Tag Archives: PIJAC

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

OPINION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USARK on PIJAC

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

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

In March 2013,  USARK announced that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

by the US Herpetoculture Alliance

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

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

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

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

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

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

MCheadshot
Mike Canning, former President and CEO of PIJAC

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

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

4e8c923e2fea8
Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hunte

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

PIJAC Hires Animal Rights Fat Cat as CEO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Differences in Institutional Goals

By Erika N. Chen-Walsh

This blog post was taken from a blog post on my personal blog, A Legal Perspective, that was originally posted on June 8, 2012

“To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is not the acme of excellence.”  ~ Sun Tzu
A certain level of divisiveness has arisen within the reptile community based on the different approaches taken by Andrew Wyatt and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC).  These differences came fully into the spotlight in the wake of Ohio’s Senate Bill 310, which Governor Kasich signed into law on June 5, 2012.  Wyatt resoundingly condemned SB 310  PIJAC endorsed it (PIJAC Ohio_Press_Release) and Ohio Dangerous and Wild Animal Bill Becomes Law).  In the interest of full disclosure, please note at the outset that the author is the Vice President of the US Herpetoculture Alliance has no affiliation with PIJAC.

To understand the differences in approaches and positions taken by Wyatt and PIJAC, it is necessary to look behind the curtains.

PIJAC describes itself as “a non-profit trade association, advocating for the pet industry, pet owners, animals, and the environment. PIJAC represents the needs of the pet industry and those they serve, promotes responsible pet ownership and animal welfare, and fosters environmental stewardship.”  Its board of directors is heavily populated by executives from the big box pet stores and pet supply companies:  Central Garden & Pet, PetSmart, Petco, Pet World, Inc., etc.

PIJAC’s constituents are primarily big box stores and their customers – mostly domesticated animals – dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, aquarium fish, birds, and other pets that can be purchased through pet stores as well as in the private sector.  According to PIJAC President and CEO, Michael Canning, PIJAC spends more money on reptile legislation than it takes in in donations from reptile constituents.

Wyatt worked from 2008-2012 as the President and CEO of USARK before leaving that organization to form the United States Herpetoculture Alliance, Inc.  (the Herp Alliance).  The Herp Alliance  is a science and conservation based advocacy for herpetoculture; the non-traditional American agricultural pursuit of producing high quality captive bred reptiles & amphibians (herpetofauna).  The Herp Alliance endorses caging standards, sound husbandry, escape prevention protocols, and an integrated approach to vital conservation issues. The Herp Alliance will also focus on conservation, sponsoring in particular captive breeding programs that directly impact conservation of species.   The health of these animals, public safety, and maintaining ecological integrity are the Herp Alliance’s primary concerns.  Its board of directors will include reptile breeders and specialists, including those that work with crocodilians, venomous animals, large constrictors and varanids.  They are all part of the herpetoculture community.

The difference in institutional goals is a salient one.  The Herp Alliance focuses exclusively on high quality, captive bred reptile owners and breeders.  PIJAC must also cover the interests of dog and cat owners and breeders, including commercial breeders and pet stores, as well as rodents, fish, birds, and yes, reptiles, too.  At times, their institutional objectives may be aligned, but more often, they are at least somewhat divergent, and sometimes they are nearly inapposite.

The easiest way to understand the divergence is by way of analogy.  According to Andrew Wyatt, the Herp Alliance primarily represents the interests of owners and breeders that are akin to hobbyist dog breeders, the small, private breeders that focus on breeding high quality dogs.  These breeders are typically active within the dog fancy in showing or competing in obedience, hunting, lure coursing, or other dog sports.  Improving the breed is the primary goal as opposed to mass production.  Incident to the interests of these owners and breeders are the trades that support them, companies that manufacture reptile products or produce reptile foods, and veterinarians that provide care for reptiles.

According to Canning, PIJAC primarily represents large retail pet stores (and their interests), whose executives are prominent on the PIJAC board.  These are commercial enterprises whose focus is on high volume production and profitability.  Included in this definition are not just the stores themselves, but the manufacturers of all products supporting the $50 billion plus pet industry in this country: commercial pet breeders, commercial pet food manufacturers, the makers of leashes, crates, aquariums, feed, and grooming products, etc.

In terms of reptiles, this becomes a major difference.  Pet stores do not sell reptiles that are not commonly considered “pets.”  Pet stores do not sell large constrictor snakes such as Burmese and reticulated pythons, but private herpetoculturists often work with these animals.  Pet stores do not sell venomous reptiles, but private herpetoculturists breed them.  Pet stores do not sell monitor lizards and many other unusual species such as tortoises, crocodilians and agamas, but private herpteculturists do.  Zoological societies obtain the majority of their specimens from these herpetoculturists.  Zoos rarely purchase wild caught specimens of these kinds of animals, and many of these animals are threatened in their natural habitats due to spoliation of the environment.  The protection of herpetocultue is a conservation concern of no small consequence.

These distinctions are not value judgments on either organization.  These are the factual differences between the Herp Alliance and PIJAC that help to elucidate the differences in the approaches that they take and the motivations of the their respective boards of directors.  These distinctions form the foundation of the significant differences between Wyatt’s philosophies and PIJAC with respect to legislation.  They came to the fore in Ohio during the battle over SB 310 and illustrates why Wyatt and PIJAC took the opposite view of the outcome in Ohio.

In December 2011, Wyatt met with Senator Troy Balderson, the senator who sponsored SB 310.   He 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. PIJAC, also became interested in and around this time and they, too, began trying to influence the governor.

