Category Archives: State Issues

IL HB 5940 Fact Sheet

FAIL HSUSHB 5940 was drafted by HSUS and is the legislative contact for HB 5940.  HSUS’s lobbyist is the person working on the forthcoming amendment to HB 5940.  Herp Alliance verified this directly from HSUS’s lobbyist today.

Unless you believe that special interest organizations representing extreme animal rights organizations should be supplanting state legislators elected by Illinois residents, you should OPPOSE HB 5940.

  • Introduced in the House on 2/14/14 by Representative Michael Zalewski (D).
  • HB 5940 passed the Illinois House on 4/10/14 on a vote of 79 in favor and 22 opposed.
  • HB 5940 was conceptualized, drafted and shopped by HSUS.
  • HSUS has a high paid lobbyist John Kamis of Carpenter Lipps and Leland LLP shepherding this bill through the legislature.
  • HB 5940 is sponsored in the Illinois Senate by power broker Senator Kwame Raoul, a member of the powerful Illinois Democratic machine.
  • According to Senator Raoul’s office, HB 5940 will pass the Senate Agriculture and Conservation Committee on 5/13/14, after which time, an amendment will be introduced that is being drafted currently by HSUS lobbyist, John Kamis.
  • Herp Alliance has spoken directly to John Kamis who has indicated that HSUS is calling the shots on the bill, which is intended to grandfather in existing animals but to preclude the future acquisition of restricted animals unless specifically exempted.
  • Current Illinois Law (720 ILCS 5/48-10) exempts USDA Class C licensees.  The current version of the bill removes the exemption and restricts ownership of specified “dangerous animals” unless the licensee is also an AZA accredited zoo.  (HSUS is working on an amendment right now that will not be prepared in time for the committee hearing on 5/13/14).

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 SB 902 Amendment 2 Introduced – 4″ Turtle Provisions Lifted!

DNR-welcomeThe Illinois legislature will publish later today the Second Amendment to SB 902 (House Amendment 1).  There are three substantive changes in the Second Amendment, and they are as follows:

  • Malagasy cat-eyed snakes (Madagascarophis) are being removed from the definition of “Venomous Reptiles.”
  • Section 30-5, the prohibition on the sale of aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles whose carapaces are less than 4″ has been removed entirely.
  • Zoos accredited by the Zoological Association of America will be included in the exempt organizations.

These changes have been made in response to feedback from Illinois residents.

It has been erroneously reported on the internet that SB 902 will illegalize all turtle and tortoise breeding in Illinois.  This is false, and it is a misinterpretation of that section.

First, “Turtle farming”  is defined in the bill as “the act of breeding, hatching, raising, selling turtles, or any combination commercially for the purpose of providing turtles, turtle eggs, or turtle parts to pet suppliers, exporters, and food industries.”

Illinois seeks to preclude commercial turtle farming.  This language is specifically drafted to affect only turtle production for sale to pet suppliers, exporters and food industries.  This is not hobby breeding.

This bill provides overwhelming benefits to the Illinois herp community.  It has broad support of Illinois reptile keepers, multiple Illinois herp societies, reptile rescues and individuals.

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.

Some of the benefits of SB 902:

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 also removes all herpetofauna from the purview of the Illinois Dangerous Animals Act.

Herp Alliance continues to support SB 902.

Illinois SB 902 Update

shieldIL-RightAmendment 2 to Illinois SB 902 will be published, if not today, within a couple of days. It was expected on Friday, but had not quite made it out of bill drafting. Amendment 2 will have three specific changes, all of which are positive in terms of the Reptile Nation.  Although it may seem like amending a bill is a simple task, the Illinois legislature has not been in session and all amendments must go through JCAR (bill drafting).

Although SB 902 is the only bill that has been proposed in the current legislative session in any state that is favorable to reptile ownership, it is receiving criticism on Facebook and on the internet, mostly by people who do not reside within Illinois.  Herp Alliance’s position on SB 902 and our summary of Amendment 1 can be found here.

Herp Alliance will publish Amendment 2 promptly upon its release.

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.


Ohio Budgets $995,000 to its Dangerous Wild Animals Act

Ohio Governor Kasich
Ohio Governor Kasich

Ohio Representative Ron Amstutz (R) introduced Ohio House Bill 483 on March 18, 2014 to make operating and other appropriations and to provide authorization and conditions for the operation of state programs.  Out of its $2.38 billion appropriations bill, Ohio has budgeted $995,000 toward its ill conceived Dangerous Wild Animals Act. Of this amount, $800,000 is earmarked for the administration of its  Dangerous and Restricted Wild Animal Permitting Program.

As of December 31, 2013, no permits had been issued pursuant to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act.  ( )

The $2.9M Exotic Animal Penitentiary in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.
The $2.9M Exotic Animal Penitentiary in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

During the hearings on SB 310, the ballot initiative that became the Ohio Dangerous Wild Animals Act, Senator Troy Balderson, the bill’s sponsor claimed that it would cost the state of Ohio $800,000 to implement SB 310 into law.  Already, Ohio has spent $2.9M on its exotic animal containment facility in Reynoldsburg that sat empty for all of 2013, and now it is allocating another $995,000.

SB310 bill signing
Governor Kasich, Senator Balderson and Jack Hannah, at the SB 310 bill signing.

