Tag Archives: Boa constrictor

Herp Alliance Comments on Federal Boa & Python Ban: Did you?

US Fish & Wildlife Seeks to Add Five Snakes to Injurious List
US Fish & Wildlife Seeks to Add Five Snakes to Injurious List

Will 5 More Constricting Snakes be Added
to the Injurious Wildlife List?

The US Herpetoculture Alliance alerted the reptile community back in May that US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) planned to re-open the public comment period regarding the “Constrictor Rule.” On June 23rd FWS officially announced the re-opening of a 30 day public comment period as expected; deadline of July 24th at 11:59pm EDT. Herp Alliance filed detailed public comments prior to the deadline. Did you make public comment? Please share your official comment in our comment section below.

In January 2012 FWS published a rule in the Federal Register that added the Burmese python, Indian python, northern and southern African pythons, and the yellow anaconda to the Injurious Wildlife List of the Lacey Act. The Constrictor Rule added 5 of the 10 snakes originally proposed for listing, however five remaining snakes (Boa constrictor, reticulated python,  green anaconda, DeShauensee’s anaconda and Beni anaconda) were not listed at that time, but remained “under consideration.”

Although the reopening of public comment was welcome news and an additional opportunity to provide critical information for the public record, the Herp Alliance believes this action is a clear signal that FWS is prepared to finalize the Constrictor Rule that was finalized in part on January 23, 2012 (77 FR 3330)– adding some or all of the remaining five species of constricting snakes to the Injurious List. Any species listed on the Injurious List cannot be imported into the country nor transported across state lines without a special permit from FWS.

The US Herpetoculture Alliance filed detailed public comment with FWS opposing the proposed rule to add the remaining five species to the Injurious list. We urge you to read them. Our argument focused on the “best available economic and scientific data” and pointed out the egregious flaws in the FWS justification for rule making. Some of the points included:

  1. Major Rule
  2. Scientific Underpinnings
  3. Best Available Science
  4. Arbitrary and Capricious
  5. Conclusions

Additionally, Herp Alliance worked with the best and the brightest in the scientific and legal community coordinating many high quality comments. Please read our public comment and post your thoughts below in our comment section. If you made public comment with FWS, please SHARE with us and please include the tracking number assigned to you.

Herp Alliance tracking number: 1jy-8der-hvz9

Read the US Herpetoculture Alliance Official Public Comments here.

FWS to Re-open Public Comment on Boas and Pythons!

Boas, retics and green anacondas could be listed as Injurious under the Lacey Act.
Boas, retics and green anacondas could be listed as Injurious under the Lacey Act.

The US Herpetoculture Alliance has just learned that US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has given notice to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) that public comment on the Constrictor Rule will be re-opened. Although positive news, the Herp Alliance believes this action to be a clear signal that FWS is prepared to finalize the Constrictor Rule that was finalized in part on January 23, 2012 (77 FR 3330)– adding 4 species of constricting snakes to the In jurious Wildlife List of the Lacey Act. Any species listed on the Injurious List cannot be imported into the country nor transported across state lines without a special permit from FWS.

In January 2012 FWS published a rule in the Federal Register that added the Burmese python, northern African python, southern African python and yellow anaconda to the Injurious Wildlife List of the Lacey Act. The Constrictor Rule accounted for 4 of the 9 snakes originally proposed for listing. The remaining 5 snakes, Boa constrictor, reticulated python,  green anaconda, DeShauensee’s anaconda and Beni anaconda were not listed at that time, but remained “under consideration.”

FWS has now given formal notice to OIRA that is is prepared to move forward to finalize the rule adding Boas, Retics and 3 anacondas to the Injurious List. Although FWS has announced to OIRA that they will re-open public comment on the Constrictor Rule, they have not indicated when it will re-open, or for how long. Details will be published in the Federal Register. Herp Alliance expects it to be very soon.

Stay tuned to Herp Alliance for fast breaking updates, news and analysis.

HSUS Pushes to Finalize the Constrictor Rule

US Fish & Wildlife Service Seeks CatX to Avoid Due Process For Injurious Listings

Herp Alliance has learned this morning that the Humane Society of the United States has been pushing and is gaining support to finalize the Constrictor Rule of the Lacey Act to include all nine species of large constrictor snakes originally proposed.

