Category Archives: Action Alerts

Illinois Action Alert – OPPOSE IL HB 5940

1-Logos_Revised_2_BW-002Illinois House Bill 5940 is another bill that seeks to modify the Illinois Dangerous Animals Act.  HB 5940 was written by HSUS and is being shepherded through the legislature by HSUS’s paid lobbyist, Carpenter Lipps & Leland LLP.

HB 5940 goes before the Agriculture and Conservation Committee tomorrow, May 13, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.

The full text of Amendment 2 to HB 5940 can be read here.  This is an HSUS ballot initiative and it seeks to impose more restrictions on owners of exotic animals, whose definition currently includes all “poisonous and life threatening reptiles.”

HSUS’s position on this initiative is so restrictive that they do not wish to include an exemption for the Zoological Association of America (as did Ohio and Maryland), one of two national accreditation organizations whose member institutions include Six Flags Wild Safari Animal Park (NJ), Orange County Zoo (CA), Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation (FL), Fossil Rim Wildlife Center (TX), and many others.

If SB 902 does not pass, HB 5940 will put further restrictions on “poisonous and life threatening reptiles,” which Illinois case law has defined to include certain large constrictors over 15′ in length.

The members of the Senate Agriculture and Conservation Committee can be found here.  Please call, email and fax them TODAY to vote NO on HB 5940.

In the meantime, SB 902 goes before the Illinois House Agriculture & Conservation Committee tomorrow, May 13, 2014 at 2:30 p.m.  The members of that committee can be found here.  Please call, email and fax them TODAY to vote YES on SB 902.

Illinois Introduce the Herptiles-Herps Act

IDNROn January 23, 2014, Illinois Senator John J. Cullerton (D) introduced Senate Bill 902 which pertained to deer hunting.  On February 18, 2014, the primary sponsor of SB 902 was changed to Senator James F. Clayborne, Jr. (D).  On March 17, 2014, Senator Clayborne amended SB 902 into The Illinois Herptiles-Herps Act .  See SB 902 First Amendment.

SB 902 is substantially similar to SB 2362 which was introduced in the 2013 session.  It seeks to carve out all herpetofauna and to deal with them in a separate statutory section all to themselves. It is a proposed “herp code.” It states specifically that:

For purposes of this Act, reptiles and amphibians shall be exempt from the definition of “aquatic life” under Section 1-20 of the Fish and Aquatic Life Code. All rules and enforcement actions under the Illinois Conservation Law and the dangerous animals provisions in Section 48-10 of the Criminal Code of 2012 related to reptiles and amphibians shall be covered exclusively by this Act.

Under current Illinois law, it is illegal to privately keep any venomous or life threatening reptile. The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that pythons of 15′ in length are life threatening and therefore illegal.

SB 902 would lift the prohibition on large constrictors currently in place, and instead proposes certain “captive maintenance requirements” as set forth in the bill are met.

SB 902 would also make it legal to keep certain venomous snakes, crocodilians, Komodo dragons and crocodile monitor lizards with a permit only if used for bona fide educational purposes.

SB 902 makes it unlawful to buy, sell or offer to sell any aquatic or semi-aquatic turtles with a carapace of under 4″ or their eggs in the state. This means that the Illinois State Department of Natural Resources could enforce the 4″ provision of aquatic or semi-aquatic turtles without FDA.

SB 902 imposes insurance requirements and liability on owners of all of the “special use herptiles” within the bill and provides for criminal and civil penalties for noncompliance.

Herp Alliance endorses SB 902.

 

UPDATE: Louisiana SB 357

LA MapHerp Alliance has opened a dialogue with Chairman Long’s office regarding Louisiana Senate Bill 357.  We have confirmed that SB 357 will not be called for hearing before the Senate Natural Resources Committee next week.  We will update the Reptile Nation with developments.

In the meantime, please review our Herp Alliance SB 357 Talking Points and if you are a Louisiana resident, please write, email or fax your Louisiana State Senator and members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee (below).

