Tag Archives: reptile ban

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.

Federal Exotic Animal Ban to be Introduced Soon: The Return of HR669

Through our very reliable federal sources, the US Herpetoculture Alliance has learned that Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is likely to introduce his own version of the ‘Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act’ (HR 669 from 111th Congress) in this session.

Senator Bill Nelson showing off python skin at Senate EPW in 2009.
Senator Bill Nelson showing off python skin at Senate EPW in 2009.

Last year, in the 112th Congress, Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced her own version of this bill. It was known as HR 5864, the ‘Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act’. Herp Alliance’s federal sources inform us that she plans to reintroduce this bill as a companion to Senator Nelson’s bill. Either or both of these proposals spell bad news for the herpetoculture community.

According to our sources, rewrites of these bills that should be introduced in the near future will and would amend the already overused and abused Lacey Act, 63208ab5-08b1-45a9-b6c8-7dc026a87be0fullexpediting the process by which animals may be added to the ‘Injuriuos Wildlife’ list. The approach seeks to create a list of ‘accepted’ species or ‘white list.’  White listed animals would be considered an acceptable risk level in terms of the likelihood of becoming alien invaders. By default, everything else would fall to the ‘unaccepted’ or ‘black list.’  Black listed species would be added to the ‘Injurious Wildlife’ list of the Lacey Act, prohibiting all import and interstate transport. Domesticated livestock and pets would be exempt.

Because of his high profile, and the stance he maintained on Burmese pythons, it is likely that Senator Nelson will lead the way on this issue and his bill would likely be assigned to the Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee. Representative Slaughter’s bill would likely be assigned to the House Natural Resources Committee.

The Herp Alliance opposes any bill that seeks to further corrupt the Lacey Act by using a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ approach in adding animals to the ‘Injurious Wildlife’ list. If passed into law, this ‘white list/ black list’ system to designating what is a dangerous, invasive species will effectively end herpetoculture as we know it. It is likely that only a few ‘pet trade’ herpetofauna would make the white list. The rest could be black listed on to the Injurious list.

The herp community has defeated similar legislative struggles in the past. In

50,000 Letters Opposing HR669
50,000 Letters Opposing HR669

2008, together we launched a massive, grass roots letter writing campaign that generated nearly 50,000 letters in opposition to HR 669. Although we were successful in defeating HR 669, we knew that a rewrite was coming. The Herp Alliance believes that time is nearly upon us. Get ready to make your voice heard. We have the intelligence, tools and talent to prevail once again. The Herp Alliance will need the help of every single person that values herpetoculture. We need to activate our grass roots army once again against one of the biggest threats we have faced to date.

This will not only affect herpetoculture, but it will effect aquaculture. It will affect those who work with birds and mammals, and anything non-native to the United States. We need to work together with all of the interests that could be destroyed by this effort to further corrupt the Lacey Act.

Please LIKE the Herp Alliance on Facebook and join our e-mail list to get all of the fastest breaking news, editorial and action alerts as they happen. Tell your family! Tell your friends!

Stay tuned. As soon as the NEW bills are released we will make them available to the Herpetoculture Community, along with our analysis and plan of action.

Nevada Expected To Propose Exotic Animal Ban Today

Senator Michael Roberson
Senator Michael Roberson

Senator Michael Roberson of Nevada is expected to introduce a bill today that would ban many exotic animals from the State of Nevada, including a number of popular reptiles. Senator Roberson has long been promising a ban to “out do Ohio” regarding the import, possession, sale, transfer, and breeding of “dangerous wild animals”(DWA). He has been working closely with the Humane Society of the United States, who have coined the term ‘dangerous wild animals’ aka DWI’s, to create this sweeping ban. Today is the deadline for Senator Roberson to introduce a bill into the 2013 legislative session. The bill as written would ban many reptiles, including Burmese pythons.

Below is a copy of the most recent bill draft. The bill expected to be introduced later today may be altered from this draft.

nevada-state-legislature

 

AN ACT relating to the keeping of dangerous wild animals in captivity; to prohibit the import, possession, sale, transfer, and breeding of dangerous wild animals.