Below is the text of a letter from Mike Markarian of HSUS trying to get members of Congress to sign a bipartisan letter in support of listing all  five remaining constrictor snakes and to elicit support for the finalization of the Constrictor Rule to include all nine species:  Burmese python, yellow anaconda, northern African rock python, southern African rock python, reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda, Beni anaconda, and boa constrictor.

January XX, 2014

Secretary Sally Jewell
United States Department of the Interior
Office of the Secretary
1849 C Street NW, Room 6156
Washington, DC 20240

Administrator Howard Shelanski
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Office of Management and Budget
Executive Office of the President
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
1650 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Room 262
Washington, DC 20503

Dear Secretary Jewell and Administrator Shelanski,

We are writing to request that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) move quickly—and with support from OMB and the White House—to complete its ruling on large non-native constrictor snakes by issuing a final regulation listing the reticulated python, the DeSchauensee’s anaconda, the green anaconda, the Beni anaconda and the boa constrictor as injurious under the Lacey Act.

These snakes pose an unacceptable and preventable risk to the safety of the American people, and to some of our most treasured natural places.  Since 1990, 12 people have died from encounters with “pet” constrictor snakes, including a two year old Florida girl and a three year old Illinois boy who were both strangled in their cribs. Dozens more have been injured or sickened.  Further, these snakes have shown that they can adapt to, invade, and severely damaged native ecosystems, as we have seen with the Burmese python’s decimation of mammal populations in the Florida Everglades, and the boa constrictors displacement of native reptiles in Puerto Rico.  We cannot afford to risk the introduction of additional invasive species that will be expensive and difficult to eradicate.

In a comprehensive 323-page report issued in 2009, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) concluded that nine species of dangerous exotic constrictor snakes present a “high” or “medium” risk of becoming invasive since unwanted snakes commonly escape from cages,  or are turned loose by owners who were never informed their “pets” would grow to over 15 feet long. On January 23, 2012, FWS issued a rule listing four of the nine species—Burmese pythons, yellow anacondas, and northern and southern African pythons, which represent about 30 percent of the trade—as injurious under the Lacey Act. Unfortunately, two years have passed and FWS has failed to take action on the remaining 70 percent of the trade in large constrictor snakes. Unless these species are added to the list of injurious species, the trade will continue to threaten the environment as well as public safety.

The largely unregulated reptile industry poses a significant burden to taxpayers. The FWS, in partnership with many organizations, has spent more than $6 million since 2005 attempting to combat the growing problem of Burmese pythons and other large invasive constrictor snakes in Florida where they are consuming endangered and threatened species, have decimated as much as 99 percent of the area’s small and medium sized native mammals, and are killing family pets in residential neighborhoods.

The ability of an individual to own or sell a dangerous and exotic animal must be balanced against the interests of all Americans in preserving public safety.

Thank you for attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

 

Cc:          Jeanne A. Hulit
Acting Administrator
Office of the Administrator
United States Small Business Administration
409 Third Street, SW, Suite 7000
Washington, DC 20416

Pythons, Politics, Rumor & Controversy: Clarification on the Constrictor Rule

The Thanksgiving notification given to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) by US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) that there would be another step toward the finalization of the Constrictor Rule in early 2014 has turned the herpetoculture industry on its ear. Confusion is rampant in the community. Accusations have been leveled as to responsibility, and the reptile and pet industry trade associations are scrambling trying to effect damage control. But the situation is not nearly as complicated as some would make it out to be.

11_Snakes
photo: USGS- Green Anaconda

At stake here is the trade in large constricting snakes that have been slated for addition to the Injurious Wildlife List of the Lacey Act. In 2011 FWS proposed a rule to add nine constricting snakes to the Injurious Species List. The trade in these nine species was estimated to be in excess of $100 million annually, potentially making the rule fall into the “major” rule classification which would mandate that the rule making process be rigorous and subject to information quality standards.

Subsequently, FWS published a partial rule in the Federal Register in January 2012; listing four of the proposed nine snakes on the injurious list, and holding the remaining five out as continuing to be “under consideration.” Since the rule was published USARK, PIJAC and US Herpetoculture Alliance have gone back and forth to Washington DC discussing further finalization of the ‘Constrictor Rule’ in order to remove the onus of the “under consideration” designation from the remaining five snakes that were not listed. The argument was this designation was tantamount to a de-facto listing and was destroying legal trade.

