Tag Archives: snake ban

American Bar Association Recommends Constrictor Ban

No BoaThe US Herpetoculture Alliance reported on September 1, 2014 that the Animal Law Committee of the American Bar Association (ABA) had taken a stand against “Dangerous Wild Animals,” recommending a ban on the private ownership of ALL large constrictors, venomous snakes and crocodilians.  640px-American_Bar_Association.svg

Today, the ABA House of Delegates approved ABA Animal Law Committee
Resolution 105
, urging the passage of laws that “prohibit, the possession,sale, breeding, import, or transfer of dangerous wild animals.”
 Resolution 105 states that:

“Dangerous wild animals do not make good pets. Only through private prohibition can there exist  a uniform U.S. legal regime that safeguards the public, protects animals, allocates legal liability and insurance risk properly, furthers a policy of respect for nature, and considers the interests of present and future generations in accordance with the goals of the American Bar Association.”

ABA’s list is broad and over-inclusive, and it has defined “Dangerous Wild Animals” to include, among multiple species of mammals, the following reptiles:

  • All species of alligators, crocodiles, caimans, gharials.
  • Family Atractaspidae: all species, such as mole vipers.
  • Anacondas (Genus Eunectes), boa constrictors (Boa constrictor), Burmese pythons (Python molurus), reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus), amethystine pythons (Morelia amethistinus), scrub pythons (Morelia kinghorni), Northern African pythons (Python sebae), Southern African pythons (Python natalensis).
  • Family Colubridae: boomslangs (Dispholidus typus), twig snakes (Genus Thelotornis).
  • Family Elapidae: all species, such as cobras, mambas, and coral snakes.
  • Family Hydrophiidae: all species, such as sea snakes.
  • Family Viperidae: all species, such as rattlesnakes, pit vipers, and puff adders.

The Report presents new problems for all exotic animal owners and keepers, including reptile owners.  The Report states that,

“the American Bar Association urges all federal, state, territorial, and local legislative bodies and/or governmental agencies to enact comprehensive laws that prohibit the private possession, sale, breeding, import, or transfer of dangerous wild animals, such as big cats, bears, wolves, primates, and dangerous reptiles, in order to protect public safety and health, and to ensure the humane treatment and welfare of such animals.”

This edict, adopted and approved by the ABA, will be a persuasive argument to politicians.

The Reptile Nation needs, now more than ever, effective advocacy, or the Lacey Act’s Injurious Wildlife List will be a moot point because large constrictors will be illegal at the state and local levels.

Dunedin Votes to Kill Snake Ban

Dunedin City Commission
Dunedin City Commission Votes to Kill Snake Ban

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

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

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

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

Dr Don Woodman, DVM
Dr Don Woodman, DVM

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

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

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

UPDATE: Florida Ban May Strike All Language Pertaining To Snakes

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

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

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

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

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

American Bar Association Recommends Constrictor Ban

No Boa
640px-American_Bar_Association.svgThe US Herpetoculture Alliance has learned that in August, the American Bar Association (ABA) Animal Law Committee took a stand against “Dangerous Wild Animals” in a report that can be read in its entirety here: ABA Animal Law Committee August 2014 Report on Dangerous Wild Animals.  The Report, which recommends a ban on the private ownership of ALL large constrictors, venomous snakes and crocodilians,  concluded that:

“Dangerous wild animals do not make good pets. Only through private prohibition can there exist  a uniform U.S. legal regime that safeguards the public, protects animals, allocates legal liability and insurance risk properly, furthers a policy of respect for nature, and considers the interests of present and future generations in accordance with the goals of the American Bar Association.”

ABA’s list is broad and over-inclusive, and it has defined “Dangerous Wild Animals” to include, among multiple species of mammals, the following reptiles:

  • All species of alligators, crocodiles, caimans, gharials.
  • Family Atractaspidae: all species, such as mole vipers.
  • Anacondas (Genus Eunectes), boa constrictors (Boa constrictor), Burmese pythons (Python molurus), reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus), amethystine pythons (Morelia amethistinus), scrub pythons (Morelia kinghorni), Northern African pythons (Python sebae), Southern African pythons (Python natalensis).
  • Family Colubridae: boomslangs (Dispholidus typus), twig snakes (Genus Thelotornis).
  • Family Elapidae: all species, such as cobras, mambas, and coral snakes.
  • Family Hydrophiidae: all species, such as sea snakes.
  • Family Viperidae: all species, such as rattlesnakes, pit vipers, and puff adders.