The People of the State of Nevada, Represented in Senate and Assembly, Do Enact As Follows:

Chapter 504 of NRS is hereby amended by adding thereto a new Section 504.296 to read as follows:

Definitions

  1. “Dangerous wild animal” means any live individual animal held in captivity of the following scientific classifications –
    1. Class Mammalia
      1. Order Carnivora –
        1. Family Canidae: captive-bred red wolves (Canis rufus) and gray wolves (Canis lupus).
        2. Family Felidae: lions (Panthera leo), tigers (Panthera tigris), leopards (Panthera pardus), clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa, Neofelis diardi), snow leopards (Panthera uncia), jaguars (Panthera onca), cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), captive-bred mountain lions (Puma concolor), including hybrids thereof.
        3. Family Hyaenidae: all species of hyena and aardwolf.
        4. Family Ursidae: Asiatic Black Bears (Ursus thibetanus), captive-bred American black bears (Ursus americanus), Brown Bears (Ursus arctos), Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus), Sloth Bears (Melursus ursinus), Sun Bears (Helarctos malayanus), Giant Panda Bears (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), Spectacled Bears (Tremarctos ornatus), including hybrids thereof.
        5. Family Procyonidae: all species.
      1. Order Primates: all species, excluding humans.
    1. Class Reptilia
      1. Order Crocodylia: all species of alligators, crocodiles, caimans, gharials.
      2. Order Squamata –
        1. Family Atractaspidae: all species, such as mole vipers.
        2. Family Boidae: anacondas (Genus Eunectes),  Burmese pythons (Python molurus),  Northern African pythons (Python sebae), and Southern African pythons (Python natalensis).
        3. Family Colubridae: boomslangs (Dispholidus typus), twig snakes (Genus Thelotornis).
        4. Family Elapidae: all species, such as cobras, mambas, and coral snakes.
        5. Family Hydrophiidae: all species, such as sea snakes.
        6. Family Viperidae: all species, excluding rattlesnakes.
  1. “Animal Control Agency” means a unit of a political subdivision consisting of animal control officers, as authorized by NRS Section 280.125 or other local governmental units for enforcement of the animal control laws of the city, county, and state and the shelter and welfare of animals.
  2. “Law enforcement officer” means any state police officer, local enforcement officers (such as county sheriffs, city police, and officers of an Animal Control Agency, or any officer acting under the authority of NRS 574.040.
  3. “Person” means any individual, partnership, corporation, organization, or any other legal entity, and any officer, member, shareholder, director, employee, agent, or representative thereof.
  4. “Wildlife Sanctuary” means a nonprofit entity that:
    1. Operates a place of refuge where abused, neglected, unwanted, impounded, abandoned, orphaned, or displaced animals are provided care for the lifetime of the animal;
    2. Does not conduct any commercial activity with respect to dangerous wild animals, including, but not limited to, (i) sale, trade, auction, lease, or loan of dangerous wild animals or parts of such animals, or (ii) use of dangerous wild animals in any manner in a for-profit business or operation;
    3. Does not use dangerous wild animals for entertainment purposes or in a traveling exhibit;
    4. Does not breed any dangerous wild animals; and
    5. Does not allow members of the public the opportunity to come into direct contact with dangerous wild animals.

 

  1. Prohibited Activities
  1. Notwithstanding any other provision of law and unless exempted herein, it shall be unlawful for any person to import, possess, sell, transfer, or breed a dangerous wild animal.
  2. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, it shall be unlawful for any person to allow any member of the public to come into direct contact with a dangerous wild animal.