US Fish & Wildlife Service Seeks To Add More Snakes To Constrictor Rule

Fast forward to Monday, December 2, 2013. The US Herpetoculture Alliance was made aware that FWS had notified OIRA of it’s intention to finalize in full, or in part, the listing of the remaining five snakes still “under consideration” as a part of the ‘Constrictor Rule’. As reported, the notification abstract published last week indicated: “We are making a final determination on the listing of five species of large constrictor snakes as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act: Reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda, Beni anaconda, and boa constrictor. Four of the nine proposed species were listed in 77 FR 3330. This rule will determine the status of the remaining five species under the same RIN.” ~ US Fish & Wildlife Service, November 2013

In the wake of this discovery we began to further research the FWS/ OIRA records over the last year. We found an even more ominous notification from July 2013 that no one had ever reported on: “We are making a final determination to list four species of large constrictor snakes as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act: Reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda, and Beni anaconda. The boa constrictor is still under consideration for listing. Four of the nine proposed species were listed in 77 FR 3330. This rule will list four more under the same RIN. One more species will remain under consideration for listing under the same RIN.” ~ US Fish & Wildlife Service, July 2013

Both of these notices are part of the public record. They are not privileged information. They are available to anyone who looks for them. Neither notice is subject to interpretation. They are both the exact language used by FWS. Please follow the links and read them for yourself.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” ~ Buddha

The reality is that this is not super secret national security stuff. It is all public record. No confidences have been breached. FWS has sent clear signals that they intend to finalize the ‘Constrictor Rule’ very soon; probably by February 2014. What is also very clear is that, according to their own notice, they will likely add reticulated pythons and the three remaining anacondas to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act; while continuing to leave boa constrictors “under consideration” for future listing.

photo: USGS- Boa Constrictor
photo: USGS- Boa Constrictor

The biggest question in our mind is whether FWS will actually stop short of listing boa constrictor. We think that they will not include boa constrictors in this action, but they can do whatever they want, and publish whatever they want. They are NOT restricted by the notices they have made a part of the public record. The Herp Alliance truly hopes that FWS will decide NOT to list any more snakes. We will not know for sure until FWS publishes the final rule in the Federal Register.

In 2012 the “rumor” circulating among Washington insiders was that only two snakes would actually get listed in the final rule. As you know four were listed. Today our best guess is that four of the remaining five will get listed; with reticulated pythons being added to the list and boas escaping for the time being. We sincerely hope it will not be all five that get listed. Our endeavor is to make the best information available to the herpetoculture community. We hope this clarifies some of the confusion.

UPDATE: Reticulated Pythons To Be Added To Lacey Act

retic5The US Herpetoculture Alliance has just learned that reticulated pythons and green anacondas, along with two obscure species of anaconda, will be added to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act. Boa constrictor will remain under consideration, but will not be listed at this time.

“We are making a final determination to list four species of large constrictor snakes as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act: Reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda, and Beni anaconda. The boa constrictor is still under consideration for listing.” ~ US Fish & Wildlife Service 7/23/13

The Herp Alliance has not engaged in advocacy for some time. Funding for a first class federal advocacy program is extremely costly. We have reorganized as a conservation and education organization.

The Herp Alliance broke this story yesterday. We are incorporating a news and commentary component to our mission. To that end, this information was first published last July in the Department of Interior Semiannual Regulatory Agenda. This notice provides the semiannual agenda of rules scheduled for review or development between spring 2013 and spring 2014. So this information has been available for some time.

Reticulated pythons and the anacondas will officially be added to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act when US Fish and Wildlife Service publishes the finalized portion of the ‘Constrictor Rule’ in the Federal Register.

The reptile and pet trade associations cannot sit fat, dumb and happy while the rights of herpetoculturists are regulated into oblivion.  By the time the collective coma is shaken off, the days of breeding Burmese pythons, reticulated pythons and Boa constrictors may be lost forever.

