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.

USARK v Jewell et al.: Back to Square One

logo5On April 26, 2014, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan issued his Minute Order dispensing at last with the Motion to Dismiss filed by the government.

As predicted, USARK was granted leave to amend its complaint to cure its pleading defects.  In lay terms, USARK gets a “do-over” to include facts that should have been plead in its complaint.

Judge Sullivan granted this relief based on USARK’s Response, stating specifically:

[USARK] argues that it can establish both prudential and constitutional standing … and that they have the kind of concrete, particularized injuries required by Article III. Pl.’s Opp’n at 2-14. [USARK] also seeks leave to amend Counts 1 and 4 of its Complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2).

In other words, in its  Corrected Response to the Motion to Dismiss, USARK asked that it be permitted to fix its original pleading defects, and the judge granted that request.

The Amended Complaint is now due by May 9th, after which the government may file another Motion to Dismiss, depending on how well USARK is able to fix its original pleading.

The net result is that we are back to square one:  USARK will redraft and file a new complaint that will hopefully include factual allegations necessary to survive another Motion to Dismiss.

We are confident that in the six months that will have lapsed between the filing of its original complaint (December 18, 2013) and May 9, 2014 (when the Amended Complaint is due), USARK’s legal team should be able to draft a pleading that will stand so that we can eventually get to the heart of the matter.

  • With these additional six months of legal wrangling over pleading defects, how much remains in the budget to fund this litigation?
  • How much has been spent at this point arguing over defective pleadings?
  • And how much do they anticipate spending on the lawsuit going forward?

USARK just released its 2013 Financial Statement and 2013 Breakdown, showing that in 2013, USARK spent $153,067 on lobbyists and $41,910 in Legal and Professional fees.  

As USARK beats the fund raising drum to continue to raise funds for this necessary litigation, they should provide more transparency about how those funds are being allocated and how much more is needed, especially in light of Kelley Drye’s published statement that they have provided a budget to USARK for this lawsuit.

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.

USARK v Jewell et al.: An Update as of April 9th

320px-Caramel_burmese_pythonThere has not been much action since the defendants in USARK’s lawsuit filed their Reply in support of their Motion to Dismiss USARK’s complaint.

On or around March 25th, USARK issued a statement, ostensibly written by Kelley Drye (“KD”), defending their performance to date in the lawsuit.   Since that time, two things have been filed.

First, on March 31st, KD partner, David E. Frulla, filed his Appearance on behalf of USARK.  Although Shaun Gehan will apparently remain on the case, KD has assigned a partner to the matter now as well. This should be a welcomed change. Frulla has impressive credentials.  Although a partner with his qualifications is going to come at a handsome price, his experience and oversight can only help.

Second, on April 1, 2014, USARK filed its Motion for Oral Argument.  The Court has discretion to hear oral arguments on the Motion to Dismiss or to rule on the pleadings.  In this case, USARK feels that the complexities of its position require clarification in the form of oral arguments to the Court.  No decision yet as to if and when the Court will hear oral arguments.

In its March 25th statement, KD claims that they have developed, a “reasonable budget” for this lawsuit.  However, they have declined to name a figure.  The frenetic fund raising that ushered in this lawsuit seems to have subsided to a certain degree, but stating their fundraising goals and how close they are to achieving those goals would probably assist with their fundraising efforts.

KD goes on to opine that discovery in this case will somehow be cheaper because the government is required to produce its record.  Regardless of the source of the documents, properly preparing a case for litigation will require a thorough review of those documents, a review that must now be done by two partners at two law firms.  Although discovery requests can be expensive, the bulk of the fees incurred lie in reviewing, analyzing and strategizing on how to use those documents.

281px-Ball_python_lucyNonetheless, KD has a budget. Hopefully that budget is not in the nature of a flat fee.  After all, if a buyer offers to pay a seller a $10,000 flat fee and tells the seller to send him snakes, the seller has the option to send one normal ball python or 25 coral glow ball pythons.  It is not difficult to surmise what the buyer is likely to receive.  The more snakes he sends, the lower his profit margin.  Law firms operate on the same economics as any other service business.

This is not a simple case and it is, in some respects, a case of first impression. We continue to like some of USARK’s legal arguments, but winning them will require sophisticated lawyering, creative and competent arguments, and more attention to detail.  One thing that KD did not address in their post was why USARK’s response brief to the Motion to Dismiss was filed with so many errors that a Notice of Errata was required.

KD has incorrectly stated that Herp Alliance has criticized the lawsuit for not seeking monetary damages.  We have never done so, but we have taken the time to summarize issues at various times when explanations were not forthcoming elsewhere, and we will continue to do that.  Rather than wasting time in a defensive posture to our posts, we wish KD would focus their attentions and their billable hours on the case at hand, a case that has drastic ramifications for the Reptile Nation, for herpetoculture, and to the thousands of species whose ultimate survival may depend on captive breeding.

We have said every time we have mentioned this suit that those who have an interest in large constrictors should dig deep and donate to this lawsuit, and we will repeat that request now.


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.


USARK v. Jewell et al. Haste Makes Waste

haste-makes-waste-printAs Herp Alliance previously reported, USARK filed its brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss filed by the government defendants.  In our report, we noted signs of haste in USARK’s pleading.

On March 10, 2014, USARK filed its USARK Notice of ErrataUSARK Corrected Response and Exhibits to Corrected Response.  (Copies of all three documents can be viewed through the linked text.)  Although USARK will not be penalized because it took advantage of a three day extension in filing its corrected version of its Opposition, it is likely that the government’s Reply brief will now be delayed as well.



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