Category Archives: The Animal Rights Industry

PIJAC President / USARK Partner: the Many Faces of Ed Sayres

OPINION

In the wake of the pet industry hiring of animal rights veteran Ed Sayres, questions have emerged regarding reptile industry ties and allegiance to this firebrand. Where does the US Association of Reptiles Keepers (USARK) stand? It has been over a week since the announcement. The Reptile Nation wants to know, does USARK support Ed Sayres?

ASPCA_EdSayresOn August 22, 2014, PIJAC announced that it had appointed Ed Sayres, a 40-year animal rights veteran with a written track record of opposition to reptile and amphibian ownership, as its president and CEO.  Almost immediately, some, but not all, members of the reptile community renounced PIJAC and withdrew financial support.

For forty years, Sayres was an animal rights activist.  And now he is a lobbyist for the largest puppy broker in the world, the Hunte Corporation who shuttles more than 100,000 puppies per year to pet stores all over the world.

In 2012, Ed Sayres said his aim was to raise awareness about puppy mill cruelty and to reduce the demand for puppies that come from puppy mills by asking consumers to pledge not to purchase anything from pet stores or websites that sell puppies.”  Sayres, E.  (2012, June 1).  ASPCA Pummels Puppy Mills With Pressure from Consumers, Politicians.  The Huffington Post.

In 2014, Sayres did an about-face, stating, “I am especially interested in the
challenge of breeding pure-bred dogs on a large scale with humane care standards that prioritize the care and conditions that matter most to the well being and lifetime care of the dog. . . In the future, we will not be debating adoption vs. purchase
.
”  E. Sayres, An Open  Letter to the Pet Breeding Community, August 22, 2014.

aspca quote on reptilesFor ten years, he spearheaded the ASPCA, which has an expressed policy against all reptile and amphibian ownership, stating that ownership of all reptiles and amphibians, including corn snakes, leopard geckos and dart frogs is, “bad for the animals, bad for us and bad for the environment.

Now he says, I strongly believe that responsible reptile owners, which are the vast majority, should be able to keep their pets and not be punished due to the actions of a few bad keepers.”  See  http://pijac.org/blog/my-stance-reptile-ownership-ed-sayres#sthash.OSinBbkk.dpuf.

The best we can say about the many faces of Ed Sayres is that he enjoys a whimsical decision-making style, flitting from one position to the next like a butterfly in a field of poppies.  However, the more accurate description is probably that Sayres is a seasoned politician, talking out of both sides of his mouth to curry favor with whatever audience stands to profit him best at the moment.

At this moment, Sayres is feathering his nest with a fat salary from the pet industry, including the world’s largest puppy broker, Petland pet stores (the Hunte Corporation’s largest customer) . . . and with money raised in auctions and in micro donations to PIJAC, hard earned dollars from members of the Reptile Nation.

Politics Make Strange Bedfellows.  USARK has chosen to remain silent on its position, posting only a few comments on its Facebook page:

USARK on PIJAC

I am not sure what is meant by, “USARK is USARK and PIJAC is PIJAC.”  However, USARK changed its position on PIJAC rather drastically in 2013 and proclaimed that USARK and PIJAC were partnering.  In January 2013, USARK issued a press release that stated that,

“USARK is committed to working closely with PIJAC (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council) on the issue of the release/escape of non-native species in the US. This is an extremely important issue for the reptile industry and for USARK stakeholders. PIJAC has a 10 year head start on this issue and USARK needs to partner with them and report back to you, our esteemed membership.”

In March 2013,  USARK announced that:

“USARK has established an open line of communication with PIJAC in 2013. The PIJAC Board of Directors voted unanimously to provide USARK an honorary membership. USARK looks forward to a working relationship with PIJAC, who has been protecting the pet industry over 40 years.”

And USARK reaffirmed its partnership with PIJAC in its 2014 USARK Promotion:

“USARK is committed to a working relationship with PIJAC (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council) on issues concerning the entire pet community. This is an important connection for the reptile industry and for USARK stakeholders. PIJAC is an established organization dealing with anti -pet legislation and USARK will partner with them and make the entire American pet community stronger. “

While at least one other organization (Pet Industry Distributors Association) has been deleted from the PIJAC list of Association Representatives since Sayres’ appointment, as of today, Phil Goss and USARK remain on PIJAC’s “Association Representatives” list.