It is the opinion of the US Herpetoculture Alliance that the only real recourse is for one or both of the trade associations to file a federal lawsuit against the US Fish & Wildlife Service challenging the merits of the original ‘Constrictor Rule’ of 2012.

 

 

FWS Taking Aggressive Action Against Reptiles

While you were enjoying a quiet Thanksgiving holiday with your family, US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) was taking aggressive action against reptiles and other animal interests.

FWS has notified the Office of Management & Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) that it will finalize the ‘Constrictor Rule’ adding more boas and pythons as injurious species, as well as propose two additional rules that will allow FWS to more easily administer the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act, and effect greater control over the import, export and interstate transport of reptiles and many other animals. The full ramifications of these three rules will not be clear until until they are published in the Federal Register likely in early 2014.

SONY DSCWhat is clear is that FWS seeks to add more constricting snakes to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act. At risk are: Boa constrictor, reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda, and Beni anaconda. This is in addition to the listing of four constricting snakes in 2012: Burmese python, northern and southern African pythons, and the yellow anaconda.

1)  RIN: 1018-AV68- Title: Injurious Wildlife Evaluation; Constrictor Species From Python, Boa, and Eunectes Genera. We (FWS) are making a final determination on the listing of five species of large constrictor snakes as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act: Reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda, Beni anaconda, and boa constrictor.

Further, it is also clear that FWS seeks to increase their power and streamline the process to add other species to the injurious species list, while also increasing restrictions and fees on import, export and transportation of ALL wildlife.

2)  RIN: 1018-AX63- Title: Injurious Wildlife; Making Injurious Wildlife Determinations Under the Lacey Act. We (FWS) propose to revise our regulations for listing species as injurious in order to enhance the species screening process and enable more efficient and effective decisions that will help prevent the introduction and spread of injurious wildlife.

3)  RIN: 1018-AZ71- Title: Importation, Exportation, and Transportation of Wildlife. We (FWS) propose to rewrite a substantial portion of our regulations for importation, exportation, and transportation of wildlife. We (FWS) will propose changes to the port structure and inspection fees.

With the apparent unwillingness or possible inability of the reptile community to file a lawsuit challenging the shaky legal standing of the original ‘Constrictor Rule’ of 2012, FWS has become emboldened to press their advantage. Burmese pythons and three other constricting snakes were added to the Lacey Act under what some think to be an “arbitrary, capricious and unlawful” process conducted by FWS. Now FWS threatens to add five more snakes, including boa constrictor and reticulated python.

2014 promises to be a critical year for many in herpetoculture. From zoos and research facilities to commercial breeders and hobbyists, TV and film to pet owners, ALL will likely be negatively impacted by proposed rule changes to the Lacey Act.

Please share this with your friends and family. Join our mailing list, follow our blog, and follow the US Herpetoculture Alliance (Herp Alliance) on Facebook for the most timely and accurate news and analysis on all issues regarding herpetoculture.

 

Ohio Action Alert

OHDonations are needed to fund the appeal against Ohio’s Dangerous Wild Animals Act.  Herp Alliance is not involved in the lawsuit, but we ask you to please consider helping our exotic animal friends in Ohio.  This fight affects us all.  For more information, visit OAAO Membership.

From Polly Briton at the Ohio Association of Animal Owners ~

IMPORTANT ATTORNEY UPDATE — We had a teleconference with the attorney at 1:30 today (3/13/13). The preliminary papers have been filed for the appeal and the transcript of the trial (December 2012) has been prepared and will be released as soon as the court receives payment for the transcript. That payment amounts to approximately $2,300. We are mailing $1,000 of it tomorrow morning and that will deplete our Legal Fund until more items are sold and paid for, or we receive some more cash donations. That means we need to raise $1,300 quickly. If the transcript isn’t paid for soon, the court could administratively dismiss the appeal case. We’ve been sending the attorney $$ all along, but most of what we’ve sent since December has gone to pay for the deposition transcripts, not to the attorney himself. He’s been patient and isn’t pressing us for the money other than we have to get this transcript paid for in order for him to proceed with the briefs. Everybody’s been so good about donating items and cash and buying items on this site, I hate to ask for more; but everyone needs to know that if we want the appeal to go forward, this bill must be paid.

