Tag Archives: python ban

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the US Herpetoculture Alliance Official Public Comments here.

FWS To Finalize Python Ban: Public Comment Reopens Tomorrow!

The US Herpetoculture Alliance has just learned that the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) will reopen public comment on the “Constrictor Rule” tomorrow. The FWS has announced that public comment will be reopened for 30 days. Further, FWS has decided to reopen the public comment period, but only for the five remaining species that were NOT listed in 2012. The Herp Alliance expects to see FWS publish this announcement in the Federal Register on June 24, 2014.

This action was announced by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) last month, but when reported on by Herp Alliance, was discounted by those with poor access to information in Washington DC as “fear mongering.” Our information is always the most accurate and timely available regarding the future of herpetoculture.

Although reopening public comment is positive news, the Herp Alliance believes this action to be a clear signal that FWS is prepared to finalize the Constrictor Rule that was finalized in part on January 23, 2012 (77 FR 3330)– adding 4 species of constricting snakes to the In jurious Wildlife List of the Lacey Act. Any species listed on the Injurious List cannot be imported into the country nor transported across state lines without a special permit from FWS.

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

FWS is likely hoping to add information to support their case to list the 5 remaining snakes.  It is imperative that the Reptile Nation respond with quality comments to counter their case. Time is of the essence. Hopefully the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) has been coaching it’s members in making quality comment, apprising members of the scientific community of the impending comment period, and updating economic surveys and profiles since the economic survey done in 2011. This is an unparalleled opportunity to influence the final disposition of the Constrictor Rule. The Reptile Nation cannot afford a misstep now.

Read Public Announcement Here

 

 

 

The Elephant in the Room with the Reptiles

As a litigator myself, I have always told clients that litigation is like finding a piece of string on the floor that leads out a closed door. Sometimes, when you pull on that string, a ball of yarn rolls to your feet.  But sometimes, you pull that string, and an elephant walks into your sitting room.

boa constrictor elephant2On December 18, 2013, USARK filed its Complaint against Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior, and US Fish and Wildlife Service challenging the Constrictor Rule to the Lacey Act.

The Defendants responded with a highly technical Motion to Dismiss and USARK responded with an even more technical Response containing a tortured explanation of how USARK is now a conservation organization.  We await the government’s Reply which is due within the week.  So far, all of the legal wrangling pertains to pleading deficiencies alleged by the government in USARK’s Complaint.

As Herp Alliance has stated repeatedly, we think that USARK will be able to amend its Complaint to correct those pleading deficiencies such that it can overcome the hurdle of standing.

So far, this has little to do with arbitrary and capricious rule making or a reach by the government through the Lacey Act to try to restrict interstate commerce, which is the meat of USARK’s complaint.

We have been asked repeatedly for our opinion of USARK’s case.  The strength of a lawsuit does not lie solely in the application of facts to the law.  We like USARK’s legal argument.  Nonetheless, the case is weak, very weak, and for one major reason:  money.

If the rumors on Facebook are true, USARK has raised $137,000 toward the lawsuit.  If this lawsuit goes to trial, it will easily cost more than ten times that amount, which is far more money than USARK has.  Without the funds to continue the fight, the case will die on the vines.  The government knows that USARK is underfunded, and their legal team is probably acutely aware that USARK is going to labor intensely just to make it through discovery, much less early dispositive motions like the pending Motion to Dismiss.

Individuals who are invested in the interstate commerce of large constrictors should reach deeply into their pockets now and donate to USARK’s Legal Defense Fund if they want this lawsuit to continue, otherwise there will be little chance to succeed.

USARK's lead attorney, Shaun Gehan, announced today that he has left Kelley Drye and started his own firm.
USARK’s lead attorney, Shaun Gehan, announced today that he has left Kelley Drye and started his own firm.

Another problem for USARK is that their lead counsel, Shaun Gehan, the attorney who has so far signed all of USARK’s pleadings, announced today on LinkedIn that he is no longer with Kelley Drye and has started his own firm.  Although Kelley Drye is a very large firm with tremendous legal resources, the abrupt departure of USARK’s lead counsel and presumably the attorney most knowledgeable about the case, is very bad news for USARK.  Yes, another attorney can step into those shoes, but it will be expensive to bring that attorney up to speed.