Committee Members

Senator Gerald Long (Chairman)
P.O. Box 151
Winnfield, LA 71483
(318) 628-5799
longg@legis.la.gov
Senator Rick Ward, III (Vice-Chairman)
3741 Highway 1
Port Allen, LA 70767
(225) 246-8838
wardr@legis.la.gov
Senator R.L. “Bret” Allain, II
600 Main Street
Suite 1
Franklin, LA 70538
(337) 828-9107
allainb@legis.la.gov
Senator “Jody” Amedee
2109 S. Burnside Ave.
Suite A
Gonzales, LA 70737
(225) 644-1526
amedeej@legis.la.gov
Senator Norbèrt N. “Norby” Chabert
P.O. Box 2417
Houma, LA 70361
(985) 858-2927
chabertn@legis.la.gov
Senator Jean-Paul J. Morrell
6305 Elysian Fields Ave.
Suite 404
New Orleans, LA 70122
(504) 284-4794
morrelljp@legis.la.gov
Senator Dan “Blade” Morrish
119 W. Nezpique Street
Jennings, LA 70546
(337) 824-3979
morrishd@legis.la.gov
Senator Page Cortez (Interim Member)
101 W. Farrell Road
Bldg. 5, Suite 100
Lafayette, LA 70508
(337) 993-7430
cortezp@legis.la.gov

UPDATE: West Virginia HB 4393

capitol buildingHerp Alliance has spoken to Governor Tomblin’s aide. The Governor has not yet received HB 4393 and has therefore not reviewed it.  Herp Alliance has opened a dialogue with the governor’s office and we will report on future developments.

Some tips on dealing with this issue:

  • Please do NOT contact Governor Tomblin unless you are a West Virginia resident or you do business in West Virginia.  You will cause them to have animosity to our issues, and West Virginia does not care about your opinion if you are not a constituent.
  • If you have already contacted Governor Tomblin’s office, do not contact them again unless you have something new to say or to add.  HB 4393 has already passed out of both chambers.  Alienating the Governor will damage our credibility.
  •  Governor Tomblin did NOT veto this bill last year.  In 2012 he vetoed a similar bill.  In 2013, a similar bill passed the Senate but was never called in the House Committee for hearing.   If you call, please be sure you have the correct facts.
  • Be courteous. This Governor has demonstrated the courage to do the right thing in the past.  Please do not alienate him or his office staff.
  • HB 4393 has the strong support of HSUS.  Please be clear on your facts, and be professional.  There are plenty of good, legitimate reasons for Governor Tomblin to veto this bill and the argument needs to be coherent and persuasive.

VETO West Virginia HB 4393

veto HB 4393On March 6, 2014, the West Virginia Senate passed House Bill 4393, the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, on a vote of 69 yeas, 23 nays, and 8 not voting.

This bill is over reaching, unnecessary, creates an unfunded mandate for the state and is unconstitutionally vague.  The only hurdle that remains before it becomes law in West Virginia is Governor Tomblin’s signature.  In 2012, Governor Tomblin had the strength of conviction to veto a very similar bill, and Herp Alliance has asked him to use that same strength in exercising his veto again.

Please click on the links below to see our letter to Governor Tomblin and to download talking points on HB 4393.

Herp Alliance letter to Governor Tomblin urging him to veto HB 4393.

Herp Alliance HB 4393 Talking Points

Louisiana Reptile Ban Talking Points

Louisiana_State_Capitol_at_nightEarlier today, Herp Alliance  announced the introduction of Louisiana Senate Bill 357.  SB 357 seeks to change existing Louisiana law.  Currently, to own one of the listed constrictors that is over 8′ in length, or to own a restricted venomous snake, a keeper must fall into one of the organizational exemptions (animal sanctuaries, zoos, aquariums, wildlife research centers, scientific organizations, and medical research facilities as defined in the Animal Welfare Act) or have a permit from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

SB 357 will change all of that so that all of the listed constrictors will be prohibited as well as all of the listed venomous snakes.  Private ownership will be banned and only the exempted organizations will be permitted to keep these animals.  The bill is slated to go into effect August 1, 2014, and there is no grandfathering for existing animals.

The Herp Alliance talking points against this bill can be found in the link below.  In addition, full contact information for every member of the Natural Resources Committee can be found below as well.  If you live in Louisiana or do business in Louisiana, please contact these committee members.  Keep your comments, brief, polite and professional.

Herp Alliance SB 357 Talking Points.