Also, as soon as the transcript is paid for and released, the media will be able to get their hands on it, which is a good thing. One of the things that came out at trial was John Moore’s unrefuted testimony that the Zanesville deputies shot the Thompson animals execution style. It’s about time that those details make it into the media, as well as John’s statements concerning who was the first to find Thompson’s body, and what was and wasn’t there when the body was first found.

SB 310: KASICH’S BIG, EXPENSIVE BLUNDER POISED TO KILL SMALL BUSINESS IN OHIO

By Erika N. Chen-Walsh

“There is poison in the fang of the serpent, in the mouth of the fly and in the sting of a scorpion; but the wicked man is saturated with it.”    ~ Chanakya

May 22, 2012, Ohio’s Senate Bill 310, which went through 16 revisions in the Senate and one, big Omnibus Amendment in the House, passed the Ohio House of Representatives by a vote of 89-9. It was rushed through the Senate regarding the House amendments on the same day and passed by a vote of 30-1. SB 310 awaits only Governor Kasich’s signature before becoming Ohio law. There is no chance of veto.

SB 310 has sweeping implications for all exotic animals. In terms of reptiles, it imposes a prohibitive permitting scheme for all species of venomous snakes and certain constrictors over 12′ in length. It imposes enormous and specific liability insurance or surety bond requirements on owners of venomous snakes, the likes of which are not available. SB 310 requires owners of all restricted snakes to meet certain standards of care that have not been defined and will be set by administrative rule at some later date by group of people unqualified to define best management practices for reptiles. By administrative rule, the director of agriculture can require any information he chooses on the application to own restricted snakes and breeding restricted snakes requires a separate permit. Additional species may be added to the dangerous wild animals list or the list of restricted snakes by either legislative process or a simple concurrent resolution without full legislative process. The impact on reptile hobbyists, owners, breeders and small businesses will be enormous.

How did Ohio go from being one of the few completely unregulated states with respect to exotic reptiles, to one of the most restrictive in less than three months?

The genesis of SB 310 goes back to 2010 and Kasich’s predecessor, Governor Ted Strickland. Strickland was under tremendous
pressure from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to regulate standards of care for Ohio farm animals. HSUS had threatened to file petitions for HSUS’s proposed constitutional amendment on animal care and housing. (FN1.) Strickland, caving to the pressure of HSUS’s threats, made a deal to draft an executive order. In exchange for this agreement, HSUS agreed to drop their ballot initiative for 2010 and committed to instigating no future initiatives for at least ten years. (FN2.)

On January 6, 2011, the deal brokered between Strickland and HSUS resulted in Strickland issuing an emergency executive order banning exotic pets in Ohio. (FN3.) The executive order would have authorized the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife to adopt new rules that prevented new private ownership of wild animals, required existing private owners of dangerous wild animals to register the animals with the state, and defined the type of facilities that could own and rehabilitate dangerous wild animals. The emergency rules would be in place for 90 days. (FN4.)

Four days later, Kasich was sworn in as Ohio’s governor, having defeated Strickland in November 2010 by a narrow margin. (FN5.) By this time, Andrew Wyatt had become aware of the terms of Strickland’s well publicized deal with HSUS. In January 2011, he began contacting Kasich’s office.

By the spring of 2011, Kasich had decided not to sign Strickland’s exotic animal ban because he felt that it exceeded the authority of ODNR and because he felt that it would damage Ohio small businesses. (FN6.) Kasich blocked Strickland’s executive order until its expiry.

Then Zanesville happened. On October 18, 2011, Zanesville, Ohio police began receiving 911 calls of lions, bears, tigers, and other large, dangerous animals wandering loose. The animals, 56 in all, belonged to a man named Terry Thompson, who had kept them on a private game preserve and who chose to turn them loose just prior to killing himself. No humans were harmed by the loosed animals, but unfortunately, the animals were not so lucky. Forty-nine lions, tigers, bears, wolves, mountain lions and a baboon were slaughtered. Most of these were shot and killed by law enforcement officers within 1500 feet of their pens. One was hit by a car. No reptiles were involved in the Zanesville incident.