It is disappointing that USARK has not spoken out on behalf of its members against the appointment of Sayres as PIJAC’s president, implying that USARK intends to stay in bed with PIJAC, notwithstanding PIJAC’s hiring of Sayres.

photo 1It is disappointing, but perhaps not surprising.  USARK’s Board is heavily stacked with members of the pet industry.  Gary Bagnall, chairman of the USARK board, is also the principal of Zoo Med, a manufacturer of reptile and amphibian pet products that are sold heavily through PETCO and other retail outlets.  Zoo Med is the largest (by far) single contributor to the USARK coffers, giving Bagnall if not exclusive control, disproportionate influence on the direction of the company.

Todd Goodman is the president/CEO of Timberline Live Pet Foods, the photo 2world’s largest supplier of live foods (crickets, meal worms, etc.), also sold heavily through retail outlets.  Although Timberline has made no public statement on their website or their Facebook page, through personal correspondence, Goodman has advised us that, “Tuesday, August 26th, Timberline informed PIJAC that they would no longer sponsor their Top To Top conference nor be a member of PIJAC, specifically because of the Sayres hiring.”  (PIJAC still lists Timberline as a 2015 Top2Top conference sponsor on their web site.) 

Loren Leigh is the founder and owner of LLLReptile & Supply Company, Inc. with four retail pet outlets throughout southern California.  USARK’s president, Phil Goss, was a sales manager for years for Zoo Med before he was promoted to his position at USARK.

The USARK board is the pet industry and the USARK board is beholden to pet industry mega stores, such as PETCO (which has two representatives on the PIJAC board).  Zoo Med cannot bump heads with PETCO without impacting its lifeline business relationship.  We respect and salute Timberline for taking a stand against Sayres, but it makes it even more curious why USARK has not taken a public position.

It is therefore, not shocking news that while most USARK members and donors have expressed outrage at the appointment of a fox in the hen house, USARK has failed to criticize in any way the appointment of Sayres as PIJAC’s leader.

Herp Alliance has supported and endorsed USARK in the past.  We have commended them on the filing of a federal lawsuit challenging the Lacey Act rule making that placed five species of large constrictors on the Injurious Wildlife List.  We have repeatedly asked people to donate to their cause.

USARK-needs-to-clearlyUSARK needs to clearly and unequivocally state its position on Ed Sayres so that the Reptile Nation can decide if it wants to partner with a 40-year  animal rights veteran with a written policy against reptile ownership.

It makes no difference what Sayres is saying today about reptiles because he has demonstrated that he is willing to say whatever he needs to say to ensure that Ed Sayres is as profitable as possible.  His contradictory statements are not credible and the Reptile Nation is not rich with cash to pay his salary while we all wait to see which way the wind will blow Sayres’ opinions next.

Until USARK loudly and firmly denounces PIJAC’s current leadership, Herp Alliance will not support it and will not recommend it.

 

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

pijac-642x336
Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC)

by the US Herpetoculture Alliance

The short answer as to why PIJAC is in bed with animal rights is ‘Puppy Mills’; or maybe more specifically, the money represented by PIJAC’s biggest constituent, the Hunte Corporation (the largest puppy mill broker in US).  But why would the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) hire an Animal Rights  “fat cat” to run the pet industry. In a word? —  SURVIVAL.

In a shocking development, PIJAC announced that it had hired as its President and CEO, Ed Sayres, a man who has made his 40-year career in the animal rights industry, including a decade as the president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

ed1
Ed Sayres, former President and CEO of ASPCA, current President and CEO of PIJAC

Ed Sayres is a man with a storied career as a mercenary for the animal rights industry. While others exhibit ideological zeal, Sayres displays the kind of cold calculation attributed to a contract killer. He has left a wake of controversy involving ethical dealings with other organizations, as well as possible financial improprieties. Last year he oversaw the ASPCA’s payment of $9.3 million to settle a RICO lawsuit filed by Ringling Brothers Circus after the judge threw out a frivolous lawsuit discovering that Sayres’ key witness was on the take from the animal rights plaintiffs.

Sayres’ strengths are fundraising and political deal making. Some in the pet industry have suggested that he is an intelligence asset that has been flipped from animal rights advocate to pet advocate like some cloak and dagger spy novel. It is naive to think that after investing his entire 40 year career in animal rights, that he has suddenly had a change of heart.  Sayres appears more like a conquering general sent to administer the occupation of a fallen enemy.