 

  1. Exemptions
  1. The prohibitions in Subsection II(A) shall not apply to:
  1. Institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), certified related facilities that coordinate with an AZA Species Survival Plan for breeding of species listed as threatened or endangered pursuant to 16 U.S.C. § 1533, or facilities that are actively seeking accreditation or certification by the AZA that have a letter of understanding with a mentor institution that is renewed annually.
  2. Research facilities, as defined in the Animal Welfare Act (7 U.S.C. § 2132(e)).
  3. Wildlife sanctuaries, as defined in Subsection I(E).
  4. Duly incorporated nonprofit animal protection organizations, such as humane societies and shelters, temporarily housing a dangerous wild animal at the written request of the animal control agency acting under the authority of this Section;
  5. Licensed veterinarians for the purpose of providing treatment to a dangerous wild animal.
  6. Law enforcement officers for purposes of enforcement.
  7. Nevada Department of Wildlife game wardens, agents, or employees for purposes of enforcement.
  8. A person temporarily transporting a legally owned dangerous wild animal through the State if the transit time is not more than 48 hours, the dangerous wild animal is not exhibited, and the dangerous wild animal is maintained at all times in a species-appropriate cage or other travel container.
  9. Circuses, defined as exhibitors holding a Class C license under the Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 2131 et seq., as amended, that:
    1. Are temporarily in the state for less than 90 days per year;
    2. Regularly conduct performances featuring live dangerous wild animals and multiple trained human entertainers, including clowns and acrobats; and
    3. Do not allow members of the public to be in proximity to dangerous wild animals without sufficient distance and protective barriers, including, but not limited to, offering photographic opportunities next to dangerous wild animals of any age.
  1. A. The prohibitions in Subsection II(A) shall not apply to any facility licensed pursuant to NRS Chapter 463 that meets the definition in NRS Section 463.01865.

B. The prohibitions in Subsection II(A) shall not apply to a Class C exhibitor licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture with respect to any dangerous wild animal possessed or bred by for the purpose of fulfilling an active written contractual agreement with a facility licensed pursuant to NRS Chapter 463 that meets the definition in NRS Section 463.01865, provided that such licensed exhibitor:

      1. Shall not have been, or employ any person who has been, convicted of or fined for an offense involving the abuse or neglect of any animal pursuant to any state, local, or federal law;
      2. Shall not have had a license or permit regarding the care, possession, exhibition, propagation, or sale of animals revoked, suspended by, or operated in violation of any state, local, or federal agency;
      3. Shall not have been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Animal Welfare Act for any noncompliant item within the past 3 years in which a dangerous wild animal’s health and well-being was jeopardized by: inappropriate veterinary care; inappropriate handling of animals causing stress or trauma to the animal or a threat to public safety; inappropriate provisions of food, water, shelter, or space; or any infraction cited as a direct noncompliant item;
      4. Shall not breed or sell any dangerous wild animals, except for as necessary to fulfill an active written contractual relationship with a facility licensed pursuant to NRS Chapter 463 that meets the definition in NRS Section 463.01865;
      5. ;
      6. Shall not allow members of the public to be in proximity to dangerous wild animals without sufficient distance and protective barriers, including, but not limited to, offering photographic opportunities next to dangerous wild animals of any age;
      7. Shall maintain liability insurance in an amount of not less than two hundred fifty thousand dollars, with a deductible of not more than two hundred fifty dollars, for each occurrence of property damage, bodily injury, or death caused by any dangerous wild animals possessed by the person;
      8. Shall have a written plan, filed with the local animal control agency  for the quick and safe recapture or destruction of animals in the event a dangerous wild animal escapes, including, but not limited to, written protocols for training staff on methods of safe recapture of the escaped animal;
      9. Shall file with the local  animal control agency an annual report of all dangerous wild animals acquired and disposed of during the calendar year; and
      10. Shall maintain documentation to verify that owner and all employees involved in animal care have a minimum of 300 hours of substantial practical experience in the care, feeding, handling, and husbandry of the dangerous wild animal possessed, or other species which are substantially similar in size, characteristics, care and nutritional requirements to the species.
      11. Shall annually file with the local  animal control agency the written contract with the facility licensed pursuant to NRS Chapter 463 that meets the definition in NRS Section 463.01865.