The public criticism against Kasich from the Zanesville tragedy was swift and condemning. Kasich, of course, refused to accept any culpability, but it turned into an enormous political embarrassment for Kasich, so much so that he sent his friend, Jungle Jack Hanna to the media to defend him. Hanna (television celebrity and Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium), a strong Kasich ally who personally donated $7500 to Kasich’s gubernatorial campaign, made the rounds on national TV claiming it was not Kasich’s fault and further stating that even if Strickland’s original ban had been left in place, there wasn’t anyone to enforce it and no place to put the animals if they had to be taken away. (FN7.)

Politicians achieve their status in life by renegotiating every promise they ever make. The most successful ones make the largest reversals. Kasich may become very successful.

Before Zanesville, Kasich claimed to be protecting Ohio’s small businesses. After Zanesville, he claimed that he blocked Strickland’s executive order because of deficiencies in that order. He became hell bent on passing prohibitive legislation against exotic animal owners as political damage control.

In December 2011, Wyatt met with Senator Troy Balderson, the senator representing the district in which Zanesville lies, and the same senator who sponsored SB 310. Wyatt also met with the director of ODA, the director of ODNR, both of their staffs, and multiple other legislators regarding the inclusion of reptiles (which have never posed a public safety threat in Ohio) in what was already taking form as a huge, restrictive legislative thundercloud for exotic animals and to educate the administration on the impact to Ohio residents and businesses. Other organizations also became interested in and around this time and they, too, began trying to influence the governor.

Senator Balderson made multiple promises to Wyatt during these meetings. Balderson assured Wyatt that only crocodilians and venomous snakes would would fall under his permit system (no constrictors), and that the system would be favorable to industry and it would be “business as usual.” He reversed on those promises.

On March 8, 2012, Balderson introduced SB 310, seeking to enact a sweeping law to establish requirements governing the possession of multiple species of animals, which would be designated as “dangerous wild animals” as well as multiple species of snakes which would be designated under the law as “restricted snakes.” He reversed on his promise to omit constrictors. He reversed on his promise to maintain “business as usual” for the reptile industry. SB 310′s provisions with respect to snakes were so onerous and expensive that they would have served to be a de facto ban on the ownership of multiple species of constrictor snakes as well as venomous snakes.

Rumors in the Statehouse circulated that Balderson, who was not elected but appointed to his senate seat by Kasich, was buckling under the pressure of the governor, who was in a frantic scramble to avoid looking bad over Zanesville. Wyatt made the strategic decision (with which I agreed whole heartedly) to discontinue discussions with Balderson because at best, he lacked the political authority to negotiate, or, at worst, he was negotiating in extremely bad faith.

Wyatt appeared on March 27, 2012 at the first opponents hearing on SB 310 before the Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee. Wyatt gave compelling testimony to a standing room only crowd, amid a sea of NO SB 310 buttons provided by Wyatt, that the reptile industry generates approximately $30 million annually in the state of Ohio; that thousands make their livings or supplement their incomes by farming reptiles as a non-traditional agricultural pursuit; that a rational argument could not be made that working with any reptiles presented public safety risks, and that 90% of the impact of SB310 was directed at the reptile industry, hobbyists and pet owners. He requested that all reptiles be removed from SB 310 and that administrative rule making authority to add new species be removed as well.

Wyatt and I both appeared on April 17th, and on April 24th, each time presenting testimony that not only would SB 310 create a huge burden on Ohio commerce and small businesses, but that reptiles have statistically never posed a public safety risk in Ohio or elsewhere in the U.S.

By April 17th it was clear to us that the Senate intended to listen to virtually unending testimony on SB 310, but had every intention of passing SB 310 out of committee. During that week, Wyatt began executing its strategy to try to ameliorate the damaging provisions of SB 310 in the Ohio House of Representatives. Wyatt felt, and I agreed, that progress in the Senate was futile and further efforts there were going to be fruitless under the circumstances.

Balderson made and reneged on more promises regarding SB 310 during this time period. For example, he promised that administrative rule making authority to add new species would be removed. In fact, he put that promise into writing. But he reneged.

By April 24th, SB 310 was in its 16th version. Some opponents spoke out in favor of the sixteenth version because Balderson removed Boa constrictor , removed constricting snakes less than 12′ long, and allowed surety bonds in certain cases instead of liability insurance for venomous snakes. The inclusion of constrictors, later “bargained” back, was not a victory. Balderson took pains to agree to “concessions” that the legislature could reclaim because of his failure to remove administrative rule as promised. It was a shell game played by Balderson and Kasich against the stakeholders and their representatives who were inexperienced at the carnival.