But the frailties of the federal lawsuit are not the elephant in the room with herpetoculture today.  We have a much bigger problem on our hands, and that problem is the landslide of state ballot initiatives that are marching unfettered across the country right now.  Even if USARK wins the federal lawsuit, it will be immaterial if it is illegal to own herps at the state level.

USARK has not testified at any of the state level committee hearings in 2013 or states2014.  Andrew Wyatt, former President and CEO of the Herp Alliance, testified at the Committee Hearing of Maryland House Bill 1124 (Criminal Possession of Dangerous Wild Animals), where the bill sponsor had Debbie Leahy (Captive Wildlife Regulatory Specialist, HSUS) seated at his side to present the bill to the House Committee.  Prior to joining HSUS, Leahy founded the animal rights group Illinois Animal Action, which she headed for eight years. She then joined PETA and lead their nationwide campaign against circuses and roadside zoos. PETA has bragged about Leahy that she “has dashed onto killing fields to disrupt pheasant hunts,” and “dressed as a giant rabbit to protest cruel animal tests.”

stop_sign_HSUSDebbie Leahy is not an attorney.  She is an extreme animal rights activist.  And she sat in the Maryland General Assembly aside Representative Eric Luedtke and presented a piece of legislation to the House Environmental Matters Committee and helped deliver a first reading of a bill.  This is a single example.  Lousiana is currently trying to outlaw carpet pythons, among others, and the enormous, over-reaching West Virginia Dangerous Wild Animals Act sailed through both chambers virtually unopposed and now sits on Governor Tomblin’s desk.  HSUS is clear on its web site that it believes all reptile ownership should be forbidden:

“Captive snakes and other reptiles are difficult and dangerous to care for, and released or escaped snakes wreak havoc on the environment.”

HSUS (http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/exotic_pets/).

The animal rights industry is winning the war against reptiles with bill after bill going unopposed across the United States.  Being allowed to ship Burmese pythons between states will be an expensive and meaningless victory if it is a criminal act to own them privately.

2014 may be a turning point for herpetoculture and the time to act is upon us.

Reptiles and Advocacy and the Long Road Ahead

The 2014 legislative session has opened with a bang this year, with multiple bills affecting herpetoculture introduced in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Louisiana, Indiana, Missouri, and Maryland.  Bills introduced in New York, New Jersey and South Carolina in 2013 started moving again.

At this time, there is no national organization that is representing private keepers of herpetofauna directly at the state level.  PIJAC faded out with the departure of its CEO and president, Michael Canning.

Herp Alliance ceased its state level engagement (testifying and advocating directly with legislators) at the end of 2013 when it also stopped accepting donations and memberships.

Although USARK insists that it is engaged in statehouse disputes, no one from the organization has been testifying against state ballot initiatives impacting herpetoculture.  On information and belief, USARK has not testified at a single state level legislative committee hearing since Andrew Wyatt’s departure in 2012.  USARK recently stated on its Facebook page that, “the reason USARK has requested that state constituents speak up is because those are the voices that matter most.”

Lacey Act quoteThis leaves no national organization advocating for the Reptile Nation at the state level.  The outcome of the Lacey Act Rulemaking will be irrelevant if it becomes illegal to own reptiles in every state.  The interstate transport of Burmese pythons will no longer matter if their ownership and breeding becomes illegal.

The Reptile Nation needs advocacy and it needs it now.  Advocating against the avalanche of animal rights legislation that is burying this industry and this hobby requires more than a flurry of Facebook status updates and blog posts in a helter skelter rush without any interpretation or organization.  In fact, that method only creates confusion and chaos.Peta Exotic Animals

Stakeholders within a jurisdiction are always critical to a fight. However, there are many situations in which those stakeholders cannot or will not speak.  Ohio has taught us many lessons, and one of those lessons is that every exotic animal owner who had the courage to suit up and show up in those unending committee hearings and deliver their carefully prepared testimony received a notice from the Department of Agriculture as soon as SB 310 became law that they had to bring themselves into compliance with the new, prohibitive regulatory scheme or their animals would be confiscated.  Their testimony made them targets.

hsus reptilesIt’s in those situations that a national organization can bring to bear the weight of its numbers under the cloak of safe anonymity.  It is the role of a trade organization to collect the data, to make the arguments, to lead, and to advocate on behalf of its constituents.  Advocacy happens when your back side is not in your easy chair with a computer screen shielding you from both legislatures and the people whose passions, hobbies and livelihoods depend on your competence and your determination.

