much broader than any of the other eight exclusions that FWS has approved under “permitting and regulatory functions”.
  4. The FWS’s “extraordinary circumstances” exception to a categorical exclusion is unhelpful because it does not apply to actions with high economic impacts.

Thank you.

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Click here to read Senator Vitter’s request for 90 day extension on CatX: 7.24.2013 CatX Comment Extension- Vitter

Click here to read HNR request to withdrawal CatX: PDF_Letter_to_Director_Dan_Ashe_on_Categorical_Exclusion

Click here to read Herp Alliance detailed CatX talking points: USHERP CatX Talking Points 2013

CatX Update: FWS Amphibian Ban!

The US Herpetoculture Alliance has just been made aware of a NEW wrinkle in the whirlwind US Fish & Wildlife (FWS) Categorical Exclusion (CatX) power grab! Sources inside Capitol Hill have just informed us that the CatX is a precursor to the wholesale listing of ALL amphibians to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act. CatX, if enacted, would remove most of the due process afforded the rule making process under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). It would exclude FWS from doing due diligence in regards to scientific, economic and social impacts. In other words they could list ALL amphibians, in essence, just by declaring that they are injurious wildlife!

A petition to add ALL amphibians to the injurious list was fielded by FWS about two years ago. Subsequently, FWS published a Notice of Inquiry in the Federal Register signaling their intention to propose a rule. The US Herpetoculture Alliance predicted this scenario three weeks ago when we broke the news of FWS’s intention to secure CatX. It was our opinion that CatX was a precursor to an attempt to list all amphibians on the injurious list without giving due process to the thousands of species that could be affected. Further, the Herp Alliance believes that this would be only the beginning of additional large scale listings of hundreds of species.

Senate EPW Ranking Member David Vitter

Senate EPW Ranking Member David Vitter

The good news is, the hard work that the US Herpetoculture Alliance has been engaged in all year is bearing fruit. The US House Natural Resources Committee has written a letter to Dan Ashe, Director of FWS, asking that the CatX be withdrawn by the agency. Simultaneously, the US Senate Environmental & Public Works Ranking member, Senator David Vitter, has requested a 90 day extension on “public comment” for CatX. The current deadline is July 31st.

Although the Herp Alliance and our allies have made a strong case for the extension of the “public comment” period, it is imperative that everyone make public comment prior to the July 31st deadline. If we get the extension we can all make more substantive supplemental comments, but time is of the essence on making public comment NOW!

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***Copy and paste the following template into an email and send it to FWS (making a comment in the comment section of our blog page is NOT making public comment). Be sure to include the subject line. Make public comment prior to July 31 deadline. Email FWS directly:

Email Address: prevent_invasives@fws.gov

Subject Line: Categorical Exclusion; FWS–HQ–FHC–2013–N044

As a member of the herpetoculture community I am against the proposed US Fish & Wildlife “Categorical Exclusion” from NEPA mandates and I would like to support Senate EPW Ranking Member Vitter’s request for a 90 day extension on the public comment period.

This type of Categorical Exclusion is too far reaching and without precedent. It could facilitate the arbitrary addition of animals to the injurious wildlife list of the Lacey Act; potentially threatening the entire $1.4 billion annual commerce in reptiles and amphibians. Not only would it negate due process, but it would also negate legal recourse under NEPA. Categorical Exclusion could potentially become a tool to destroy my small business. Please consider the following points:

  1. The proposed categorical exclusion bypasses the requirement to consider economic and social impacts under NEPA.
  2. A categorical exclusion would not allow FWS to fully consider the beneficial impacts of declining to list a species under the Lacey Act.
  3. The proposed categorical exclusion is much broader than any of the other eight exclusions that FWS has approved under “permitting and regulatory functions”.
  4. The FWS’s “extraordinary circumstances” exception to a categorical exclusion is unhelpful because it does not apply to actions with high economic impacts.

Thank you.

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Read letter from Senator David Vitter requesting 90 day extension on CatX: 7.24.2013 CatX Comment Extension- Vitter

Read letter from House Natural Resources requesting withdrawal of CatX: PDF_Letter_to_Director_Dan_Ashe_on_Categorical_Exclusion

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***It has come to our attention that another organization is picking up our press releases, paraphrasing them, and then releasing them as their own. We are not overly concerned with this fact, and will continue to do the work and break the news. We prefer to be inclusive and stay above the fray on  issues that are so vitally important to herpetoculture. Emulation is the greatest form of flattery, and maybe it will provide greater awareness to the community in these troubled times. We welcome anyone who can help spread the word on CatX. We need unity in the herp community if we hope to prevail***

ACTION: CatX Threatens Entire Herp Nation!