Wyatt and I  began meeting with House representatives on April 24, 2012 and voicing our objections to SB 310. These objections were resoundingly well received in the House and we were assured that the House would not buckle to the whims of a tyrannical governor as the Senate had.

Beginning in April, several aides also intimated to us that somehow, some of the opponents of SB 310 were leveraging it against another pending piece of legislation, Ohio SB 130. In other words, if opposition to SB 310 were quelled, SB 130 might not be scheduled for committee hearing. SB 130 is a puppy mill bill and puppy production in Ohio is a much larger industry that reptile keeping. Another layer of intrigue had been added. Although we could not verify for certain this had happened, we received enough comments from enough offices, that it seemed likely. As of May 23, 2012, SB 130 still has not been scheduled for further committee hearings and the session is about to end. It was assigned to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on February 2, 2012, more than a month before SB 310 was even introduced.

On April 25, 2012, SB 310 passed out of the Ohio Senate on a vote of 30-1 and moved to the House. The same day, Wyatt was on the phone with Chairman David Hall’s office addressing the issue of administrative rule as well as other problematic features that persisted in SB 310. By this time, Wyatt and I already had appointments scheduled for the following week with more than half of the representatives on the House and Natural Resources Committee to discuss SB 310 and had contacted Kasich’s office multiple times regarding meeting with the governor to discuss SB 310. After two weeks of such attempts, Kasich’s aide admitted that Kasich would not meet with us regarding SB 310 and told us that, through her, Kasich made a personal request to the director of agriculture, Director Daniels, to meet with Wyatt and me. Unfortunately, the director’s schedule did not allow that to happen.

By May 1, 2012, we had submitted a proposed substitute bill to Representative David Hall, the Chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. We were in Ohio on May 8th and 9th for continued meetings with legislators in the House, to discuss the particulars of our sub bill (which was distributed to the House Committee on May 8th) and to testify in the House Committee hearings.

Throughout hearings, we continued to hammer home the points that SB 310 represented an unfunded mandate that would fall squarely on the shoulders of Ohio taxpayers, that reptile owners continued to be disproportionately affected, that reptiles posed no safety risk in Ohio, that administrative rule to add new species violated due process rights, that the insurance requirements of SB 310 were impossible to meet because such policies did not exist, and that ideologues and imported animal rights experts were the only proponents, proponents that would drive Ohio residents out of business.

Attendance by committee members at the House committee hearings was outstanding. Members asked pointed and excellent questions and paid close attention to the testimony that was given. On two nights, these public hearings went until approximately midnight. Andrew and I appeared on behalf of the Ohio reptile community, and multitudinous Ohio residents appeared and testified as well, many in the herpetoculture community as well as owners of exotic mammals. At most hearings, opponents outnumbered proponents by more than 20 to one. Proponents were HSUS, PETA, a handful of local zoo representatives (always at least one of Hanna’s cronies from the Columbus Zoo) and imported animal rights advocates from other states.

Early on, Representative Jim Buchy (R) developed a pointed interest in support of our positions and our sub bill. Buchy sent our sub bill to drafting and through him it was proposed to the House committee. Other representatives were also opposed to the Senate version of SB 310 and it was clear to them that Wyatt’s criticisms of specific provisions were accurate.

In our May 8, 2012 meeting with Chairman Hall, he explained to us that when the House received SB 310 from the Senate, the House committee members felt that SB 310 was so problematic that there were not enough votes to pass it out of committee. Hall indicated that he would not call for a vote if they could not pass it. However, if the changes were made in the House necessary to pass SB 310 out of committee, he felt certain that the Senate would not approve it. In that case, the two chambers were required to “conference” the issue, with the governor, which would delay the session.

After May 10, 2012, no further testimony was taken on SB 310. On May 14th, seven committee members caucused SB 310 with Balderson and Kasich. We learned after that caucus that the majority of the House committee was also caving under Kasich’s will. All of the House committee members were up for reelection in November. They were anxious to get back to their districts to campaign. Balderson threatened that substantive changes would not pass in the Senate. Kasich promised that he would veto SB 310 if it arrived on his desk with substantive changes. As a result, the only changes that the House committee proposed in its Omnibus Amendment were those that both Balderson and Kasich had pre-approved.