Consider the biggest heavyweight in the animal rights arena, the Humane Society of the United States, that quarter billion dollar behemoth that decided that reptile ownership is inhumane.  (By the way, HSUS counts its total victory in Ohio as its #3 accomplishment for 2012.)

HSUS claims to “connect people of awareness with the reality of what’s advocacyoccurring with animals.”  HSUS does not sit on the sidelines and tell “people of awareness” in their respective states that they should lead their own legislative disputes.  HSUS operates like a finely tuned machine, with a network of attorneys and lobbyists doing the heavy lifting of engaging on ballot initiatives.  That is our model.  That is what is required.

What the Reptile Nation needs is simple:  advocacy.

USARK may have a very good reason for its apparent recalcitrance to personally engage in state level disputes:  the federal lawsuit challenging the Constrictor Rule of the Lacey Act.

logo5USARK used to publish its quarterly and annual financial statements on its web site.  As of now, its last financial report is from 2012 and no quarterly reports were published in 2013.  Although its total donations from 2012 were $244,485, its net income was -$35,766.

Facebook fans claim that USARK raised $137,000 to fund its federal lawsuit. USARK MoneyAssuming that figure is exclusively for its legal fund, it is a drop in the bucket.  A federal lawsuit, if it goes to trial, will easily run into the millions, and you can be sure that the defendants, whose pockets are deep with taxpayer money, will push it there.  USARK has never come close to raising a million dollars in a year.  The money simply doesn’t exist, and part of the government’s defense strategy has to be grinding USARK out of money to fight its legal battle.

If USARK is funneling all of its donations to try to fuel the federal lawsuit, then it makes sense that it cannot afford to fight at the state level as a matter of economics.  This will be a death knell for the Reptile Nation.  Under this scenario, even a hard fought victory against the US Fish & Wildlife Service will be meaningless if large constrictors are outlawed piece by piece.

In the vacuum of national representation, stakeholders in every state need to organize and now, and they need to start directing their donations toward their own organizations to fund their own legal defense funds.  Terry Wilkins and Polly Britton in Ohio emerged as industry and community leaders, retaining an attorney, finding named plaintiffs, and seeing a lawsuit all the way through to a federal appeal.

This is the model that the Reptile Nation is going to have to follow in order to have any chance at all because there is no one left at the national level with the talent and the resources to combat the tenacious march of legislation that is being pushed by the animal rights industry.

 

 

 

Louisiana Reptile Ban Talking Points

Louisiana_State_Capitol_at_nightEarlier today, Herp Alliance  announced the introduction of Louisiana Senate Bill 357.  SB 357 seeks to change existing Louisiana law.  Currently, to own one of the listed constrictors that is over 8′ in length, or to own a restricted venomous snake, a keeper must fall into one of the organizational exemptions (animal sanctuaries, zoos, aquariums, wildlife research centers, scientific organizations, and medical research facilities as defined in the Animal Welfare Act) or have a permit from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

SB 357 will change all of that so that all of the listed constrictors will be prohibited as well as all of the listed venomous snakes.  Private ownership will be banned and only the exempted organizations will be permitted to keep these animals.  The bill is slated to go into effect August 1, 2014, and there is no grandfathering for existing animals.

The Herp Alliance talking points against this bill can be found in the link below.  In addition, full contact information for every member of the Natural Resources Committee can be found below as well.  If you live in Louisiana or do business in Louisiana, please contact these committee members.  Keep your comments, brief, polite and professional.

Herp Alliance SB 357 Talking Points.

Natural Resources Committee

Committee Members

Senator Gerald Long (Chairman)
P.O. Box 151
Winnfield, LA 71483

(318) 628-5799
longg@legis.la.gov
Senator Rick Ward, III (Vice-Chairman)
3741 Highway 1
Port Allen, LA 70767

(225) 246-8838
wardr@legis.la.gov
Senator R.L. “Bret” Allain, II
600 Main Street
Suite 1
Franklin, LA 70538

(337) 828-9107
allainb@legis.la.gov
Senator “Jody” Amedee
2109 S. Burnside Ave.
Suite A
Gonzales, LA 70737

(225) 644-1526
amedeej@legis.la.gov
Senator Norbèrt N. “Norby” Chabert
P.O. Box 2417
Houma, LA 70361