It may seem counter-intuitive on its face that a pet advocate like PIJAC would seek to hire someone with such strong ties to the likes of Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the zealous world of animal rights. Clearly Ed Sayres is a committed animal rights soldier, but PIJAC’s downward slide since the resignation of its founder and CEO, Marshall Myers in 2010 may have left them with few alternatives. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

MCheadshot
Mike Canning, former President and CEO of PIJAC

To fill the vacuum created by the resignation of Myers, PIJAC appointed Mike Canning as President and CEO in September of 2010. Coming from the financial industry, Canning appeared inept in dealing with legislative challenges at the local, state and federal level. Canning’s presidency left a wake of legislative losses across the country, losing on puppy mill legislation at every level of government. Oddly enough, his one victory was in Ohio where state legislators intimated that he traded his support of a draconian anti-reptile/exotic animal bill (SB 310), for consideration on a simultaneous piece of puppy mill legislation.

Through Canning, the North American Reptile Breeders Conference (NARBC) used auction monies to fund a contract lobbyist in Ohio that acquiesced to SB 310.

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Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS

PIJAC may have been desperate when it decided to join forces with HSUS and the ASPCA on a definition of “puppy mill.” Certainly, PIJAC wanted and needed to slow the legislative march and strong public support of putting puppy mills out of business. In December 2013 HSUS dropped a press release with the headline, Pet Industry and Animal Welfare Organizations Join Forces to Address Puppy Mill Abuse.  In it, Wayne Pacelle of HSUS and Ed Sayres of ASPCA both sang the praises of PIJAC.

“We are pleased that the industry has come together in a meaningful way to acknowledge this abuse, and confront it head on.”  ~ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres.

It is likely that in the course of their close work together on puppy mills, the negotiations with Sayres, ASPCA and HSUS for control of the pet industry began, cloaked as “cooperation.”

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the joint venture between PIJAC, ASPCA and HSUS, the legislative pressure to ban puppy mills continued in 2014. More ground was lost by the pet industry. One small victory in Ohio back in 2012 was not likely enough to satisfy PIJAC’s largest constituent, the Hunte Corporation, America’s largest supplier of pet shop puppies, trafficking approximately 90,000 puppies per year (as of 2007) all over the world.

Since the departure of Marshall Myers from PIJAC, the regulatory environment for Hunte to continue to broker mass produced puppies to the nation’s pet stores had been significantly inhibited. PIJAC’s savvy opponents in the animal rights industry were steam rolling Canning, who quietly left PIJAC in early 2014. With continued pressure from Sayres and Pacelle, the Hunte Corporation seems to have become convinced that the best chance for continued profitability from commercially produced puppies was to try to borrow the mantle of humane treatment from an unlikely source:  the animal rights industry itself with Sayres championing Hunte’s cause.

“As animal welfare and pet industry leaders, we have no greater responsibility than to ensure that dogs in our country are treated humanely”  ~Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS

Likely Sayres will create a set of PIJAC “best management practices” (BMP’s).  Already, he has issued a public statement extolling the virtues of the Hunte Corporation after visiting their headquarters in the puppy mill capitol of Missouri. If PIJAC follows its prior strategies regarding reptile breeders and feeder rodent suppliers, it may create some kind of accreditation process that could be offered to Hunte Corporation puppy suppliers. A move like this would legitimize Hunte suppliers, while leaving other puppy mill interests on the outside looking in. Future legislation could be crafted to exempt PIJAC accredited facilities. This scenario would offer salvation to Hunte, unite the pet and animal rights industries, and give both PIJAC and their new partners  kudos and fundraising opportunities while they claim to have “cleaned up” puppy mills.

Hunte

Make no mistake, this is about money, big money. The pet industry represents approximately $58 billion in annual sales. The Hunte Corporation controls PIJAC and they will do whatever is necessary to keep their puppy mills in operation. If that entails cozying up to former enemies, so be it. PIJAC lost all autonomy with the resignation of Marshall Myers. They have now become a tool of the Hunte Corporation. PIJAC has sold the rest of the pet industry down the river so that Hunte can keep their puppy mills operating. Meanwhile, the animal rights industry has pulled off the biggest coup d’état in the history of the pet industry. As of yet, the repercussions of this upheaval are not quite clear, but this unprecedented development will likely have a negative impact on pets and pet owners for years to come.