The Omibus Amendment did not restore legislative process to SB 310. Instead, it allows the director of agriculture to add species to the restricted snakes list or to the dangerous wild animals list (or between those two lists) with approval of the General Assembly. This could be through the introduction of an amendment in the form of a bill. However, it can also be through a concurrent resolution, for which hearings, multiple readings, committees and public input are not required. A concurrent resolution only needs a simple majority vote in each chamber and may occur quite silently. This is not full legislative process.

The insurance provisions in SB 310 are either not obtainable or may be so onerous that the cost will preclude nearly all breeders from meeting the requirements. The standards of care are not defined and administrative rules could impose standards of care that are so impossible as to represent a ban on all permits. Moreover, the director of agriculture can, by administrative rule, define what information and requirements are necessary to keep restricted snakes. SB 310 is a defacto ban on keeping venomous snakes and possibly constrictor snakes over 12′ of certain species.

On May 16, 2012 , SB 310 passed the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee late in the evening by a vote of 17 to 4. The four Representatives who opposed the bill were Buchy, Boose, Damschroder and Hagan.

On May 22, 2012, SB 310 was read on the House floor for its third consideration. Chairman Hall testified that there had been over 15 hours of testimony taken by the House committee, more than 80 witnesses had appeared to give oral testimony and additional written testimony was submitted. He thanked Kasich, Balderson, and Balderson’s legislative aide. He said, “We made the bill stronger,” and, “I feel that we did get it right.”

Representative Terry Boose testified against SB 310. Boose asked more questions in committee than any other representative. He stated that when the House received SB 310, “I was 100% for the bill. I thought it was a good bill before listening to the 80 plus witnesses who testified.” Boose went on to list the litany of problems with SB 310. He said it created a false sense of security. He correctly noted that even if SB 310 passes, it is powerless to prevent another Zanesville, that a person could still own all those animals and still release them. He testified that SB 310 “takes away property rights, not just your neighbor next door, but businesses, valuable businesses in Ohio.”

Boose talked about the $30M to $100M annual revenues generated by the exotic animal business and said that SB 310 will “regulate them out of business.” He testified about the “out of state animal rights groups” that want to impose SB 310 on Ohio. He compared SB 310 to Ohio’s Jarod’s Law (referring to a environmental school safety law in Ohio that went into effect in March of 2006 and was repealed entirely in 2009 because the extraordinary costs of the regulations). (FN8.)

Boose noted that none of the proponents nor the committee had been able to find insurance or surety bonds with the language and terms SB 310 will require. He noted that SB 310 will force this businesses underground. He testified that the bill was devoid of any of the rules that it seeks to enforce. He said, “I cannot vote for this bill.”

Wyatt and I applaud Boose for testifying that, “When we pass laws that people cannot obey, then we destroy the Rule of Law and create a lawless society.”

SB 310 passed in the Ohio House of Representatives by a vote of 89-9. Those that voted against it were: Representatives Boose, Buchy, Conditt, Damschroder, Goodwin, Christina Hagan, Martin, Newbold, and Uecker. It immediately moved to the Senate the same day, where it passed by a vote of 30-1. The sole senator voting against it was Senator Jordan.

This is a sad day for reptile keepers in Ohio. We applaud the Ohio legislators that held to their promises and had the courage, the integrity and the intelligence to stand up for Ohio businesses and commerce in light of the pressure and hysteria of the ideologues to which Kasich and Balderson succumbed.

FN1 http://ohioansforlivestockcare.com/

FN2
http://industry.ohiopork.org/PageResources/Agreement_reached_between_Ohio_agriculture_and_HSUS.pdf

FN3
http://ocj.com/2011/01/strickland-issued-executive-order-completing-agreement-between-ohio%E2%80%99s-agricultural-leaders-and-hsus/

FN4 Id.

FN5 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/02/AR2010110206305.html

FN6 http://www.plunderbund.com/2011/10/21/kasich-refusing-to-take-responsibility-for-blocking-dangerous-animal-ban/

FN7 Id.