Governor Kasich’s Big, Expensive Blunder is now 487% over budget, and they are only three months into the program.  Ohio voters, particularly those in Senator Balderson’s district, should pay attention.

Governor Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget cut $1.9M in taxes, shifting the tax burden from the affluent to middle- and lower-income families.  It denies Medicaid funding to 275,000 low income workers, and Ohioans will foot the bill for oil and gas drilling.  His education funding is $607M lower than it was in 2010-2011, and Ohio homeowners are losing their tax rollback on future new and replacement levies.  But they have a $2.9M exotic animal penitentiary and $995,000 to spare on their over bearing, unnecessary permit system.

Ohioans should be very ashamed of their local government.


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

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.

The Elephant in the Room with the Reptiles

As a litigator myself, I have always told clients that litigation is like finding a piece of string on the floor that leads out a closed door. Sometimes, when you pull on that string, a ball of yarn rolls to your feet.  But sometimes, you pull that string, and an elephant walks into your sitting room.

boa constrictor elephant2On December 18, 2013, USARK filed its Complaint against Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior, and US Fish and Wildlife Service challenging the Constrictor Rule to the Lacey Act.

The Defendants responded with a highly technical Motion to Dismiss and USARK responded with an even more technical Response containing a tortured explanation of how USARK is now a conservation organization.  We await the government’s Reply which is due within the week.  So far, all of the legal wrangling pertains to pleading deficiencies alleged by the government in USARK’s Complaint.

As Herp Alliance has stated repeatedly, we think that USARK will be able to amend its Complaint to correct those pleading deficiencies such that it can overcome the hurdle of standing.

So far, this has little to do with arbitrary and capricious rule making or a reach by the government through the Lacey Act to try to restrict interstate commerce, which is the meat of USARK’s complaint.

We have been asked repeatedly for our opinion of USARK’s case.  The strength of a lawsuit does not lie solely in the application of facts to the law.  We like USARK’s legal argument.  Nonetheless, the case is weak, very weak, and for one major reason:  money.

If the rumors on Facebook are true, USARK has raised $137,000 toward the lawsuit.  If this lawsuit goes to trial, it will easily cost more than ten times that amount, which is far more money than USARK has.  Without the funds to continue the fight, the case will die on the vines.  The government knows that USARK is underfunded, and their legal team is probably acutely aware that USARK is going to labor intensely just to make it through discovery, much less early dispositive motions like the pending Motion to Dismiss.

Individuals who are invested in the interstate commerce of large constrictors should reach deeply into their pockets now and donate to USARK’s Legal Defense Fund if they want this lawsuit to continue, otherwise there will be little chance to succeed.

USARK's lead attorney, Shaun Gehan, announced today that he has left Kelley Drye and started his own firm.
USARK’s lead attorney, Shaun Gehan, announced today that he has left Kelley Drye and started his own firm.

Another problem for USARK is that their lead counsel, Shaun Gehan, the attorney who has so far signed all of USARK’s pleadings, announced today on LinkedIn that he is no longer with Kelley Drye and has started his own firm.  Although Kelley Drye is a very large firm with tremendous legal resources, the abrupt departure of USARK’s lead counsel and presumably the attorney most knowledgeable about the case, is very bad news for USARK.  Yes, another attorney can step into those shoes, but it will be expensive to bring that attorney up to speed.

But the frailties of the federal lawsuit are not the elephant in the room with herpetoculture today.  We have a much bigger problem on our hands, and that problem is the landslide of state ballot initiatives that are marching unfettered across the country right now.  Even if USARK wins the federal lawsuit, it will be immaterial if it is illegal to own herps at the state level.

USARK has not testified at any of the state level committee hearings in 2013 or states2014.  Andrew Wyatt, former President and CEO of the Herp Alliance, testified at the Committee Hearing of Maryland House Bill 1124 (Criminal Possession of Dangerous Wild Animals), where the bill sponsor had Debbie Leahy (Captive Wildlife Regulatory Specialist, HSUS) seated at his side to present the bill to the House Committee.  Prior to joining HSUS, Leahy founded the animal rights group Illinois Animal Action, which she headed for eight years. She then joined PETA and lead their nationwide campaign against circuses and roadside zoos. PETA has bragged about Leahy that she “has dashed onto killing fields to disrupt pheasant hunts,” and “dressed as a giant rabbit to protest cruel animal tests.”

stop_sign_HSUSDebbie Leahy is not an attorney.  She is an extreme animal rights activist.  And she sat in the Maryland General Assembly aside Representative Eric Luedtke and presented a piece of legislation to the House Environmental Matters Committee and helped deliver a first reading of a bill.  This is a single example.  Lousiana is currently trying to outlaw carpet pythons, among others, and the enormous, over-reaching West Virginia Dangerous Wild Animals Act sailed through both chambers virtually unopposed and now sits on Governor Tomblin’s desk.  HSUS is clear on its web site that it believes all reptile ownership should be forbidden:

“Captive snakes and other reptiles are difficult and dangerous to care for, and released or escaped snakes wreak havoc on the environment.”


The animal rights industry is winning the war against reptiles with bill after bill going unopposed across the United States.  Being allowed to ship Burmese pythons between states will be an expensive and meaningless victory if it is a criminal act to own them privately.

2014 may be a turning point for herpetoculture and the time to act is upon us.