Hats off to Ed Sayres for this apparent takeover of PIJAC and the pet industry by the animal rights industry. It was masterful chess move in the fight to decide animal policy in America. Although most animal interests will oppose this unholy marriage, large pet interests will support the move because they want to continue to sell pet food and supplies (and in some cases mass produced puppies). However, trusting people who are against the idea of animals in captivity to preserve the rights of people to keep animals puts the future of owning pets in the United States into question.

Last year the US Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK), the reptile industry trade association, went to great lengths to ‘swear fealty’ and follow the lead of PIJAC. The big question for herpetoculture and the reptile community is whether USARK  will continue to toe the line for PIJAC under the new regime.

Ed Sayers may ultimately be good for the Hunte Corporation, but his long time anti-reptile stance is counter to the interests and the future of herpetoculture and the Reptile Nation. Look for the pet industry to support or turn the other cheek at future bans on reptile shows and internet sales. Further, look for the pet industry to support heavy regulation of feeder animal production. And finally, look for pet industry support on invasive species and dangerous animal legislation that is contrary to herpetoculture. The agenda of animal rights is about to become the agenda of the pet industry. The US Herpetoculture Alliance urges USARK not to compound past mistakes by continuing to support PIJAC.

Say NO to Ed Sayers. Say NO to Hunte Corporation. Say NO to PIJAC. Say NO to the Animal Rights infiltration of the pet industry!

 

 

 

PIJAC Hires Animal Rights Fat Cat as CEO

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

In a shocking development this week, PIJAC announced today that it had hired as its president and CEO, Ed Sayres, a man who has made his 40-year career in the animal rights industry, including a decade as the president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

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

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

In recent years, there has been a split in the reptile community about PIJAC and PIJAC’s intentions.  However, certain members of the industry have encouraged the reptile community to cozy up to PIJAC.  PIJAC has raked in tens of thousands of donation and auction dollars from individual donors, NARBC auctions, and Ship Your Reptiles’ donation program.  In March 2013,  USARK announced that:

“USARK has established an open line of communication with PIJAC in 2013. The PIJAC Board of Directors voted unanimously to provide USARK an honorary membership. USARK looks forward to a working relationship with PIJAC, who has been protecting the pet industry over 40 years.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

HSUS (http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/exotic_pets/).

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.

Where Are HSUS Funds Going? Not Where You Think.

stop_sign_HSUSIf you have donated to the Humane Society of United States, chances are the only thing you have helped is the HSUS lobbying fund and their lawyer fees. Like you, most of us have been in the dark about the contributions of HSUS when it comes to rescuing pets and animals. HSUS does NOT run a single local shelter and the very little (less than 1%) they donate, goes to the actual welfare of homeless pets.

Richard Rice, Atlanta Humane Society GM says “They (HSUS) may have the resources to initialize the rescue but then again, the animals go to a local shelter somewhere in the country.” It is the local shelters who pay for the upkeep and care of these animals. So if HSUS isn’t contributing towards the care of these animals, then where is all the money ($122 million in 2011) going??

Aptly summed in five words – Fundraising, Advertising, Lobbying, Salaries and Employee pensions and benefits (FALSE):

  • According to their 2011 tax records, 41% of their funds were dedicated to marketing & advertising
  • In 2010, Wayne Pacelle stated that HSUS had about 50 lawyers of the 636 total employees. The White House had 454 employees in 2011!
  • HSUS recently deposited more than $11 million in its executive pension funds
  • HSUS has $32.7 million invested in Wall Street hedge funds
  • HSUS is using your donations for their defense against charges of corruption in federal court

Source:  http://www.humanesocietydonations.org/hsus-facts/?gclid=CIm00N6jrLUCFe1AMgodrjcAJg

HSUS Alert: 2013 State Rankings on Animal Laws

state_ranking_2012HSUS has published its 2012 Humane State Rankings.

Make sure to “mouse over” your state (in the actual link) to see what restrictions HSUS thinks are important to impose upon you.

It identifies the following states as needing to pass more restrictive laws on exotic animal ownership:

  • West Virginia
  • Indiana
  • South Carolina
  • Mississippi
  • Wisconsin
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • Idaho

Heads up, Idaho, HSUS says it is working with your government to pass more restrictive exotic animal laws!

HSUS Position on Keeping Reptiles

The article below is HSUS’s written, published opinion that no reptiles should be kept as pets and is from the HSUS web site.

September 25, 2009

Live Reptile Trade
The reptile trade puts human health, the environment, and the animals at risk
The Humane Society of the United States

The recent explosion in the popularity of pet reptiles—the number topped 13 million in 2009, according to the American Pet Products Association—is bad news for people, reptiles, and the environment.

