Tag Archives: exotic animals

Maryland SB 827 Seeks to Tighten Restrictions on Exotic Animals

marylandOn January 31, 2014, Senator Pugh (D) introduced Maryland Senate Bill 827 to the Committee on Judicial Proceedings.

Current Maryland law criminalizes the ownership of all crocodilians and “poisonous [sic] snake[s] in the family groups of Hydrophidae, Elapidae, Viperidae, or Crotolidae.”  Individuals with USDA exhibitors licenses are currently exempt from this prohibition, among others.

SB 827 will remove the exemption for persons holding USDA exhibitors licenses  and instead carves out exemptions for AZA accredited zoos and circuses with Class C USDA exhibitors licenses.  There are increased prohibitions for the possession, import and trade of many large cats, primates, bears and wolves, and hybrids of these animals.

There is also a new prohibition on allowing members of the public to come into close proximity with a listed animal and reporting requirements for injuries that break the skin or may transmit zoonotic disease.

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.

New Jersey Seeks to Impose Insurance Liability Requirements on Exotic Animals

NJsealNew Jersey is taking aim at exotic animals.  Herp Alliance blogged previously about the creation of a legislative task force to review exotic animal ownership in that state.

Two bills were introduced to the New Jersey legislature in late 2012 that seek to impose insurance liability requirements on “potentially dangerous exotic animals.”  These bills are Assembly Bill 3338 and its Senate twin, Senate Bill 2233.

These bills seek to require every applicant for a permit to possess a live potentially dangerous indigenous animal or a live potentially dangerous exotic animal to obtain and provide proof of liability insurance in an amount of not less than $250,000 for each potentially dangerous animal prior to the issuance of the permit.

AB 3338 was introduced and referred to Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee on October 11, 2012.

SB 2233 was introduced in the Senate and referred to Senate Commerce Committee on October 4, 2012.

Herp Alliance opposes AB 3338 and SB 2233.  New Jersey already has legislation in place requiring permits to own “potentially dangerous exotic animals.”  Pursuant to these bills,   “Potentially dangerous exotic animal” means any species of exotic animal that has been determined by the Fish and Game Council in rules and regulations adopted pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act,” to:  (1) be capable of inflicting serious or fatal injuries to humans, livestock, or pets; or (2) possess the potential for becoming a significant threat to indigenous animals or plants, the environment, agriculture, or the public health, safety, or welfare.

In other words, any species can be deemed a “potentially dangerous exotic animal” through administrative rule and without full legislative process and the insurance requirement proposed can act as a de facto ban on the ownership of these animals because no permit to own will be issued without the liability insurance requirement being met.

Exotic Animals as Pets

This article was originally posted in the American Bar Association’s GP/Solo Practice Magazine 2009.  The views expressed herein belong to the authors and do not reflect positions or philosophies of Herp Alliance.

By Katherine Hessler and Tanith Balaban

hsus-state-exotic animal lawsAccording to the 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey, about 63 percent of all households in America, or about 71.1 millions homes, have at least one pet, including cats, dogs, birds, fish, reptiles, hamsters, guinea pigs, and other common animals. But there is also a brisk trade in “exotic pets” such as giraffes, monkeys, zebras, lions, tigers, chimpanzees, and yes, bears. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that billions of wild animals are brought into this country each year, many of them bound for the exotic pet market. Experts believe the exotic pet trade is a booming business, ranging from $10 billion to $15 billion a year in this country alone.

Although the idea of owning an exotic pet may be appealing to some, these situations often result in problems for the owners of such animals, or their neighbors, and present significant concerns for the animals themselves. Owners, breeders, and sellers of exotic animals need to be aware of applicable federal, state, and local laws. Breeders and sellers importing animals must comply with federal legislation, not only relating to importation, but also for maintaining adequate living facilities for the animals. Owners are likewise responsible for the conditions in which the animals live, as well as the safety of their neighbors. The most well known legal concerns arise when an exotic animal injures someone. For example, news reports have focused on the problem of chimpanzees as pets after a recent mauling in Connecticut resulted in significant physical harm to a friend of the owner and subsequent death of the animal.

The legal issues relating to the exotic pet trade require balancing the property interests of owners, breeders, and sellers with the governments’ police power to regulate nuisance and to protect public health and safety. Not only can individuals be injured by exotic animals, but public health at large can be compromised by diseases brought to a community by non-native species, such as the monkeypox outbreak stemming from pet prairie dogs in Wisconsin in 2003. The environment is also at risk. To see the harm that can be done to an ecosystem by releasing non-native animals, one only has to search the Internet for “pythons” and “Everglades.”

Finally, the animals themselves are in significant jeopardy as they are often sold to individuals without the capacity to provide appropriate food, medical care, or habitat. This combination of risk factors often leads to legal concerns. In addressing the legal concerns related to the exotic pet trade, a practitioner must be aware of the relevant federal, state, and local regulation.