 

 

  1. Prior Possession

The prohibitions in Subsection II(A) shall not apply to persons who lawfully possessed a dangerous wild animal prior to July 1, 2013, provided that:

  1. Such person shall maintain veterinary records, acquisition papers, or other documents or records that establish that the person possessed the animal prior to July 1, 2013;
  2. Such person shall not acquire additional dangerous wild animals after July 1, 2013, whether by purchase, donation, or breeding;
  3. Such person shall not have been convicted of an offense involving the abuse or neglect of any animal pursuant to any state, local, or federal law;
  4. Such person shall not have had a license or permit regarding the care, possession, exhibition, breeding, or sale of animals revoked or suspended by any state, local, or federal agency;
  5. Such person must register with, and pay a registration fee to, the local animal control agency by September 1, 2013, and annually thereafter, indicating the number of animals of each dangerous wild animal species in his or her possession, and showing proof of liability insurance in an amount of not less than two hundred fifty thousand dollars, with a deductible of not more than two hundred fifty dollars, for each occurrence of property damage, bodily injury, or death caused by any dangerous wild animal possessed by the person.
  6. Such person allows a local animal control agency to enter the premises where the dangerous wild animal is kept at all reasonable times to ensure compliance with this Section.
  7. At least 72 hours prior to the sale or transfer of an existing dangerous wild animal, such person must notify the animal control agency in the city or county where the person resides in writing, identifying the recipient of the animal. At all times, possession, sale, transfer, and transport of the dangerous wild animal must comply with all applicable state, local, and federal laws.

 

  1. Enforcement
  1. Rulemaking – A city or a county may adopt an ordinance to implement this Section upon completion of all applicable hearing and notice requirements, including, but not limited to, (i) establishing reasonable and necessary fees in amounts sufficient to cover the costs of administering and enforcing this Section, (ii) establish humane care standards, and (iii) expanding the definition of dangerous wild animal. However, such ordinances shall not amend the list of exempted entities in Subsection III.
  2. Seizure –An animal control agent may, upon probable cause, seize any or all dangerous wild animals possessed in violation of this Section.
  1. Upon judicial determination that (i) the seized animals are dangerous wild animals, as defined in Subsection I(A), and (ii) the owner of the seized animals has violated this Section with regard to those seized dangerous wild animals, then such dangerous wild animals seized under this Section shall be deemed forfeited.
  2. Dangerous wild animals seized and deemed forfeited under this Subsection shall be placed in the custody and control of an institution accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) or a wildlife sanctuary (as defined in Subsection I(E)). In the event that animal control officers, after a reasonable effort, can find no such accredited zoo or wildlife sanctuary that is willing and able to take custody and control of a seized and forfeited dangerous wild animal, that animal may be humanely euthanized in compliance with state and federal law.
  3. Dangerous wild animals seized but not deemed forfeited under this Section shall be kept in the custody of an institution accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), a wildlife sanctuary (as defined in Subsection I(E)), or a temporary holding facility identified in Subsection III(A)(4),  until disposition of the seized dangerous wild animals.  Nothing in this Subsection precludes an animal control officer from impounding a dangerous wild animal on the owner’s property until an AZA-accredited zoo or wildlife sanctuary is located for placement.
  1. The accredited zoo, wildlife sanctuary, or temporary holding facility having custody of the dangerous wild animal (or an animal control agency that has impounded a dangerous wild animal) may file a petition with the court requesting that the person from whom the dangerous wild animal was seized, or the owner of the dangerous wild animal, be ordered to post security. The security must be in an amount sufficient to secure payment of all reasonable expenses expected to be incurred by the accredited zoo, wildlife sanctuary, temporary holding facility, or animal control agency, in caring for and providing for the dangerous wild animal pending the disposition of the animal. Reasonable expenses include, but are not limited to, estimated medical care and boarding of the dangerous wild animal pending disposition. The amount of the security shall be determined by the court after taking into consideration all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including, but not limited to, the recommendation of the impounding organization or animal control agency having custody and care of the seized dangerous wild animal and the cost of caring for the dangerous wild animal. If security has been posted in accordance with this Subsection, the accredited zoo, wildlife sanctuary, temporary holding facility, or animal control agency may draw from the security the actual costs incurred in caring for the seized or impounded dangerous wild animal.
  2. Upon receipt of a petition, the court must set a hearing on the petition, to be conducted within 5 business days after the petition is filed. The petitioner must serve a true copy of the petition upon the owner of the dangerous wild animal and the entity that seized the dangerous wild animal. The petitioner must also serve a true copy of the petition on any interested person. For the purposes of this Subsection, “interested person” means an individual, partnership, firm, joint stock company, corporation, association, trust, estate, or other legal entity that the court determines may have a pecuniary interest in the animal that is the subject of the petition. The court must set a hearing date to determine any interested parties.
  3. If the court orders the posting of security, the security must be posted with the clerk of the court within 5 business days after the hearing. If the person ordered to post security does not do so, the dangerous wild animal is deemed forfeited by operation of law and the accredited zoo, wildlife sanctuary, temporary holding facility, or animal control agency having custody of the dangerous wild animal shall have legal custody and control over the dangerous wild animal.
  4. Upon judicial determination on the disposition of the seized dangerous wild animal, the person who posted the security is entitled to a refund of the security for any expenses not incurred by the impounding organization or animal control agency.
  5. Nothing in this Section shall be construed to prevent the voluntary, permanent relinquishment of any dangerous wild animal to an institution accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) or a wildlife sanctuary (as defined in Subsection I(E)) in lieu of posting security. Voluntary relinquishment shall have no effect on any criminal charges that may be pursued by the appropriate authorities.