Hazardous pets

People who buy reptiles as pets get more than they bargained for. Virtually all reptiles (even healthy ones) carry Salmonella bacteria. This doesn’t cause a problem for the animals, but for humans, it can be deadly. In humans, salmonellosis causes diarrhea, vomiting, and fever, and may develop into invasive illnesses such as meningitis and sepsis. Children and the elderly are especially at risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 74,000 people each year get salmonellosis from reptiles and amphibians, which means 6% of Salmonellacases in the United States can be linked to these animals.

For the sake of human health, the CDC recommends that reptiles be kept out of households that include children and people with compromised immune systems, and that children and immunocompromised people avoid all contact with reptiles and items the animals have touched. Direct contact with a reptile is not necessary to become sick; Salmonella bacteria can live for days on surfaces.

Because of the health risk, it is illegal to sell small turtles (those with a shell length of less than 4 inches) as pets in the United States. The CDC reports that this ban prevents an additional 100,000 cases of salmonellosis among children each year.

Reptiles pose a threat beyond disease transmission. Snakes and lizards, often sold as hatchlings, can reach six feet or more—posing a physical threat to humans and companion animals. Even small turtles can outgrow their tanks, and their welcome.

A hazardous trade

While many pet reptiles are bred in captivity, many are still taken from the wild or born of wild-caught parents. Each year nearly 2 million live reptiles are imported into the United States, and about 9 million are exported. This poorly regulated trade leaves behind depleted wild populations and damaged habitats. Brute force or gasoline may be used to rouse reptiles from their burrows.

Harsh capture techniques, compounded by poor shipping methods and inadequate care, kill many reptiles before they reach the pet store or dealer. An estimated 90 percent of wild-caught reptiles die in their first year of captivity because of physical trauma prior to purchase or because their owners cannot meet their complex dietary and habitat needs.

Marketed as low-maintenance pets, reptiles are often taken home by families who become overwhelmed by the level of care required. Some reptiles will be abandoned to the wild, where many of them will die from starvation, exposure, or predation. Those who survive often compete with native wildlife for food and habitat, damaging the balance of the ecosystem. Others will be relinquished to shelters, which are not usually equipped to handle these unique animals and which have few options for placing them.

For public health, conservation, and humane reasons, The HSUS recommends that the general public forgo pet reptiles. Wild animals are best left in the wild where they belong.

HSUS: The Pacelle Propaganda Machine Hampers Progress For Animals

By Erika N. Chen-Walsh

This post was previously published on my personal blog, A Legal Perspective, on December 3, 2012.

Wayne Pacelle, CEO and president of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) blogged today, lambasting Andrew Wyatt and U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) for opposing  U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney’s (R-FL) animal rights driven House Resolution 511.  HR 511 seeks to amend title 18, United States Code (the “Lacey Act”), to prohibit the importation of nine species of constrictor snakes as injurious species.  These include the Burmese python, the reticulated python, the North African rock python, the South African rock python, the Boa constrictor, and three species of anaconda.

Andrew Wyatt preparing to testify before the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs

Apparently, the reptile community, led by Andrew Wyatt, has struck a nerve with the $200 million plus per year animal rights legal behemoth, HSUS.  Pacelle’s angst at Wyatt is not particularly surprising.  Since co-founding the United States Association of Reptile Keepers in 2008, Wyatt has emerged victorious in more than two dozen state engagements defending the rights of herptile owners as well as multiple federal entanglements.  These victories have come on a shoestring budget and against HSUS’s powerhouse millions.  Wyatt is most certainly a bothersome thorn in Pacelle’s manicured paw, and one that will not go away.

Pacelle said today, “But the reptile lobby—yes, there is such a thing—has been thrashing its collective tail and saying how benign these snakes are and that cold weather will prevent the snakes from going much farther than the Everglades (I guess it’s no matter to these supposed snake “lovers” that the snakes will freeze to death).”

Pacelle’s comment is interesting for two reasons.  First, using HSUS’s own statistics, 17 people have been killed by large constrictors in the US since 1978.  HSUS further claims that there have been 1,111,768 large constrictors imported since 1977.  Using those figures alone, without factoring in the millions of large constrictors bred in captivity this country since 1978, it makes the risk of death from a large constrictor less than 0.01%.  Large constrictors may not be “benign,” but the risk of being killed by a vending machine, a clothes dryer, a sand hole, a shark attack, a dog or a bee are significantly higher than the statistical risk of being killed by a large constrictor.

