On March 6, 2013, West Virginia Senators Laird, Kessler, Stollings, Fitzsimmons and Williams introduced Senate Bill 466, entitled “Dangerous Wild Animals Act.”
On April 2, 2013 passed the West Virginia Senate by a vote of 32-1. The US Herpetoculture Alliance has been in direct contact this morning with Senator Laird who is the primary sponsor. Senator Laird is also the Chairman of Senate Natural Resources Committee, and the Senate Majority “Whip”. He has made us aware that SB 466 (Committee Substitute) was reported favorably by the Natural Resources Committee on March 6, 2013; and out of the Senate Finance Committee where it subsequently passed a full vote on the Senate Floor yesterday.
Today SB 466 “crossed over” to the West Virginia House and was referred to the House Judiciary and Finance Committees. Herp Alliance spoke with Chairman Tim Miley office of the Judiciary Committee and registered our concerns with the bill. Chairman Miley’s office informed us that SB 466 must be reported favorably out of both committees by Thursday April 11, 2013. Then SB 466 must be passed by the full House by Monday April 15.
SB 466 is a broad sweeping, ambiguous ban on exotic animals. ”Dangerous Wild Animals” are defined as “mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and aquatic life, including hybrids, that are dangerous to humans, other animals and the environment due to their inherent nature.” Wildlife, agricultural animals and domestic animals already defined by West Virginia statute are exempted. However, SB 466 vests authority to a Dangerous Wild Animal Board (the “Board”) to list dangerous wild animals pursuant to administrative rule making authority.
Pursuant to SB 466, the Board is comprised of exactly three people: the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, the Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and the Director of the Division of Natural Resources, or their designees. These three government officials would have complete discretion to decide at any time what animals will or will not be banned without legislative process.
SB 466 is a very dangerous bill that was pushed by Senate leadership. We must STOP it in the House. Please take action today!
Thank you for your help and grassroots support!
Unfortunately, the West Virginia House Judiciary Committee will not allow our form emails through to the committee members. Below is a sample letter and a block with all of the committee members’s emails. Please follow the directions below to voice your opposition to SB 466.
- Copy this list of emails and paste them into the “TO” field of an email:
- firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com,
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
- Copy this form letter below (or write your own) and paste it into the body of your email;
- Personalize your message in the box below or just sign it if you wish; and Fill in the text code below; and
- Hit send!
Dear House Judiciary Committee Members:
As a resident/ stakeholder in West Virginia I want to commend you for holding the public safety of the citizens of this state in such high regard. Although I appreciate what you are trying to accomplish with SB 466, it is too far reaching and will hurt tax paying business owners in our state. It will hurt me and my family.
Herpetoculture, the science and practice of producing high quality captive bred reptiles for zoos, scientific research, education and TV & film brings in $15 million in revenue annually in West Virginia. Hundreds of Weat Virginia families rely on herpetoculture for all or part of their income. Herpetoculture, a/k/a reptile farming, can be equated to aquaculture, a/k/a fish farming. Herpetoculture has become a valuable all-American agricultural product. Herpetoculture has become part of the economic fabric of West Virginia.
My family and I understand and appreciate your concern for public safety. We all want to raise our families in safety, but we also want to put food on the table and clothes on our children’s backs. Regardless of cultural bias and antiquated stereotypes, historically and statistically reptiles have never posed a public safety risk in West Virginia. Only one person has ever died from a captive reptile in West Virginia. That was last year when a Pentecostal preacher was bitten by his own snake and died. Even that would fall into the realm of occupational hazard, not a public safety risk. Traditional family pets and domestic livestock have proven to be much more dangerous to the public than any reptiles.
In addition, I have real concerns about certain provisions of SB 466. I question the constitutionality of rendering multiple species of animals within the state illegal based on the complete discretion of three government individuals.
There are no exemptions for educational institutions, rescue organizations, sanctuaries or any private owners. Current owners of banned animals (who would not know what animals are banned until after the passage of SB 466 when the Board determines that list) will only be grandfathered in provided that they meet a strict set of guidelines, including insurance requirements, which may be impossible to meet.
SB 466 will vest the West Virginia government with complete authority to ban whatever species of animals it so chooses. It will decimate small businesses and it will create a situation of chaos for owners of banned animals who will not know until SB 466 becomes law that they are subject to onerous and impossible requirements, putting not only the owners at risk, but the animals themselves.
Please do not support SB 466. As written, SB 466 puts undue hardship on my family in tough economic times. SB 466 is bad for my family, and bad for the State of West Virginia.
Thank you for your consideration,
[SIGN YOUR NAME HERE]