 

VI Escapes

If any dangerous wild animal escapes or is released, either intentionally or unintentionally, the owner of the dangerous wild animal shall immediately contact the local animal control agency to report the escape or release. The owner is liable for all expenses associated with efforts to recapture the animal.

 

VII Penalties

    1. Each violation of this Section, and any rules or laws promulgated pursuant to this Section, is guilty of a misdemeanor, including confinement in jail for not more than 6 months and/or a fine not more than $1,000.
    2. Each violation of Section VI resulting in the animal running loose, causing property damage, or attacking a human being, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor, including confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and/or a fine of not more than $2,000.

 

VII Additional Local Restrictions Authorized

Nothing in this Section shall be construed to prohibit a city or county from adopting or enforcing any rule or law that places further restrictions or additional requirements on the possession, sale, transfer, breeding, or exhibition of dangerous wild animals.

Exotic Animal Owners Beware: Pennsylvania Introduces HB 575

200px-Seal_of_Pennsylvania.svgOn February 8, 2013, Pennsylvania Representatives Haluska, Kortz. D Costa, Cohen, Caroll, O’Neill, Caltagirone, Mahoney, Mullery, W. Keller, V. Brown, Deluca, Hess an Murt introduced House Bill 575, which was referred to the Game and Fisheries Committee the same day.

HB 575 seeks to prohibit certain “exotic wildlife” after January 1, 2015.  “Exotic wildlife” is defined as “all nonindigenous animals” in addition to a specified list of exotics from private ownership. The bill does not define nonindigenous animals, which, as a matter of law, means all animals not native to Pennsylvania.

The only exceptions are birds, any member of the families Equidae horses,asses and zebras), Camelidae (camels, alpacas and llamas),Cervidae (deer, moose and elk), Bovidae (wild cattle and spiralhorned antelopes), Muridae (rats and mice), Chinchillidae (chinchillas and viscachas), Leporidae (rabbits and hares), Erinaceidae (hedgehogs and moonrats), Petauridae (gliders and striped oossums) or any member of the species Mustela furo (domestic ferrets) or Cavia porcellus (domestic guinea pigs) or any “domestic animal” as that term is defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 5511 (relating to cruelty to animals).

The term “exotic wildlife” is not defined elsewhere in Pennsylvania statutes.  Title 34 is intended to encompass only mammals and birds, which would mean it would still broadly impact the exotic animal community, but as written, the legal definition would also include reptiles as a matter of black letter law.  (Title 34 only mentions reptiles with respect to the definition of taxidermy.)

Pennsylvania Title 30 (Fish) deals with reptiles.   The two sections are enforced by different Pennsylvania agencies.

HB 575 states that as of January 1, 2015 the Pennsylvania Game Commission will not issue any new permits for personal possession of an animal defined as “exotic wildlife”.