Second, Pacelle seems to concede that the snakes will freeze to death if they travel north of the most southern tip of Florida.  HSUSclaims on its own web site about reptiles, “Wild animals are best left in the wild where they belong.”  As great a shock as it may come to HSUS, animals in the wild are not frolicking about making daisy chains and counting stars as they do in Disney movies.  Wild animals die of disease, injury, predation, starvation, and yes, from the elements of nature.

Clearly, Pacelle’s remark is intended only to inure sympathy from animal lovers who don’t truly understand the issue. HSUS has used similar rhetoric about dog breeders, showing a decided recalcitrance to distinguish between responsible breeders and puppy mills.  Responsible reptile owners and breeders do not want to see the suffering of any herptile, and they certainly don’t advocate releasing any captive reptiles into the wild.

Pacelle’s tantrum continues, “Somehow the snake lobby, in the form of the U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers, has hoodwinked a number of Republican House members and apparently convinced them that this is a matter of “economic freedom.”

This is about economic freedom. HSUS does not have the right to deprive American citizens of their property interests and their livelihoods simply because Pacelle doesn’t agree with reptile ownership.  It must be incredibly empowering for one person to believe that his ideology should translate into law for every American citizen, but it is the duty of lawmakers to protect the interests of their constituents, no matter how much it upsets Mr. Pacelle.  The majority of people involved in true herpetoculture, the breeding and ownership of captive bred reptiles, care immensely about the health and welfare of the animals they keep.  (If Pacelle is truly concerned about the welfare of animals, perhaps he should revisit his endorsement of convicted dog fighting felon, Michael Vick, who, for a monetary donation, now receives Pacelle’s endorsement.)

Pacelle speciously condemns U.S. Rep. Southerland for condoning the import of  “dangerous invasive species into the country for use as pets, even if they are creating ecological havoc, injuring and killing private citizens, and costing the nation millions of dollars in terms of containment activities.”  (When he hasn’t got facts, he embellishes.)  Notably, Pacelle provides no back up for his inflammatory and false rhetoric.  HSUS’s fall back plan is to continue to terrify the public about non existent threats in order to feather HSUS’s own legal nest.  (HSUS has conceded in its Motion to Intervene in Ohio that it has an economic interest in winning legislative engagements because doing so attracts more monetary donations.  I will be writing on that topic next.)  If Pacelle needs to succeed in state and federal legislatures in order to attract the hundreds of millions of dollars that pay his six figure salary, perhaps he should set his sights on those more dangerous predators, such as vending machines, clothes dryers and sand holes.

U.S. Representatives Fleming and Southerland, Dr. Brady Barr, Shawn Heflick, Colette Sutherland and Andrew Wyatt should be commended for bringing facts to the table regarding the threat of pythons in the Everglades and the economic impact of arbitrary and capricious government action.  The role of our representatives in Congress is to protect our rights from unnecessary and harmful legislation, not to ensure that Pacelle has enough “wins” to fund HSUS into perpetuity.

HSUS: Lying is a Thriving Vocation

“Those who are capable of tyranny are capable of perjury to sustain it.” ~ Lysander Spooner

On June 8, 2012, I attended the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) 4th Annual Animal Law Conference in Chicago. This is an all-day event with a series of speakers on animal law topics for which attorneys receive credit toward Illinois’ mandatory continuing legal education (CLE). Approximately forty attorneys attended and one of my law partners, David H. Hopkins, an avid gun dog enthusiast and breeder of English Springer Spaniels, moderated the segment on due process rights in animal law.

I am the Vice Chair of the DuPage County Bar Association Animal Law Committee, but one of the reasons I attended this CLE was because the second presentation on the agenda was “Wildlife Enforcement Case Study and Exotics After Zanesville.” The presenter was Debbie Leahy, Captive Wildlife Regulatory Specialist, HSUS, Chicago. I was actively involved in the opposition to SB 310 and came to know who the HSUS players in Ohio were. Debbie Leahy was not among them.

I did a little research on Leahy’s background after hearing her speak. 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.”

I was not able to find any record of her being on the bar in any state, nor does HSUS bill her as an attorney, so I am not sure why ISBA felt she was qualified to give a CLE presentation to Illinois lawyers, but I digress.