Local Legislation

The first place to look for regulations applicable to exotic pets is at the local level—the city, town, or county ordinances, especially zoning ordinances regulating real property to ensure public health and safety and to combat nuisance. Sometimes health departments have regulations in addition to the city laws. Should these ordinances be hard to find, a local humane society, animal shelter, or veterinarian may have advice as they are often involved with the consequences of exotic pet ownership.

This will usually be the level where the most restrictive laws have been enacted, but the degree of regulation, the types of animals regulated, and the consequences for violations all differ widely from locale to locale.

State Legislation

The next step is to check for state regulations. A good source of information on this type of regulation is the state’s department of wildlife or natural resources department.

Exotic pet regulations also vary widely from state to state. Where some states have a complete ban on exotic pets, others require permits for their possession, and some states have no regulations whatsoever. The definition of what constitutes an exotic pet will also vary widely.

In jurisdictions with licensing schemes, individuals must obtain a permit, usually from the state fish and wildlife department, prior to owning an exotic pet. Other states regulate (but do not ban or license) the possession of exotics, limiting the quantity of animals an individual may have or setting standards for importation and animal care.

Federal Legislation

The next step is to check federal legislation. The animal in question may require a license by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Other agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) may oversee the import and export of animals that are sold as exotic pets. Federal law affects breeders and sellers of exotic animals more than owners of exotic pets.

The reach of federal regulation is far broader than the state and local level regulations but is limited to regulating the ownership, transportation, exhibition, importation, and exportation of captive wild animals through interstate commerce and foreign policy. Because the federal government does not have a general police power, most regulations occur at the state and local levels, where police power does allow for general regulations for the public welfare.

Importation

When presented with a case involving an exotic animal, one of the first questions to consider is whether the animal arrived in the United States legally. To answer this question, a lawyer needs to know if the animal is covered by the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The ESA is a broad regulatory regime under which more than 1,000 species of animals and plants are officially listed as endangered or threatened in the United States. With limited exceptions, none of these animals may be imported or exported either alive, as parts or products, or as hunting trophies.

Generally, an importer/exporter must use one of the FWS designated ports, and the shipment must be declared through a FWS Form 3-177 (Declaration for Importation or Exportation of Fish or Wildlife) and receive clearance. In most cases, the importer/exporter also must be licensed through the FWS and pay certain fees with each shipment.

U.S.-based shipments do not have to be declared through FWS; however, the shipment must comply with foreign wildlife laws, and live wildlife must be transported humanely. A person who ships certain species (such as those listed as endangered and threatened species, migratory birds, marine mammals, or injurious species) may not be transported through the United States. There are some exceptions for those who engage in conservation of endangered and threatened species.

The APHIS, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Public Health Service, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the National Marine Fisheries Service also regulate the importation and exportation of wildlife and may impose additional requirements.

If the animal in question came from abroad, the importer may have needed to comply with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES is a multinational agreement to regulate trade in endangered or threatened plant and animal species to protect the survival of wild populations. CITES is implemented pursuant to the ESA.

Some states may also impose requirements. A practitioner should contact the state fish and wildlife agency about any state-level requirements or restrictions of importation, exportation, and transportation of wildlife.

Ownership

The next question to consider is whether ownership of the animal is regulated by federal law and subject to additional conditions on its treatment and care. Relevant laws include the ESA, the Captive Wildlife Safety Act (CWSA), and the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). There are no federal laws that regulate or prohibit keeping exotic animals as pets.

The ESA (7 U.S.C. § 136, 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq.) prohibits a person from possessing, selling, delivering, carrying, transporting, importing, exporting, or shipping, by any means whatsoever, any endangered species of fish or wildlife. The ESA also prohibits any action that causes a “taking” of any listed species of endangered fish or wildlife—this includes harassing, harming, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing, or collecting. It is unlawful for a person to trade or possess any specimens traded in violation of CITES. There are some exceptions to this rule (for scientific purposes, for example). In these specific instances, the person must get a permit through FWS.

The CWSA (Pub. L. 108-191, 117 Stat. 2871-2872), which went into effect September 17, 2007, prohibits the interstate commerce of live big cats across state lines or U.S. borders unless the person qualifies for an exemption. Big cats covered by the CWSA include lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, and cougars; all subspecies of these species; and hybrid combinations of these species. Penalties can result in jail terms of up to five years and fines of up to $500,000.

Also note that any retail pet store that sells exotic pets must be licensed as a dealer under the AWA (7 U.S.C. 2131 et seq.). The AWA ensures that animals kept for use in research facilities, for exhibition purposes, or as pets are provided humane care and treatment; the AWA also ensures humane treatment during transportation. Under the AWA, the secretary of agriculture is authorized to promulgate standards and other requirements governing the humane handling, housing, care, treatment, and transportation of certain animals by dealers and other regulated businesses, such as pet stores. (Regulations established under the AWA are contained in 9 CFR parts 1, 2, and 3.)

In addition, the administrator of the APHIS regulates animal dealers by issuing them annual licenses and conducting unannounced inspections of their premises to check for compliance with the AWA standards and regulations.

There are no private rights of action under the AWA. Penalties for violations under the AWA range from $1,500 to $2,500 for each day of each violation and up to one year in prison.