The Report presents new problems for all exotic animal owners and keepers, including reptile owners.  The Report states that,

“the American Bar Association urges all federal, state, territorial, and local legislative bodies and/or governmental agencies to enact comprehensive laws that prohibit the private possession, sale, breeding, import, or transfer of dangerous wild animals, such as big cats, bears, wolves, primates, and dangerous reptiles, in order to protect public safety and health, and to ensure the humane treatment and welfare of such animals.”

Without question, this Report will make its way into legislatures across the country as anti-reptile bills are introduced, and an edict from the ABA will be a persuasive argument to politicians.

The Reptile Nation needs, now more than ever, effective advocacy, or the Lacey Act’s Injurious Wildlife List will be a moot point because large constrictors will be illegal at the state and local levels.

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.

 

 

 

Advocacy, Accountability and Unity

OPINION

A lot has changed over the last year in the reptile community.  In December 2012, Andrew Wyatt resigned from USARK, the trade organization that he co-founded in 2008.  In January 2013, we co-f0unded the US Herpetoculture Alliance.  Although originally designed and organized to be an advocacy organization on behalf of herpetoculture, it has evolved into an education, conservation and information organization.  We do not engage directly in legislative issues.  But we analyze them and we will report on them.  We do not accept donations and everyone involved with Herp Alliance does so on a volunteer basis.  Herp Alliance has never paid a salary to an employee or an independent contractor.

Mike Canning's Facebook page as of February 2, 2014, describing himself as the former president and CEO.

Meanwhile, changes have been afoot at the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) as well.  Although PIJAC has been conspicuously silent on the topic, Mike Canning has announced on his Facebook page that he is the former President and CEO of PIJAC.  Notably, former Vice President of Government Affairs & General Counsel, Mike Maddux has also disappeared from the PIJAC web site, as well as Bambi Nicole Osborne, Esq., Director of Government Affairs.  PIJAC has apparently done some quiet housecleaning.

People who are “Leaders in the Industry” have called for “unity.”  Any criticism of the way legislative issues have been handled (or not handled) that we have published has been criticized as “divisive” and not in the best interests of the industry.  I disagree.  HSUS is not going to back away from the persecution of reptile keepers because of unity in the community. Wayne Pacelle is not going to say, “Let them keep their large constrictors.  They are all such great friends.”

What this industry needs is competence, advocacy and accountability.

According to USARK, they have been on a banner run of fund raising in the few months that have passed since they announced the filing of their federal lawsuit challenging the Constrictor Rule of the Lacey Act.   USARK should be commended for retaining counsel and filing their lawsuit.  It is the only hope to reverse the damage done by the Constrictor Rule.

Rumors in the reptile community have circulated with some industry insiders claiming that there is a “99%” chance that USARK’s lawsuit will be victorious.  (These are odds that no lawyer could guarantee.)  And while wave after wave of information has leaked out of Washington DC, with Herp Alliance intercepting direct correspondence from HSUS to members of Congress, USARK continues to maintain that it is on top of the situation and is doing “much, much more.”  More of what, remains to be seen.

What we have not seen are advocacy letters from USARK to members of Congress pleading the case against listing five additional species to the Constrictor Rule.

The Categorical Exclusion Rule (or, CatX, as coined by Andrew Wyatt) just reopened for comment.  Although USARK has adopted the nomenclature of Cat Ex, it was Herp Alliance, last year, who secured this extension on the comment period.  Those of you who have not yet sent letters opposing CatX should do so immediately.

Bills that would dramatically affect herpetoculture and the right to privately keep reptiles are pending in Wisconsin, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, Maryland, and South Carolina right now, with more bills in drafting departments of other states as I write.  The avalanche of legislation started by the animal rights industry that began a few years ago against reptile keeping continues to grow and to gain momentum.