Natural Resources Committee

Committee Members

Senator Gerald Long (Chairman)
P.O. Box 151
Winnfield, LA 71483

(318) 628-5799
longg@legis.la.gov
Senator Rick Ward, III (Vice-Chairman)
3741 Highway 1
Port Allen, LA 70767

(225) 246-8838
wardr@legis.la.gov
Senator R.L. “Bret” Allain, II
600 Main Street
Suite 1
Franklin, LA 70538

(337) 828-9107
allainb@legis.la.gov
Senator “Jody” Amedee
2109 S. Burnside Ave.
Suite A
Gonzales, LA 70737

(225) 644-1526
amedeej@legis.la.gov
Senator Norbèrt N. “Norby” Chabert
P.O. Box 2417
Houma, LA 70361

(985) 858-2927
chabertn@legis.la.gov
Senator Jean-Paul J. Morrell
6305 Elysian Fields Ave.
Suite 404
New Orleans, LA 70122

(504) 284-4794
morrelljp@legis.la.gov
Senator Dan “Blade” Morrish
119 W. Nezpique Street
Jennings, LA 70546

(337) 824-3979
morrishd@legis.la.gov
Senator Page Cortez (Interim Member)
101 W. Farrell Road
Bldg. 5, Suite 100
Lafayette, LA 70508

(337) 993-7430
cortezp@legis.la.gov

 

 

Louisiana Seeks to Ban Nearly All Pythons and All Venomous Snakes

state_seal_color3On February 28, 2014, Louisiana Senator Norbert (“Norby”) Chabert (R) introduced Senate Bill 357.

Senate Bill 357 seeks to ban the private ownership of all Carpet and Diamond pythons, Papuan pythons, Olive Pythons, Scrub pythons, Amethystine pythons, South African pythons, African Rock pythons, Burmese pythons, Reticulated pythons, all species of the genus Boa, and all Anacondas.  It also is an outright ban on the ownership of all venomous snakes.  Full text of Louisiana Senate Bill 357.

SB 357 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources.  Contacts for all committee members is included below.  Lousiana residents need to act NOW.

Committee Members

Senator Gerald Long (Chairman)
P.O. Box 151
Winnfield, LA 71483

(318) 628-5799
longg@legis.la.gov
Senator Rick Ward, III (Vice-Chairman)
3741 Highway 1
Port Allen, LA 70767

(225) 246-8838
wardr@legis.la.gov
Senator R.L. “Bret” Allain, II
600 Main Street
Suite 1
Franklin, LA 70538

(337) 828-9107
allainb@legis.la.gov
Senator “Jody” Amedee
2109 S. Burnside Ave.
Suite A
Gonzales, LA 70737

(225) 644-1526
amedeej@legis.la.gov
Senator Norbèrt N. “Norby” Chabert
P.O. Box 2417
Houma, LA 70361

(985) 858-2927
chabertn@legis.la.gov
Senator Jean-Paul J. Morrell
6305 Elysian Fields Ave.
Suite 404
New Orleans, LA 70122

(504) 284-4794
morrelljp@legis.la.gov
Senator Dan “Blade” Morrish
119 W. Nezpique Street
Jennings, LA 70546

(337) 824-3979
morrishd@legis.la.gov
Senator Page Cortez (Interim Member)
101 W. Farrell Road
Bldg. 5, Suite 100
Lafayette, LA 70508

(337) 993-7430
cortezp@legis.la.gov

West Virginia Dangerous Wild Animals Act to be Heard in Senate Committee

2009_senate_fullchamberWest Virginia’s Dangerous Wild Animals Act bill (HB 4393) was passed in the House on February 24,2 014, as we previously reported.

It was introduced in the WV Senate on February 25th and referred to the West Virginia Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

Herp Alliance learned from the bill sponsor today that HB 4393 will be heard in committee on Monday, March 3, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. in Room 208W.

You can contact the members of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee to voice your opposition here.