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

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

(Some people are attempting to make public comment by commenting on the Herp Alliance Blog page. This will NOT work! Comments must be emailed directly to FWS at email address with sample letter)

The “Categorical Exclusion” (CatX) proposed earlier this month by US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) is the single most dangerous threat ever fielded against herpetoculture! If enacted, CatX would pave the way for FWS to easily add species to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act by waving due process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires due process with science, economics and social impact considered prior to listing. CatX would eliminate NEPA mandated impact studies! Please read this entire alert and take the action outlined below!

Small Business Administration Meeting:

On July 17, 2013, the US Herpetoculture Alliance led a coalition of small business stakeholders and associations in a meeting with the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy (SBA) in Washington, DC. SBA was interested in collecting input from stakeholders regarding small business impacts of the proposed FWS CatX. This was the most important high level government meeting in several years; and likely the last prior to the CatX debate. Participants included representatives from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), Zoologic Association of America (ZAA), US Herpetoculture Alliance, The Frog Ranch, Gourmet Rodent and Vida Preciosa International (VPI). Our coalition was very well received, and we believe SBA will come out in support of small business. PIJAC/USARK were invited, but declined to attend.

Meetings at US House and Senate:

While in Washington, DC, Herp Alliance CEO, Andrew Wyatt met with Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA) from the US House Natural Resources Committee (HNR) and professional staff from the Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee (EPW). FWS published notice of the CatX over the 4th of July holiday weekend without directly contacting impacted stakeholders. It has taken some time to analyze the CatX and formulate an informed opinion. The current deadline for public comment is July 31st. The Herp Alliance, AZA and ZAA have all requested that FWS extend the deadline for public comment on CatX by 60 days. HNR and EPW are supportive of our requests.

On behalf of the Herp Alliance, Congressman McClintock promised to ask new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell whether she was aware of the CatX and it’s implications.

Congressman Tom McClintock, Frog Ranch President Kim Thomas and US Herpetoculture Alliance CEO Andrew Wyatt

Congressman Tom McClintock, Frog Ranch President Kim Thomas and US Herpetoculture Alliance CEO Andrew Wyatt

“Madam Secretary, you may be aware that FWS recently proposed a rule for Categorical Exemption from NEPA mandates regarding “Injurious Wildlife Listings” under the Lacey Act. This Committee understands well the challenges in dealing with invasive species, however, I am concerned that exempting the FWS from addressing the Environmental, Economic and Social impacts of proposed additions to the list could be extremely damaging to small business; as several of the species FWS seems to be targeting are widely traded and would have a significant economic impact.  I’d like your commitment to look into this matter and get back to me before the service finalizes their rule making on this issue”. ~ Congressman Tom McClintock

The US Herpetoculture Alliance expects to have an answer from Secretary Jewell prior to the July 31st deadline for public comment.

Make Public Comment Today; Deadline July 31st!

It is of paramount importance that the herpetoculture community take CatX seriously and make comment prior to the deadline. Herp Alliance CEO Andrew Wyatt expressed his concerns regarding CatX, “I am afraid that CatX has not registered with herpers… this is the greatest threat to ownership and trade of herps in the history of herpetoculture”! CatX is a much greater threat than the python ban. FWS seeks to completely exclude themselves from the scientific and economic considerations they currently must observe. If CatX is enacted FWS can arbitrarily add any animal to the Injurious Wildlife list without due process under NEPA. Further, legal recourse under NEPA would no longer be available. Wyatt added, “Make no mistake, this is the biggest threat we have ever faced. Nothing is safe under CatX. All reptiles and amphibians are at risk! Please make public comment”.

The Herp Alliance implores you to make public comment prior to the deadline of July 31, 2013. We have developed a template covering the most pertinent talking points along with an individual request for a 60 day extension on public comment. You can also use the talking points to write your own comment. Email us at president@usherp.org for more detailed talking points.

