Tag Archives: Florida Constitution

Dunedin Votes to Kill Snake Ban

Dunedin City Commission
Dunedin City Commission Votes to Kill Snake Ban

In a move foreshadowed to the US Herpetoculture Alliance by Dunedin City officials on Monday, December 15th, the City Commission voted minutes ago to remove all references to snakes from from ordinance 14-30 (Animals).

On December 3rd the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) reported that, “Dunedin, Florida will likely pass a ban on nearly all snakes…” USARK was referring to a proposed amendment by the Dunedin City Commission of an ordinance banning “poisonous” snakes, adding “constrictor snakes more than 4 ft long.”

The US Herpetoculture Alliance also reported back on the 3rd of December, and again last Monday, that according to the Florida State Constitution, regulation of wildlife was solely under the authority of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and thus ordinance 14-30 and the proposed amendment to add constricting snakes was unconstitutional.

“We are happy to be constitutionally compliant.” ~ Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski

Dr Don Woodman, DVM
Dr Don Woodman, DVM

Fortunately, Dunedin City officials were open to a reasonable conversation. Dr. Don Woodman, DVM immediately went to work personally contacting the City Commission and explaining the constitutional conundrum. At the suggestion of the US Herpetoculture Alliance, Dr Woodman supplied case law to City Attorney Thomas Trask demonstrating legal precedent for our constitutional argument. Tonight, with Dr. Woodman in attendance, the City Commission voted to strike all reference to snakes from ordinance 14-30.

“Thank you to the Dunedin City Commission for considering legal precedent in their decision.” ~ Dr. Don Woodman, DVM

This was truly a team victory. USARK was able to raise the profile of the issue with a large grass roots email campaign, and Dr. Woodman was able to make a well supported and effective legal argument. Dunedin herpers can now breath a sigh of relief. The Dunedin snake ban has been averted!

UPDATE: Florida Ban May Strike All Language Pertaining To Snakes

Dunedin May Strike All Language Pertaining To Snakes From City Ordinance
Dunedin May Strike All Language Pertaining To Reptiles From City Ordinance

The City of Dunedin, Florida has proposed to add a clause prohibiting “constrictor snakes more than 4 feet long” to an existing City ordinance banning “poisonous” snakes.

On December 3rd the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) reported that “almost all snakes will be banned within the city of Dunedin, Florida.” Both USARK and the City of Dunedin were apparently unaware that under the Florida State Constitution, only the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has authority to regulate wildlife in the sunshine state. The US Herpeteculture Alliance pointed out this constitutional nuance of Florida wildlife law less than an hour after the USARK alert.

The reality of this situation is that the ordinance banning “poisonous” snakes and the proposed addition of constrictor snakes more than 4 feet long is unconstitutional under Florida law.

On December 11th the Tampa Bay Times ran an article entitled, Dunedin to take longer look at banning longer snakes, underscoring the constitutional authority over wildlife regulation by FWC. Since then Thomas Trask, Dunedin City Attorney, has been reviewing the constitutionality of the proposed ordinance. Now the Herp Alliance has learned that it is possible that the Dunedin City Commission may strike all language pertaining to snakes from the ordinance.

Reptile Ban in Dunedin Florida Unconstitutional

10511425_665398470208776_5576830582514919296_oAbout an hour ago the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) reported that almost all snakes will be banned within the city of Dunedin, Florida. They did not include a copy of the proposed ordinance. However, if they are correct, the move would contravene Florida’s State Constitution.

“Dunedin, Florida will likely pass a ban on nearly all snakes unless they hear resistance. Tomorrow (12/4/14) at 6:30 PM the revised ordinance will be heard and could pass including a ban on nearly all snakes.” ~ USARK

USARK sent out an action alert with a form letter to their membership encouraging opposition to the proposed ordinance. In the alert they urge Florida residents and parties outside the state to contact the city commission citing reasons to oppose the proposal. What USARK overlooks is that only Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has the authority under the Florida State Constitution to regulate “wildlife.”

“If an ordinance is to be considered, input from citizens and alternatives to over-reaching bans should be at the forefront of discussions.” ~ excerpt USARK form letter

The appeal to city commissioners by USARK attempts to make several arguments, except the most salient one: the Dunedin City Commission cannot pass and enforce an ordinance that is in violation of the Florida Constitution.

It is likely that the City of Dunedin, like USARK, is unaware that this proposed ordinance violates State Constitution. We commend USARK for the effort. However we suggest they refocus their argument on the issue of preemption.

If you plan to contact the Dunedin City Commission consider focusing on educating them to the fact that the authority to regulate wildlife is under the sole purview of FWC.

Link to USARK Action Alert