Advocacy, Accountability and Unity

OPINION

A lot has changed over the last year in the reptile community.  In December 2012, Andrew Wyatt resigned from USARK, the trade organization that he co-founded in 2008.  In January 2013, we co-f0unded the US Herpetoculture Alliance.  Although originally designed and organized to be an advocacy organization on behalf of herpetoculture, it has evolved into an education, conservation and information organization.  We do not engage directly in legislative issues.  But we analyze them and we will report on them.  We do not accept donations and everyone involved with Herp Alliance does so on a volunteer basis.  Herp Alliance has never paid a salary to an employee or an independent contractor.

Mike Canning's Facebook page as of February 2, 2014, describing himself as the former president and CEO.

Meanwhile, changes have been afoot at the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) as well.  Although PIJAC has been conspicuously silent on the topic, Mike Canning has announced on his Facebook page that he is the former President and CEO of PIJAC.  Notably, former Vice President of Government Affairs & General Counsel, Mike Maddux has also disappeared from the PIJAC web site, as well as Bambi Nicole Osborne, Esq., Director of Government Affairs.  PIJAC has apparently done some quiet housecleaning.

People who are “Leaders in the Industry” have called for “unity.”  Any criticism of the way legislative issues have been handled (or not handled) that we have published has been criticized as “divisive” and not in the best interests of the industry.  I disagree.  HSUS is not going to back away from the persecution of reptile keepers because of unity in the community. Wayne Pacelle is not going to say, “Let them keep their large constrictors.  They are all such great friends.”

What this industry needs is competence, advocacy and accountability.

According to USARK, they have been on a banner run of fund raising in the few months that have passed since they announced the filing of their federal lawsuit challenging the Constrictor Rule of the Lacey Act.   USARK should be commended for retaining counsel and filing their lawsuit.  It is the only hope to reverse the damage done by the Constrictor Rule.

Rumors in the reptile community have circulated with some industry insiders claiming that there is a “99%” chance that USARK’s lawsuit will be victorious.  (These are odds that no lawyer could guarantee.)  And while wave after wave of information has leaked out of Washington DC, with Herp Alliance intercepting direct correspondence from HSUS to members of Congress, USARK continues to maintain that it is on top of the situation and is doing “much, much more.”  More of what, remains to be seen.

What we have not seen are advocacy letters from USARK to members of Congress pleading the case against listing five additional species to the Constrictor Rule.

The Categorical Exclusion Rule (or, CatX, as coined by Andrew Wyatt) just reopened for comment.  Although USARK has adopted the nomenclature of Cat Ex, it was Herp Alliance, last year, who secured this extension on the comment period.  Those of you who have not yet sent letters opposing CatX should do so immediately.

Bills that would dramatically affect herpetoculture and the right to privately keep reptiles are pending in Wisconsin, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, Maryland, and South Carolina right now, with more bills in drafting departments of other states as I write.  The avalanche of legislation started by the animal rights industry that began a few years ago against reptile keeping continues to grow and to gain momentum.

On the state level, USARK has maintained a low profile.  Numerous supporters Wild Animals Are not petshave stated on Facebook that USARK will no longer engage at the state level.  Some announcements have been made. There have been a few action alerts encouraging stakeholders to write letters and emails.  Some bills have been overlooked until days after their introduction.  So far, USARK has not testified at a state committee hearing in this legislative session, either in person, or through written testimony.  Whether they will actually jump into the game or not remains to be seen.  It is possible that their hands are tied by funding a federal lawsuit which will certainly cost millions of dollars to fund if they intend to see it to its end.  Where will that money come from?  Gary Bagnall is not going to pony up seven figures to defend the right to keep large retics.  In fact, Zoo Med will be able to peddle more hot rocks and amateur equipment to corn snake keepers when the market is limited to the less controversial species.  The end game cannot be a full blown lawsuit.  The money is simply not there.

If  USARK abandons state level regulation, reptile bans at the state level will become a certainty.

The reptile community has donated tens of thousands of dollars to USARK.  If they are now exclusively a federal trade organization, they need to make that known.  When small business owners and private keepers are donating their hard earned dollars to the only trade organization that is left in existence to advocate for their rights, they have the right to know what is being done.  They have the right to be critical and they have the right to demand action.  They are the only recipient of your donations.  They are accountable to their constituents.  Competence, advocacy and accountability.  That is what they owe to herpetoculture and that is what should be demanded and delivered.

Unity in the face of inertia might make us all better friends so that we can comfort each other while our pets get criminalized.