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***Copy and paste the following template into an email and send it to FWS. Be sure to include the subject line. Make public comment prior to July 31 deadline. Email directly to:

Email Address: prevent_invasives@fws.gov

Subject Line: Categorical Exclusion; FWS–HQ–FHC–2013–N044

I am against the proposed US Fish & Wildlife “Categorical Exclusion” from NEPA mandates. This action could facilitate the arbitrary addition of animals to the injurious wildlife list of the Lacey Act; potentially threatening the entire $1.4 billion annual commerce in reptiles and amphibians. Not only would it negate due process, but it would also negate legal recourse under NEPA. Categorical Exclusion could potentially become a tool to destroy my small business. Please consider the following points:

  1. The proposed categorical exclusion bypasses the requirement to consider economic and social impacts under NEPA.
  2. A categorical exclusion would not allow FWS to fully consider the beneficial impacts of declining to list a species under the Lacey Act.
  3. The proposed categorical exclusion is much broader than any of the other eight exclusions that FWS has approved under “permitting and regulatory functions”.
  4. The FWS’s “extraordinary circumstances” exception to a categorical exclusion is unhelpful because it does not apply to actions with high economic impacts.

Additionally, the 30 day public comment period is far too short to make a fully informed comment. FWS published the proposed rule in the federal register over the holiday weekend. 30 days is not adequate to get full participation and quality comments. I am requesting that the public comment period be extended by 60 days.

Thank you.

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The US Herpetoculture Alliance remains committed to providing the most sophisticated and effective advocacy available for herpetoculture. Others cannot match our talent, experience or high level connections. We break the news first, provide in depth analysis on the issues and support the community with the most effective advocacy strategy and tools.

Click here for FWS notice in Federal Register on CatX: NEPA-FWS

Click here for US Herpetoculture Alliance analysis/ talking points on Cat X: USHERP CatX Talking Points 2013

Herp Alliance Leads Delegation to Washington DC

Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy

Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy

On July 9, 2013 the US Herpetoculture Alliance CEO Andrew Wyatt was contacted by Assistant Chief Counsel from the White House Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy (SBA). SBA is seeking input on the potential small business impact of the newly proposed Categorical Exclusion rule, where by the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) seeks to avoid due process mandated under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Consistent with their mission of protecting small business from undue governmental regulation, SBA has requested that Wyatt facilitate industry participation in gathering information that will be useful to support small business stakeholders in the rule making process. To that end, the Herp Alliance has invited stakeholders to participate in a meeting to be held next week at the Office of Advocacy in Washington DC.

The invitation list includes representatives of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Counsel (PIJAC), FELD Entertainment, Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), Zoological Association of America (ZAA) and the US Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK). Additionally, we have requested stakeholder participation from individual businesses that feel the proposed rule would negatively impact their particular small businesses.

US Herpetoculture Alliance CEO Andrew Wyatt

US Herpetoculture Alliance CEO Andrew Wyatt

This Categorical Exclusion from NEPA is NOT just about constrictor snakes. It could potentially effect hundreds, even thousands of species… and remember the potential for a rule adding ALL amphibians to the injurious list is still outstanding.

The US Herpetoculture Alliance is opposed to a Categorical Exclusion of NEPA mandates. An exclusion would make it easier for FWS to arbitrarily add animals important to zoos, research, education, entertainment and herpetoculture, to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act. The SBA recognizes that Andrew Wyatt has been a central figure in the Lacey Act “injurious debate” for almost six years; and as such has enlisted his assistance. The Herp Alliance appreciates that SBA is giving us an opportunity to help small business on this important issue.

Wyatt stated that, “SBA support opposing the Constrictor Rule was enormously helpful in 2010-2011. Now we have an opportunity to garner that support once again.”

Additionally, the US Herpetoculture Alliance is requesting a 30 day extension from FWS on public comment for the proposed Categorical Exclusion rule. Currently the deadline for public comment is July 31st, but FWS published their announcement on a busy holiday weekend without notice to stakeholders. We feel it is only fair to give as many stakeholders as possible an opportunity to comment.

Click here to read more about the Categorical Exclusion.

Please post questions and comments below!

 

California AB339: 4 Inch Turtles?

         All That is Gold Does Not Glitter”- JRR Tolkien

Recently it has been reported that CA AB339, dubbed the “Swap Meet Bill”, has been amended to exempt, “Any reptile and aquatic trade show…”. While this is true, the full implications of AB339 have not been addressed. The United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) has reported that, “In April, a joint effort between USARK and PIJAC had this bill amended to exclude reptile shows.”  This statement was made with no reference to other qualifying language in the bill that could have notable consequences for show promoters and vendors; qualifications that the US Herpetoculture Alliance believes could nullify the exemption, and/or limit the types of transactions that could be engaged in at California reptile shows.