Senator Balderson made multiple promises to us during these meetings.  Balderson assured us 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.

Wyatt made the strategic decision 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 also made the decision not to hire a lobbyist in Ohio.  At the time, Governor Kasich had made it common knowledge that two of his major issues for the legislative session were fracking and exotic animal legislation.  As a result, no lobbyist was willing to take a strong position in opposition to SB 310, knowing that it would attract the ire of the governor and that engaging in that course of action might later lead to disfavor on future bills for future clients.

PIJAC took a different approach.  PIJAC hired a local lobbyist named Bill Byers and, through Byers, continued to engage in discussions with Balderson as well as other members of the senate.

Something must be said about Byers.  March 27, 2012 was the first day of opponents’ testimony before the Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee.  Byers was there early to meet with Chairman Hite and commented publicly in the State House hallway that he had seen Wyatt with his “tattooed and pierced followers.”  He went on to denigrate Wyatt personally as well as the reptile constituents that were gathered at the State House to testify.  This is the lobbyist that took a fee to ostensibly represent the interests of reptile owners opposing SB 310.

Byers arranged for Canning to be the first witness to testify against SB 310.  In his opening remarks, Canning conceded that PIJAC was amenable to the permitting of venomous snakes as well as large constrictors.  PIJAC was also amenable to insurance requirements; they just wanted them to be lower. They wanted Boa constrictor removed from the restricted list (consistent with Balderson’s pre-SB 310 promise that they would not be included to begin with).

At the same hearing, Wyatt testified that he opposed the inclusion of any reptiles from SB 310. He stated  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’s position was that further negotiations with Balderson were fruitless because Balderson had already demonstrated that the promises he made in his Senate chambers evaporated once he got onto the Senate floor.  In any contest, you cannot cut and run at the opening volley. Agreeing to minor modifications to Balderson’s de facto ban constituted a loss to the reptile community, particularly because Balderson insisted on keeping an administrative rule making provision in SB 310 granted the director of agriculture unfettered discretion to add animals to the dangerous wild animals list and/or to the restricted snake list without legislative process.

PIJAC applauded the version of SB 310 that passed out of the Ohio Senate and commended Balderson personally.  (Click here.)

Wyatt condemned it.

Upon reflection, it’s easy to understand why PIJAC was happy with the Senate version of SB 310:  no pet store reptiles were affected by SB 310, and so it had no impact on PIJAC’s constituents.  (Although additional species could easily be added to SB 310 and would have the potential to affect even pet store reptiles.)

For the same reason, Wyatt was vehemently opposed to it:  it affected (and still affects) a substantial number of herpetoculturists.  The insurance required of venomous owners has not been found to exist.  Full legislative process was never restored to add additional species to the dangerous or restricted lists.  The permitting system is a slippery slope to which additional animals can easily be added, and now, due to the Lacey Act, people with Burmese pythons, African rock pythons, or yellow anacondas cannot legally take their animals across state lines.

In addition, another bill, not related to reptiles but very related to the pet industry, was introduced in Ohio in the same legislative session.  This is (ironically) SB 130.  SB 130 is a puppy mill bill that is being pushed hard by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). PIJAC is adamantly opposed to SB 130 because it will impact the commercial dog trade.  (Click here.)  SB 130 passed out of the Ohio Senate on February 1, 2012, more than a month before SB 310 was even introduced.  However, it has mysteriously managed not to be heard in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and the session is now over.  At PIJAC’s behest, Byers was (and presumably still is) also lobbying in Ohio against SB 130.

While Wyatt, representing the reptile community’s interests in Ohio have  been zeroed in on legislation impacting reptiles, PIJAC’s efforts were diffused over multiple bases, both reptiles (whom Canning concedes are a financial loss to them) and puppy mill legislation (which will impact the businesses of PIJAC’s Board of Directors as well as PIJAC’s members and constituents).

This is not a criticism.  PIJAC is doing the work demanded by its members and constituents and that is exactly what it should be doing. Wyatt was doing the work demanded by his constituents and that is exactly what he should be doing.  If there were overlap of their members and constituents, the differing approaches might beg further consideration, but they do not overlap.  The reptile community’s interests will always necessarily be different than PIJAC’s.  It should therefore not be surprising that Canning’s approach and Wyatt’s approach are not congruent and may even be (as in Ohio) diametrically opposed.

These differences should not divide the reptile community.  Some members of the reptile community privately (and sometimes not so privately) think that venomous snakes should be legislated because one incident of careless management practices could result in backlash against the entire industry.  There is a kernel of truth to that fear.  However, statistically, that has so far not played out.

There are approximately 13 million reptiles kept as pets in the United States at this time and despite that number, there is still approximately only one death per year from reptiles.  This is not statistically significant.  Reptiles are still safer than dogs, automobiles, horses and ATVs.  As an industry, we must ask ourselves if we wish to offer ourselves up as a sacrificial lamb and consent to be legislated preemptively.  As an attorney, and speaking objectively, I believe that position puts reptile owners in very great peril.  And in those limited circumstances in which preemptive legislation is appropriate, it must be very narrowly defined and specific so that legislative process precludes further erosion of our fundamental rights of due process.

Reptile owners need to act cohesively.  The division in personalities and positions imperils the rights of all.  Make no mistake but that your rights to keep reptiles are under siege, not just by animal rights activists, but also by our own government.   The reptile community needs to find its footing and make its voice heard.  Loudly. Now.

Failure to comprehend fully the ramifications of  legislative initiatives will ensure that we will lose and that herpetoculture will die by a thousand cuts, piece by piece, with one permit here and one species there gone until there are none left.