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West Virginia HB 2209 – Herp Alliance Position

nunst100WEST Virginia has proposed a Dangerous Animals bill.  Delegate Manypenny introduced HB 2209 on February 13, 2013 and was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources.

Multiple mammals are covered, including all non-human primates. Reptiles defined as “potentially dangerous wild animals” include:

  • All species of the atractaspidae family of the squamata order from the reptilia class and the dispholidus typus of the colubridae family of the same order and same class;
  • All species of the elapidae family of the squamata order from the reptilia class, such as cobras, mambas, kraits, coral snakes, and Australian tiger snakes;
  • All species of the hydrophiidae family of the squamata order from the reptilia class, such as sea snakes;
  • Water monitors and crocodile monitors from the varanidae family of the squamata order from the reptilia class;
  • All species of the viperidae family of the squamata order from the reptilia class, such as rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, bushmasters, puff adders, and gaboon vipers; and
  • All species of the crocodilia order from the reptilia class, such as crocodiles, alligators, calmans and gavials.

Under HB 2209, AZA zoos, non profit animal protection organizations, wildlife sanctuaries, research institutions, circuses, and approved fairs are exempt.

Unless you fall into an exemption, you cannot even drive a restricted animal through the state without committing a criminal offense unless you exit the state within 24 hours.

The restricted animals are otherwise banned and ownership or possession is illegal.  Restricted animals legally obtained before January 1, 2014 will be grandfathered in, but they cannot be bred.  The burden of proof is on the owner or possessor to demonstrate that the animal was acquired prior to January 1, 2014.

HB 2209 gives law enforcement the authority to immediately confiscate a potentially dangerous wild animal if: (1) The animal control authority or law-enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that the animal was acquired after January 1, 2014;  (2) The animal poses a public safety or health risk; (3) The animal is in poor health and condition as a result of the possessor; or (4) The animal is being held in contravention of this section.

If the confiscated animal is not returned to the owner, the State is entitled to release it to an exempt organization or to euthanize it.

Violations of this law would be misdemeanor criminal offenses and the offender would be subject to fines of $200-$2000 per animal per day.

Herp Alliance opposes HB 2209.  We shall have sample letters and legislator addresses on line this evening to voice your opposition.

UPDATE Virginia: No Reptile Ban!

Yesterday morning a group of motivated herpers met and participated in a grass roots walk-in of the Virginia General Assembly to OPPOSE SB 477 and HB 1242. These two companion bills introduced in 2012 by Senator Louise Lucas and Delegate Christopher Peace could have severely restricted the ownership of many reptiles and other exotic animals in Virginia. At the end of the day, Jared Watts and VIIPER members Eric Crabtree, William Taylor, and others were told that SB 477 and HB1242 would not move forward.

Virginia Grass Roots Succeeds!
Virginia Grass Roots Succeeds!

Last Summer, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, asked the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries to commission a task force to consider whether Virginia had sufficient laws on the books to prevent an incident such as the Zanesville, Ohio animal release that occurred early last year. Delegate Peace participated in this task force, known as the Dangerous Animal Initiative (DAI), and had shown interest in creating legislation based on the Final Report issued to the Governor. As reported by the US Herpetoculture Alliance, the DAI Final Report was issued last week.

Many members of the VA herpetoculture community participated in the panel

Jared Watts and Andrew Wyatt attend DAI Work Group 2012
Jared Watts and Andrew Wyatt attend DAI Work Group 2012

created for the DAI as a work group tasked with defining what may be considered a “potentially dangerous animal.” Jared Watts led the VA delegation of herpers at the DAI, supported by Larry Mendoza of the Virginia Herpetologicl Society. Andrew Wyatt, president and CEO of the US Herpetoculture Alliance played a leadership role in the DAI discussions. Together, all of the members of the herpetoculture community worked to keep reptiles out of the Final Report. It was believed that Delegate Peace would sponsor a NEW bill based on the results of the DAI Final Report, and it was not clear whether the recommendations made to Governor McDonnell in the report would be mirrored by Delegate Peace’s expected legislative proposal.