Possible Claims

What are the consequences to an exotic pet owner or seller/breeder if they violate a statute or if their animal causes injury to another? What happens to the animal?

Claims against pet owners, breeders, and sellers will most likely be tort actions—such as nuisance, conversion, trespass, negligence, and ultra-hazardous activities. In addition, if the animal has been abused or neglected, there may be separate charges under the applicable animal cruelty law.

An offending owner or breeder may be fined or imprisoned, and the animal may be taken, either to be euthanized or sent to a wildlife sanctuary.

However, a practitioner should be aware there may not be a claim for damages that flow from an injury through the federal or state statutes. Some federal legislation does not allow for a private right of action; instead, the aggrieved files a complaint with the appropriate federal agency.

Representing an aggrieved pet owner or breeder/seller changes the way one looks at the problem. A breeder/seller needs to comply with certain federal provisions. If these have been complied with, then state legislation should be examined. Lastly, local regulations should be consulted. When defending an exotic pet owner, the order of research should be the opposite—local, then state, then federal—because the regulations will mostly likely be more applicable at the local level.

Besides bringing suit, exotic pet owners or breeders whose animals have been confiscated may also either challenge the applicability of the regulation to their situation or challenge the legitimacy of the regulation.

If an exotic animal has been seized by animal control or by a state or federal wildlife department, owners may challenge the agency’s application of the regulation to their specific case by arguing that the animal does not fall within the parameters of the regulation. In administrative law, however, courts are deferential toward administrative determinations. A pet owner may also challenge the legislative or administrative body’s authority to have passed the regulation at all.

An exotic pet owner or pet breeder may also bring constitutional challenges, both facially and as-applied. An equal protection challenge under the Fourteenth Amendment may be brought if cities or counties enact zoning ordinances restricting people from owning exotic pets but do not include an allowance for those who already own these animals to continue to do so as a non-conforming use. In addition, any zoning ordinances must apply equally to those possessing permitted wildlife and other property owners; otherwise, the ordinances may be found invalid as applied. A procedural due process challenge under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments may be brought in cases where the government deprives a pet owner or breeder of property without giving appropriate notice or the opportunity to be heard. A regulatory taking challenge can also be brought under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, which require “just compensation” when private property is taken for public use. If an owner or seller has violated exotic pet regulations, however, the courts have found this not to be a regulatory taking.

Conclusion

Significant legal issues arise when an individual chooses to buy, sell, or own an exotic animal. Given the serious negative consequences that can result from this activity, significant protection is afforded by local, state, and federal law to the people adversely affected by the presence of these animals. Additionally, there are often terrible outcomes for the animals themselves, which are often not considered at the outset. Practitioners advising individuals in this context need to familiarize themselves with a very broad set of laws and regulations; the number and variety of these regulations is only likely to increase in the future owing to rising concern about the health and safety implications of exotic animals as well as concern for the welfare of the animals themselves.

Some Federal Laws That Implicate the Exotic Pet Trade

African Elephant Conservation Act
Animal Welfare Act
Asian Elephant Conservation Act
Captive Primate Safety Act
Captive Wildlife Safety Act
Eagle Protection Act
Endangered Species Act
Lacey Act
Marine Mammal Protection Act
Migratory Bird Treaty Act
Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act
Wild Bird Conservation Act
For More Information

For copies of applicable state and federal regulations and lists of protected species, write to the Assistant Regional Director for Law Enforcement of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office in your region.

AS, CA, GU, HI, ID, MP, NV, OR, WA
Assistant Regional Director for Law Enforcement, Region 1
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 9
Sherwood, OR 97140-0009
503/521-5300

AZ, NM, OK, TX
Assistant Regional Director for Law Enforcement, Region 2
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 329
Albuquerque, NM 87103
505/248-7889

IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, MO, OH, WI
Assistant Regional Director for Law Enforcement, Region 3
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 45, Federal Building
Fort Snelling, MN 55111-0045
612/713-5320

AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, PR, SC, TN, VI
Assistant Regional Director for Law Enforcement, Region 4
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 49226
Atlanta, GA 30359
404/679-7057

CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VA, VT, WV
Assistant Regional Director for Law Enforcement, Region 5
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
300 Westgate Center Drive
Hadley, MA 01035
413/253-8274

CO, KS, MT, NE, ND, SD, UT, WY
Assistant Regional Director for Law Enforcement, Region 6
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 25486-DFC
Denver, CO 80225
303/236-7540

AK
Assistant Regional Director for Law Enforcement, Region 7
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1011 E. Tudor Road, Suite 155
Anchorage, AK 99503-6199
907/786-3311

Headquarters
Chief
Office of Law Enforcement
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 520
Arlington, VA 22203-3247
703/358-1949

Additional information can be found at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website ( www.fws.gov).

Katherine Hessler is the director and clinical professor for the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis and Clark Law School, Portland, Oregon; she may be reached at khessler@lclark.edu. Tanith Balaban is a member of the Oregon State Bar; she may be reached at tbalaban@gmail.com.

This article was originally posted in the American Bar Association’s GP/Solo Practice Magazine 2009.

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.