(985) 858-2927
chabertn@legis.la.gov
Senator Jean-Paul J. Morrell
6305 Elysian Fields Ave.
Suite 404
New Orleans, LA 70122

(504) 284-4794
morrelljp@legis.la.gov
Senator Dan “Blade” Morrish
119 W. Nezpique Street
Jennings, LA 70546

(337) 824-3979
morrishd@legis.la.gov
Senator Page Cortez (Interim Member)
101 W. Farrell Road
Bldg. 5, Suite 100
Lafayette, LA 70508

(337) 993-7430
cortezp@legis.la.gov

 

 

Louisiana Seeks to Ban Nearly All Pythons and All Venomous Snakes

state_seal_color3On February 28, 2014, Louisiana Senator Norbert (“Norby”) Chabert (R) introduced Senate Bill 357.

Senate Bill 357 seeks to ban the private ownership of all Carpet and Diamond pythons, Papuan pythons, Olive Pythons, Scrub pythons, Amethystine pythons, South African pythons, African Rock pythons, Burmese pythons, Reticulated pythons, all species of the genus Boa, and all Anacondas.  It also is an outright ban on the ownership of all venomous snakes.  Full text of Louisiana Senate Bill 357.

SB 357 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources.  Contacts for all committee members is included below.  Lousiana residents need to act NOW.

Committee Members

Senator Gerald Long (Chairman)
P.O. Box 151
Winnfield, LA 71483

(318) 628-5799
longg@legis.la.gov
Senator Rick Ward, III (Vice-Chairman)
3741 Highway 1
Port Allen, LA 70767

(225) 246-8838
wardr@legis.la.gov
Senator R.L. “Bret” Allain, II
600 Main Street
Suite 1
Franklin, LA 70538

(337) 828-9107
allainb@legis.la.gov
Senator “Jody” Amedee
2109 S. Burnside Ave.
Suite A
Gonzales, LA 70737

(225) 644-1526
amedeej@legis.la.gov
Senator Norbèrt N. “Norby” Chabert
P.O. Box 2417
Houma, LA 70361

(985) 858-2927
chabertn@legis.la.gov
Senator Jean-Paul J. Morrell
6305 Elysian Fields Ave.
Suite 404
New Orleans, LA 70122

(504) 284-4794
morrelljp@legis.la.gov
Senator Dan “Blade” Morrish
119 W. Nezpique Street
Jennings, LA 70546

(337) 824-3979
morrishd@legis.la.gov
Senator Page Cortez (Interim Member)
101 W. Farrell Road
Bldg. 5, Suite 100
Lafayette, LA 70508

(337) 993-7430
cortezp@legis.la.gov

Python Update: Injurious Wildlife List

US Fish & Wildlife Service To Finalize Constrictor Rule-making

460012_2928585807792_1055351962_32455758_360923696_oThe US Herpetoculture Alliance has confirmed that the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has stated it’s intention to finalize the constrictor rule-making in the Summer of 2013. Known as the “Constrictor Rule”, this regulatory effort by FWS was initiated in 2008, and finalized in part in January 2012. The partially finalized rule added Burmese pythons and three other constrictor snakes to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act. Five other constricting snakes, including Boa constrictor and reticulated python remain in regulatory limbo designated as “under consideration.” The scientific and economic argument made by FWS to list the four constrictors was widely regarded as suspect. There is no science regarding the remaining five. The Herp Alliance calls on FWS to release the five remaining constrictors from further consideration.

Wyatt-HNR-2012
Andrew Wyatt, CEO US Herpetoculture Alliance

In April Herp Alliance CEO, Andrew Wyatt filed a request for regulatory review with the White House Office of Management and Budget based on a “regulatory uncertainty” costing American herpetoculture hundreds of millions of dollars in what amounts to a de-facto listing. The Herp Alliance requested that FWS adhere to it’s own mandate of “retrospective review” and withdraw all five species from consideration for listing. For several months Wyatt has continued to be in close contact with staff of both the Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee and the US House Committee on Natural Resources, who have independently requested briefings on this issue from FWS. At this point the agency has not determined whether they will include additional species in the finalized rule, but have stated their intention is to finalize the rule this summer. It is likely given this Administration’s history on this issue that they will pursue additional species. Herp Alliance will provide updates as FWS makes decisions in this regard.

Please join the Herp Alliance and help us in the effort to shut down the FWS Constrictor Rule. We need your help to “Protect the Future of Herpetoculture!”