What was very clear was the Virginia herpetoculture community worked very well in a cooperative grass roots effort to protect their interests in Virginia. The Herp Alliance has learned that the deadline for submission of new legislation for the 2013 session of the VA General Assemby has passed. There will be no new reptile legislation for 2013! SB 477 and HB 1242 remain active, although the Watts delagation was told that there will be no movement of these bills.

The Herp Alliance is seeking official confirmation of this fact, and will keep the Herp Nation apprised of developments. For now it appears to be good news for Virginia herpetoculturists. There appears to be no plans to ban reptiles in Virginia!

Thank you to all of those who participated in this long and tedious process. We got involved early, and it looks like we succeeded!

 

UPDATE from Nevada

nevadaHerp Alliance has learned directly from Senator Roberson that the Nevada exotic animal bill is still in bill draft at this time and will not be introduced today.  However, he expects it to be released from bill draft review soon.

Senator Roberson elaborated that it is not the broad ban on reptiles and exotics that has been reported in the press.  He stated that it is intended to ban private ownership of, “the ones you would expect — chimpanzees, lions — the ones that have the ability to get loose and cause chaos.”

He further stated that very few reptiles will be included in the bill, which will include some venomous snakes, “but not all of them.”  He did not state what reptiles will be included.

Herp Alliance will continue to monitor the anticipated bill in Nevada and bring you news as it breaks.

Exotic Animal Owners Beware: Pennsylvania Introduces HB 575

200px-Seal_of_Pennsylvania.svgOn February 8, 2013, Pennsylvania Representatives Haluska, Kortz. D Costa, Cohen, Caroll, O’Neill, Caltagirone, Mahoney, Mullery, W. Keller, V. Brown, Deluca, Hess an Murt introduced House Bill 575, which was referred to the Game and Fisheries Committee the same day.

HB 575 seeks to prohibit certain “exotic wildlife” after January 1, 2015.  “Exotic wildlife” is defined as “all nonindigenous animals” in addition to a specified list of exotics from private ownership. The bill does not define nonindigenous animals, which, as a matter of law, means all animals not native to Pennsylvania.

The only exceptions are birds, any member of the families Equidae horses,asses and zebras), Camelidae (camels, alpacas and llamas),Cervidae (deer, moose and elk), Bovidae (wild cattle and spiralhorned antelopes), Muridae (rats and mice), Chinchillidae (chinchillas and viscachas), Leporidae (rabbits and hares), Erinaceidae (hedgehogs and moonrats), Petauridae (gliders and striped oossums) or any member of the species Mustela furo (domestic ferrets) or Cavia porcellus (domestic guinea pigs) or any “domestic animal” as that term is defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 5511 (relating to cruelty to animals).

The term “exotic wildlife” is not defined elsewhere in Pennsylvania statutes.  Title 34 is intended to encompass only mammals and birds, which would mean it would still broadly impact the exotic animal community, but as written, the legal definition would also include reptiles as a matter of black letter law.  (Title 34 only mentions reptiles with respect to the definition of taxidermy.)

Pennsylvania Title 30 (Fish) deals with reptiles.   The two sections are enforced by different Pennsylvania agencies.

HB 575 states that as of January 1, 2015 the Pennsylvania Game Commission will not issue any new permits for personal possession of an animal defined as “exotic wildlife”.

An “exotic dealer” is defined in HB 1398 as “anyone who imports into this Commonwealth, possesses, buys, sells, locates or finds for a fee, barters, donates, gives away or otherwise disposes of exotic wildlife; and engages in at least five documented transactions annually involving exotic wildlife.

Herp Alliance opposes HB 575 due to the ambiguity in the definition of “exotic wildlife” but also because it seeks to impose a prohibition on all exotic mammals within the State of Pennsylvania.

Because we believe that the language would only inadvertently include reptiles, we are not issuing an Action Alert for herpetoculturists at this time.  However, members of the exotic animal community with mammals should be contacting their legislators.

 

Texas Introduces Cat and Primate Ban

Texas SealOn February 6, 2013, Texas State Representative Ryan Guillen (D-31st Dist.) introduced House Bill 1015.  HB 1015 does not deal with reptiles or amphibians, but it still gives us pause.