An “exotic dealer” is defined in HB 1398 as “anyone who imports into this Commonwealth, possesses, buys, sells, locates or finds for a fee, barters, donates, gives away or otherwise disposes of exotic wildlife; and engages in at least five documented transactions annually involving exotic wildlife.

Herp Alliance opposes HB 575 due to the ambiguity in the definition of “exotic wildlife” but also because it seeks to impose a prohibition on all exotic mammals within the State of Pennsylvania.

Because we believe that the language would only inadvertently include reptiles, we are not issuing an Action Alert for herpetoculturists at this time.  However, members of the exotic animal community with mammals should be contacting their legislators.

 

Virginia Releases Final Report on Dangerous Animal Initiative

This afternoon the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) released the long awaited Dangerous Animal Initiative (DAI) Final Report. In the wake of the Zanesville, Ohio, exotic animal release, Virginia Governor McDonnell asked the VDGIF to review existing regulations and make recommendations as to whether additional oversight was necessary to protect public safety in Virginia.

vdgifVDGIF contracted with the University of Virginia Institute for Environmental Negotiation to facilitate a workgroup of stakeholders to produce a report on exotic animals and public safety considerations in Virginia that would make consensus recommendations to the Governor on whether additional regulations were needed. The Virginia DAI work group met repeatedly between September and November. Consensus was reached in a number of areas. A draft report was circulated in December.

Today the Final Report was released by DGIF. Other than Komodo Dragons, and crocodilians that were already restricted, no reptiles were included as a part of the consensus recommendations to Governor McDonnell.

Andrew Wyatt, CEO and President of the Herp Alliance, Jared Watts, and Larry Mendoza of the Virginia Herpetological Society, were voting members of the DAI work group. Other members included Feld Entertainment, AZA, Busch Gardens, various zoos, private keepers, the Humane Society of the United States, and the pet industry.

The pro-reptile alliance on the work group was successful in keeping reptiles out of consideration as dangerous animals on the grounds that statistics and history have shown that reptiles pose virtually zero public safety threat in Virginia. Delegate Chris Peace also participated and made it clear that he would introduce a bill reflecting the recommendations of the DAI work group.

Last year companion bills were introduced in the Virginia House and Senate to restrict the ownership of a broad range of exotic animals; including many species of reptiles. Delegate Chris Peace introduced HB 1242, and Senator Louise Lucas introduced SB 477. Both bills were poorly written and displayed limited understanding of what actually poses a public risk in Virginia. After being challenged by Wyatt, as well as an organized cadre of Virginia stakeholders led by Watts, both bills were tabled for the session.

Now both bills have been reactivated for the 2013 session of the Virginia General Assembly, and could potentially be heard by the House and Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committees.

The Herp Alliance has tried repeatedly to contact both Delegate Peace and

Delegate Chris Peace
Delegate Chris Peace

Senator Lucas to inquire as to their intentions regarding HB 1242 and SB 477. After two weeks of inquiries, there has yet been a response from either office. Herp Alliance believes that Delegate Peace will in fact take some kind of action on this issue now that the DAI Final Report has been released. We are worried at his lack of response and hope that whatever he proposes is in line with the DAI recommendations to the Governor. Hopefully his office will be forthcoming in the near future.

In the meantime, it is important that the Herp Nation prepare to address this issue in case a bill is introduced that does not follow the DAI recommendations. The Herp Alliance will strongly oppose a bill that goes against the recommendations of the DAI work group that would seek to add any reptiles based on fear, cultural bias and antiquated stereotypes. The Herp Alliance represents the Future of Herpetoculture as a 21st Century agricultural pursuit producing high quality captive bred reptiles for zoos, science, medicine and business. The herpetoculture community represents approximately $20 million per year in revenues for the State of Virginia. Thousands of Virginia citizens depend on herpetoculture for all or part of their income.

Please take action to secure the future of herpetoculture in Virginia. Our grass roots muscle is one of our most powerful assets. Jared Watts will be leading a lobbying day in Richmond on Wednesday 2/13/13 beginning at 8AM. Please try to attend if you can. You can reach Jared at rescueandtransportwri@yahoo.com.