FDA-Logo-jpgWhile the US Herpetoculture Alliance commends the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Counsel (PIJAC) and it’s “pet reptile” arm, USARK,  for securing the exemption, the full consequences of AB339 suggest closer scrutiny is appropriate. Due diligence and careful scrutiny are the hallmarks of honest and effective advocacy.

The critical questions are these:

1)  While not implicit in the bill, does AB339 give the State of California de-facto authority to enforce the Food and Drug Administration’s four inch turtle rule that has been on the books since the 1970′s? And if so;

2) Would that authority nullify the reptile show exemption if reptile show promoters continue to allow venders to sell baby turtles and tortoises; subjecting vendors to potential fines and disciplinary action?

3) Why have these questions not been explained by those that reported on AB339?

It appears that Section 122373 of AB 339 would indeed give the State authority to enforce the FDA “Four Inch Turtle” law:

large_14turtle“ This chapter shall not apply to the following: (j) Any reptile and aquatic trade show, provided all of the following circumstances exist: (2) The show’s sponsor or permittee ensures compliance with all federal, state, and local animal welfare and animal control laws.”

It is possible that these questions may be answered in time, when and if AB339 is passed, but the US Herpetoculture Alliance wants to give notice that California show promoters and their vendors could be at risk if they continue to sell baby turtles and tortoises at California reptile shows (if AB339 is indeed passed).

It is our hope that PIJAC/USARK have already vetted these questions and answers are forthcoming, but it is no secret that “bricks and mortar” pet stores are already subject to the FDA four inch turtle law. The lack of an explanation for stakeholders on these points begs another question, “Was the reference to federal law overlooked?”

If the implications of Section 122373 are as they appear, AB339 would “even the playing field” between pet stores and hobbyist trade shows taking away the current competitive advantages held by show venues. Show vendors would be subject to the same rules as pet stores… No sales of baby turtles and tortoises.

The US Herpetoculture Alliance continues to OPPOSE AB339, but with support from the pet industry and animal rights advocates it may already be a forgone conclusion.

The Herp Alliance is your premier source for cutting edge analysis on issues that impact herpetoculture.

 

 

 

 

 

Python Update: Injurious Wildlife List

US Fish & Wildlife Service To Finalize Constrictor Rule-making

460012_2928585807792_1055351962_32455758_360923696_oThe US Herpetoculture Alliance has confirmed that the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has stated it’s intention to finalize the constrictor rule-making in the Summer of 2013. Known as the “Constrictor Rule”, this regulatory effort by FWS was initiated in 2008, and finalized in part in January 2012. The partially finalized rule added Burmese pythons and three other constrictor snakes to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act. Five other constricting snakes, including Boa constrictor and reticulated python remain in regulatory limbo designated as “under consideration.” The scientific and economic argument made by FWS to list the four constrictors was widely regarded as suspect. There is no science regarding the remaining five. The Herp Alliance calls on FWS to release the five remaining constrictors from further consideration.

Wyatt-HNR-2012

Andrew Wyatt, CEO US Herpetoculture Alliance

In April Herp Alliance CEO, Andrew Wyatt filed a request for regulatory review with the White House Office of Management and Budget based on a “regulatory uncertainty” costing American herpetoculture hundreds of millions of dollars in what amounts to a de-facto listing. The Herp Alliance requested that FWS adhere to it’s own mandate of “retrospective review” and withdraw all five species from consideration for listing. For several months Wyatt has continued to be in close contact with staff of both the Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee and the US House Committee on Natural Resources, who have independently requested briefings on this issue from FWS. At this point the agency has not determined whether they will include additional species in the finalized rule, but have stated their intention is to finalize the rule this summer. It is likely given this Administration’s history on this issue that they will pursue additional species. Herp Alliance will provide updates as FWS makes decisions in this regard.

Please join the Herp Alliance and help us in the effort to shut down the FWS Constrictor Rule. We need your help to “Protect the Future of Herpetoculture!”

Federal Bill Introduced Re: Export of Large Constrictors

house-sealA bill (click here for full text) was introduced in the US House of representatives today regarding the export of constrictors listed on the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act. It is sponsored by John Flemming (R-LA). A bill number has not been assigned as of yet, but we expect to see a bill number and sub-committee assignment within 24 hours. John Flemming is Chairman of the US House Natural Resources Committee, Sub-Committee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs. US Herpetoculture Alliance expects the committee assignment will be to Chairman Flemming’s committee.

There will likely be a Sub-Committee hearing this summer.

Stay tuned to Herp Alliance for further information.