Perhaps it is because her background is not legal, but I was appalled at the inflammatory rhetoric she used in her presentation and by her multiple misstatements of fact and exaggerations. Clearly, Leahy felt she was pitching to a friendly audience, but the ease with which she misinformed was shocking, and Herp Alliance members should pay close attention, because Leahy spoke directly to HSUS’s strategy with respect to reptiles as well as other exotic animals.

HSUS has coined the catch phrase “DWA,” meaning Dangerous Wild Animals. Its list of “Species of Greatest Concern” includes: Big cats, small wild cats, bears, primates, wolves, venomous reptiles, large constrictor snakes, and alligators and crocodiles. HSUS’s written goal is to pass laws “limiting the possession of these animals to zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and sanctuaries accredited by the Global Federation of Sanctuaries (GFAS).” According to Leahy, “Exotic animals are in every nook and cranny of the country, in tiny pens and sheds, shut up in people’s basements and locked in bedrooms.” Her written presentation rejected even permits to possess exotic animals in favor of a total ban on ownership.

Leahy opened by gloating over the HSUS victory in Ohio in which she described the long fought battle with former Governor Strickland beginning in 2010 and over which HSUS finally prevailed. She glowed that she was pleased to report that Ohio is now a state “that bans wild animals as pets.” HSUS is thus conceding that SB 310 had nothing to do with Zanesville. It was the result of HSUS pressure and influence since 2010. For HSUS, Zanesville was the happy coincidence that pushed their ship over the finish line.

In discussing exotic animals, Leahy opined that large constrictor snakes are “high maintenance deadly predators.” She further stated that pythons and Boa constrictor are second only to big cats in human deaths. She said that there have been 17 human deaths since 1978 caused by deadly constrictor snakes nationwide. (According to HSUS itself, as of 2009 there were more than 13 million snakes living as pets in the United States.) According to Leahy, the problem with escaped large constrictors has reached the point where, “Escaped pythons are springing out of toilets, attacking people in gardens and ambushing children playing in their yards.”

Importantly, HSUS also testified in Ohio that there have been 17 human deaths caused by constrictor snakes since 1978. However, at both times HSUS made this statement, it failed to provide any support for it. Moreover, Leahy’s outrageous exaggerations about pythons “springing out of toilets” and accosting humans in their yards are false rhetoric designed to terrorize the public.

We must control this dialogue and present a true image of snakes in captivity. We cannot allow HSUS to perjure itself in support its tyrannical campaign to end reptile ownership.

Leahy provided an HSUS “Factsheet” to help summarize the immediate peril of “Illinois Incidents” dating back to 1997. Included in the HSUS list of incidents were two dead snakes (a 15′ Burmese python and a 7′ Boa constrictor) found frozen to death next to a fence at a truck stop and a 4′ albino Burmese python found sunning itself on the pavement outside of a Starbucks. In fact, notwithstanding HSUS’s outrageous allegations to the contrary, even their own “factsheet” lists only one injury in Illinois since 1997 from a reptile (the strangulation death of a 3 year old by his parents’ African rock python on August 29, 1999). One incident in fifteen years! This is a tragic fluke, not a problem. Bee stings cause more deaths than snakes.

Leahy then moved on to Illinois SB 3264, the controversial and painfully ill conceived bill introduced by Senator Heather Steans on February 1, 2012. HSUS was fully supportive of SB 3264′s provisions as it was written as well as later drafts, and has been working with Senator Steans on a promised revision this fall. Leahy admitted that HSUS is gearing up already for the coming legislative session and is gathering support for Steans from AZA and GFAS accredited sanctuaries as well as lining up the experts that they are planning to bring in to testify. In addition, she encouraged all supporters of SB 3264 to begin calling their state senators and representatives now to voice their support for this HSUS initiative. (Herp Alliance will issue an action alert for its members at the appropriate time to begin voicing our opposition if this comes to fruition.)

Leahy also revealed that HSUS has its eye on Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri, which she described as having “weak or non-existent laws.”

Leahy described three different times the “vigorous, vocal and obnoxious” opposition to “reasonable DWA legislation.” In fact, she had a slide in her PowerPoint presentation listing the vigorous, vocal and obnoxious opposition that included seven organizations. Second on the list was USARK, under the leadership of Andrew Wyatt (immediately after the Zoological Association of America). She described these groups as “industry interest groups and private owners represented by an umbrella organization.” Congratulations, Andrew Wyatt, you put the reptile community at the top of the list!