HSUS Seeks to Ban Ball Pythons and All Large Constrictors in Illinois

FAIL HSUS

We have learned that HSUS is making a strong initiative in Illinois to amend SB 2362.  The features of the amendment sought by HSUS:

  • Total ban on all crocodilians;
  • Total ban on all venomous;
  • Total ban on the keeping of Komodo dragons and crocodile monitors;
  • Keeping of all pythons (including ball pythons), anacondas and all boas with permit only, including liability insurance and only for educational programs.
  • HSUS is seeking to ban the breeding of all pythons, boas and anacondas entirely in Illinois.

Illinois residents, please act on the Herp Alliance Action Alert regarding SB 2362 today!

HSUS Pushes To Add Boas & Reticulated Pythons To Lacey Act

500_Seal_Of_The_President_Of_The_United_States_Of_America.The Herp Alliance has been informed through reliable sources that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is petitioning President Barack Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to finalize the ‘Constrictor Rule’ that was partially enacted in January 2012. HSUS seeks to finalize the ‘Constrictor Rule’ by adding Boa constrictor, reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda and Beni anaconda to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act. If these species are added to the Injurious list they will go the way of the Burmese python; import and interstate transport will be criminalized. Tens of thousands of herpetoculturists could potentially become Lacey Act felons facing high monetary fines and prison time for transporting them across state lines.

Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar
Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar

Secretary Salazar will resign as Interior Secretary at the end of March. HSUS hopes to persuade him to finalize the ‘Constrictor Rule’ as one of his final acts as Secretary. HSUS is desperate to get Boa constrictor and reticulated python added to the Injurious list as a part of their continuing campaign to criminalize reptile ownership.

Please follow the link below to contact President Obama and voice your opposition to adding boas, reticulated pythons, or any other constrictors to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act. Please do it today! Tell your friends, family and sphere of influence. The deadline is the end of March! DO IT NOW!

Click Here to Contact President Barack Obama Today!

The Python Challenge: Let’s Look at the Numbers

By Erika N. Chen-Walsh

Herp Alliance blogged yesterday about the 2013 Florida Python Challenge that has been underway since January 12, 2013 and lasts until February 10th.  In the first two weeks of this event, more than 1,000 hunters had killed exactly 30 snakes, a very underwhelming result for those who speciously claim that there are as many as 150,000 Burmese pythons living wild in the Florida Everglades.  (With such a grandiose population, how come the army of 1,000 hunters cannot find them?)

Let’s take a look at the numbers.  Thirty snakes have been killed in 14 days.  This equates to 2.14 snakes per day.  Assuming that there are exactly 1,000 hunters in the Challenge, this means that each day, they have a 0.2% chance per day of killing a Burmese python wild in the Everglades.

If the grossly exaggerated “problem” of 150,000 Burmese pythons in the Everglades were correct, at the current kill rate, it would take these 1,000 hunters, working every single day, 192 years to kill them all, if they existed.

The numbers do not add up.  The numbers are not there because the pythons are not there.  As Andrew Wyatt testified before the US House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs on November 29, 2012:

The population of pythons peaked in summer 2009. This was followed quickly by a population crash in the winters of 2009 and 2010.The decline in python numbers since the summer 2009 peak have been significant. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission believes 30-50 percent of the remaining wild Burmese python population died in January and February 2010.

The “problem” of Burmese pythons in the Everglades has been exaggerated and embellished by the Animal Rights industry and political propaganda for ulterior motives.

As of 2009, over 192 invasive animal species (not including insects) have made their home in the Everglades (Ferriter et al., 2009).

feral catPythons tend to get more headlines than other species of animals because of animus toward snakes by the general public, animus that is fomented and encouraged by groups such as HSUS.  Seemingly innocuous animals like the island apple snail and Asiatic clam may be causing more damage to to the ecosystem of the Everglades.  Feral (and domestic) cats are one of the most detrimental invasive species in the Everglades (and elsewhere), yet there is no widespread call to outlaw cats.

This is not a problem that is limited to large constrictor owners, keepers and breeders.  If propaganda and embellished hysteria in the absence of factual data can fuel arms of the State and Federal Government to seek to limit private property rights, the ownership of all species of animals, both domestic and exotic is in jeopardy.

The time to act is now, and the community of reptile and amphibian breeders must come together in a cohesive, organized voice before there is nothing left for us to talk about.