HB 1015 seeks to ban the private ownership of large cats and all non-human primates in Texas cities and municipalities with populations over 75,000.  Since our focus is not large cats or non-human primates, we cannot comment on the specifics of their private ownership.  However, unreasonable animal legislation affects all animal owners because once it passes muster for one species, it paves the way for ballot initiatives involving other species with the same kinds of restrictions.

HB 1015 has many issues that raise concerns.  One of the most troublesome is that it gives private individuals a right to sue to enforce the Act.  In other words, if your neighbor believes you are not in compliance under HB 1015, he can file an independent suit against you.  It is not just government enforcement.  This proposition is rife with risk to individuals, property rights, and to clog the court system with frivolous litigation by axe-grinding neighbors.

In addition, although HB 1015 bans the ownership of big cats and non-human primates, it also precludes their transfer, except to an AZA accredited zoo or a GFAS accredited sanctuary. There is no provision to allow the sale of these animals to a private person outside of the regulated municipality.  Penalties for non compliance can be up to $2,000 per day.

Herp Alliance opposes this kind of overbearing legislation. Although it does not affect herpetofauna, onerous, over-reaching restrictions on animal ownership should be a concern for all animal owners.  Texas residents should contact their legislators and voice civil, well reasoned opposition to HB 1015.

UPDATE: New York A 2869

Seal-of-New-York

In an effort to bring you as much information as possible regarding A 2869 and where it stands, the Herp Alliance has contacted all of the members of the NY State Assembly Agriculture Committee. Earlier today, Andrew Wyatt spoke with Chairman William Magee regarding A 2869. Chairman Magee was only vaguely aware of the bill prior to the Herp Alliance contacting him. Wyatt spoke to Chairman Magee about the community’s concerns over two things:

 1)  The expansion of the definition of what a restricted animal is to, “capable of inflicting bodily harm upon a human”.

2)  This would cover all reptiles. “Bodily harm” is a very far reaching term.  Not only would it criminalize all reptiles, but additionally it could make ownership of reptiles in New York a felony.

Chairman Magee acknowledged the valid concerns of the Herp Alliance and our supporters and recommended that Herp Alliance work with his committee staff aide to further educate the Chairman’s office as to our concerns and any potential calendar for a first reading in an Agriculture Committee hearing. The Chairman said Herp Alliance had now made him aware of A 2869, but he is not “as yet” familiar with the details. Chairman Magee has no immediate plans to move the bill at this time, but said that could change if there was movement by proponents for the bill.

Contact with other Assembly offices confirmed that very few emails regarding A 2869 had gotten through to committee members, and as a result most were completely unfamiliar with the bill. Mass email tools, and group emails addressed to multiple individuals, often get picked up as spam by legislative system screens. Each member of the Agriculture Committee should be emailed individually to ensure delivery, and that is still no guarantee that they will make it through spam filters. A follow up telephone call is always a good idea.

A list of email addresses of all committee members is at the bottom of this page. Use the sample letter provided, or better yet, write one of your own.

The Herp Alliance will continue to keep you apprised of important details as they break. Please join the Herp Alliance email list and follow us on facebook for the best political news and insight as it happens.

Bill Sponsor, Assemblywoman Barbara M Clark: clarkb@assembly.state.ny.us

Agriculture Committee Members

Chair- Assemblyman William Magee: mageew@assembly.state.ny.us
Didi Barrett: BarretD@assembly.state.ny.us
Michael Benedetto: BenedettoM@assembly.state.ny.us
Ken Blankenbush: BlankenbushK@assembly.state.ny.us
Harry Bronson: BronsonH@assembly.state.ny.us
Marc Butler: ButlerM@assembly.state.ny.us
Clifford Crouch: CrouchC@assembly.state.ny.us
Gary Finch: FinchG@assembly.state.ny.us
Aileen Gunther: GuntherA@assembly.state.ny.us
Stephen Hawley: HawleyS@assembly.state.ny.us
Barbara Lifton: LiftonB@assembly.state.ny.us
Peter Lopez: LopezP@assembly.state.ny.us
Alan Maisel: MaiselA@assembly.state.ny.us
Steven Otis: OtisS@assembly.state.ny.us
José Rivera: RiveraJ@assembly.state.ny.us
Linda Rosenthal: RosenthalL@assembly.state.ny.us
Addie Russell: RussellA@assembly.state.ny.us
Angelo Santabarbara: SantabarbaraA@assembly.state.ny.us
Luis Sepulveda: SepulvedaL@assembly.state.ny.us
Michael Simanowitz: SimanowitzM@assembly.state.ny.us
Frank Skartados: SkartadosF@assembly.state.ny.us
James Skoufis: SkoufisJ@assembly.state.ny.us
Al Stirpe: StirpeA@assembly.state.ny.us