Stay tuned to the Herp Alliance for breaking developments in Virginia. Follow us on Facebook and get on our mailing list for the most timely herpetoculture news and opinion available anywhere. The Herp Alliance is working for you and the Future of Herpetoculture!

The Battle for Herpetoculture: Legislative Season 2013

HSUS on the march to take away your reptiles.
HSUS on the march to take away your reptiles.

By Andrew Wyatt

A new legislative season has begun and HSUS has relentlessly been trying to leverage the tragedy in Zanesville, Ohio into legislative proposals across the country. Herp Alliance has been working hard as well We engage early in the process, often before bills ever get introduced. We will hold our ground. However, the most important element in our formula for success is our grass roots muscle. I am talking about all of the people out there in the Herp Nation that take action when it’ is necessary. I am talking about you.

We are not interested in piece-mealing away the herpetoculture community until there is nothing left. We won’t give up boas and pythons in Connecticut, nor venomous snakes in Virginia. And we certainly won’t give anything more in New York! We are all in this together. Herpetoculture is what we love.

It is time for us all to put aside our differences and work together to overcome what is sure to be some of our greatest battles. I fear that 2013 will be one of the most difficult years that herpetoculture has ever faced. We already know bills have been introduced in CT, NJ and NY. We also know that some of the bills from last year are still active in VA and IL. Nevada Senator Michael Roberson is promising to out-do Ohio.There will be others to come possibly in IN, MO, PA, WI and WV. If we don’t pull together now we could lose our ability to work with the animals we love.

The Herp Alliance is asking you to join this fight. Together we have done great things in

US Herpetoculture Alliance, Inc.
US Herpetoculture Alliance, Inc.

the past. We can win these battles if we work together. We have an even better legislative team now than we have ever had. We are experienced, savvy and most of all, successful! With the grass roots army that we have built together over the last 5 years you can determine your own future. The Herp Alliance has the tools and personnel to help you meet the challenges of the most critical time in the history of herpetoculture. Don’t give up. Get in the fight. Take positive action today to secure the future of herpetoculture.

You can read about the new legislation in New York and Connecticut at www.HerpAlliance.com. You will also find information on New Jersey and federal issues.

Click here to take action in New York

Click here to take action in Connecticut

New York Seeks to Criminalize Wild Animal and Reptile Ownership

Seal-of-New-YorkOn January 18, 2013, Assemblywoman Barbara M. Clark  (D-Queens Village) introduced Assembly Bill 2869 which was referred to Agriculture the same day.  A2869 seeks to criminalize all ownership of wild animals or reptiles “capable of inflicting bodily harm upon a human” as a felony.  The full text of A2869 is linked (above) and it is quoted verbatim below as well.

Herp Alliance strongly opposes A2869.  The definition of “capable of inflicting bodily harm upon a human” covers all reptiles without exception and seeks to make ownership of reptiles in New York a felony.

Full Text:

370. PROHIBITION OF THE OWNERSHIP, POSSESSION OR HARBORING OF wild animals and reptiles. Any person owning, possessing or harboring a wild animal or reptile capable of inflicting bodily harm upon a human being is guilty of a CLASS E FELONY AS DEFINED BY THE PENAL LAW.

FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION, “WILD animal”  IS DEFINED IN ACCORDANCE TO PARAGRAPH E OF SUBDIVISION SIX OF SECTION 11-0103 OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION LAW.  Previous attacks upon a human being by such wild animal or reptile, or knowledge of the vicious propensities of such wild animal or reptile, on the part of the possessor or harborer thereof, shall not be required to be proven by the people upon a prosecution hereunder; and neither the fact that such wild animal or reptile has not previously attacked a human being, nor lack of knowledge of the vicious propensities of such wild animal or reptile on the part of the owner, possessor or harborer thereof shall constitute a defense to a prosecution hereunder.

S 2. This act shall take effect on the first of November next succeeding the date on which it shall have become a law.

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.