 

Nevada Exotics Animal Bill is Coming

nevadaIn July 2012, Nevada Senator Michael Roberson (R) laid the groundwork for proposing sweeping, new exotic animal restrictions in the state of Nevada, that would include reptiles.  Since that time, there have been ongoing talks and meetings in Nevada with between stakeholders, the HSUS Regional State Director, Holly Haley, and Senator Roberson’s office.  HSUS is significantly influencing whatever bill will be proposed.  (Herp Alliance was provided a copy of an earlier draft, which was posted here.)

All Bill Draft Requests (BDRs) in Nevada must be submitted no later than February 18, 2013 for this session. By that date, Senator Roberson’s bill should become public information.

Herp Alliance shall continue to post details as they become available.

 

ACTION ALERT: New York A 2869

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ACTION ALERT

NEW YORK:

On January 18, 2013, Assemblywoman Barbara M. Clark (D-Queens Village) introduced Assembly Bill 2869 which was referred to Agriculture the same day. A2869 seeks to criminalize all ownership of wild animals or reptiles “capable of inflicting bodily harm upon a human” as a felony. The full text of A2869 is linked (above).

Herp Alliance strongly opposes A2869. The definition of “capable of inflicting bodily harm upon a human” covers all reptiles without exception and seeks to make ownership of reptiles in New York a felony.

Herp Alliance Opposes A 2869.

Please contact the New York Assembly Committee on Agriculture to voice your opposition.  You can use our form below, which will send an email to each member of the committee from you, or you can use the contact information provided beneath it to draft your own email to each committee member.

Directions:

  • Fill out the form below;
  • Personalize your message in the box below or just sign it if you wish;
  • Fill in the text code below; and
  • Hit send!

 

We have temporarily taken our form down.  After successfully sending 840 emails to the New York Committee members, our emails are being rejected as spam.  We are redesigning our forms now and will have a new form up later this evening.

 

If you decide to write your own email to the members of the New York Assembly Agriculture Committee, we have provided their email addresses below.

Bill Sponsor, Assemblywoman Barbara M Clark: clarkb@assembly.state.ny.us

Agriculture Committee Members

Chair- Assemblyman William Magee: mageew@assembly.state.ny.us
Didi Barrett: BarretD@assembly.state.ny.us 
Michael Benedetto: BenedettoM@assembly.state.ny.us
Ken Blankenbush: BlankenbushK@assembly.state.ny.us 
Harry Bronson: BronsonH@assembly.state.ny.us
Marc Butler: ButlerM@assembly.state.ny.us 
Clifford Crouch: CrouchC@assembly.state.ny.us 
Gary Finch: FinchG@assembly.state.ny.us
Aileen Gunther: GuntherA@assembly.state.ny.us
Stephen Hawley: HawleyS@assembly.state.ny.us 
Barbara Lifton: LiftonB@assembly.state.ny.us 
Peter Lopez: LopezP@assembly.state.ny.us
Alan Maisel: MaiselA@assembly.state.ny.us
Steven Otis: OtisS@assembly.state.ny.us
José Rivera: RiveraJ@assembly.state.ny.us 
Linda Rosenthal: RosenthalL@assembly.state.ny.us
Addie Russell: RussellA@assembly.state.ny.us
Angelo Santabarbara: SantabarbaraA@assembly.state.ny.us 
Luis Sepulveda: SepulvedaL@assembly.state.ny.us
Michael Simanowitz: SimanowitzM@assembly.state.ny.us 
Frank Skartados: SkartadosF@assembly.state.ny.us 
James Skoufis: SkoufisJ@assembly.state.ny.us 
Al Stirpe: StirpeA@assembly.state.ny.us