On the state level, USARK has maintained a low profile.  Numerous supporters Wild Animals Are not petshave stated on Facebook that USARK will no longer engage at the state level.  Some announcements have been made. There have been a few action alerts encouraging stakeholders to write letters and emails.  Some bills have been overlooked until days after their introduction.  So far, USARK has not testified at a state committee hearing in this legislative session, either in person, or through written testimony.  Whether they will actually jump into the game or not remains to be seen.  It is possible that their hands are tied by funding a federal lawsuit which will certainly cost millions of dollars to fund if they intend to see it to its end.  Where will that money come from?  Gary Bagnall is not going to pony up seven figures to defend the right to keep large retics.  In fact, Zoo Med will be able to peddle more hot rocks and amateur equipment to corn snake keepers when the market is limited to the less controversial species.  The end game cannot be a full blown lawsuit.  The money is simply not there.

If  USARK abandons state level regulation, reptile bans at the state level will become a certainty.

The reptile community has donated tens of thousands of dollars to USARK.  If they are now exclusively a federal trade organization, they need to make that known.  When small business owners and private keepers are donating their hard earned dollars to the only trade organization that is left in existence to advocate for their rights, they have the right to know what is being done.  They have the right to be critical and they have the right to demand action.  They are the only recipient of your donations.  They are accountable to their constituents.  Competence, advocacy and accountability.  That is what they owe to herpetoculture and that is what should be demanded and delivered.

Unity in the face of inertia might make us all better friends so that we can comfort each other while our pets get criminalized.

West Virginia Seeks to Prohibit All Exotic Animals

Wild Animals Are not petsAs the new legislative year begins, the first of eight state level bills of which Herp Alliance is aware, restricting the ownership of exotic animals, including reptiles and amphibians, was introduced yesterday in West Virginia.

Senate Bill 371 is clear in its intent:  “The purpose of this bill is to prohibit the possession of wild and exotic animals.”

The animal rights industry has been emboldened following its total victory in Ohio and the total ban on exotic animal ownership that was endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (see PIJAC’s press release here).  The end result has been that the State of Ohio has, as of January 10, 2014, failed and refused to issue a single permit for the ownership of any exotic animals, and through rulemaking, imposed such onerous caging requirements on large constrictors that it has turned into a de facto ban.

Herp Alliance has been aware of bills coming down the pike in at least eight states for many months now.  Although we are not longer an advocacy organization, we will continue to report on these bills and on the actions taken by the various trade organizations and animal rights organizations opposing and defending these bills.

The full text of WV SB 371 is included below.

Senate Bill No. 371

(By Senators Beach, Kessler (Mr. President), Fitzsimmons and Stollings)

____________

[Introduced January 16, 2014; referred to the Committee on Natural Resources; and then to the Committee on the Judiciary.]

____________

A BILL to repeal §20-2-51 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended; and to amend said code by adding thereto a new article, designated §20-17-1, §20-17-2, §20-17-3, §20-17-4, §20-17-5, §20-17-6 and §20-17-7, all relating to limiting the possession of wild and exotic animals; expressing legislative intent; authorizing agency jurisdiction; defining certain terms; permitting expansion of the definitions; limiting custody and control of wild and exotic animals; providing a permit for persons who possess a wild and exotic animal prior to effective date; establishing permit requirements; requiring a notarized permit application and fee; splitting of fee with Division of Natural Resources and county humane and animal control officer or the sheriff, in the alternative; providing exemptions; requiring interagency cooperation; and providing rule-making authority.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:

That §20-2-51 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be repealed; and that said code be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated §20-17-1, §20-17-2, §20-17-3, §20-17-4, §20-17-5, §20-17-6 and §20-17-7, all to read as follows:

ARTICLE 17. LIMITING POSSESSION OF WILD AND EXOTIC ANIMALS.

§20-17-1. Intent.

(a) It is the intent of the State of West Virginia to protect the public against health and safety risks that wild and exotic animals pose to the community and to protect the welfare of the individual animals held in private possession. Currently, West Virginia is one of only eight states that lack any restrictions for wild and exotic animals kept by private individuals.

(b) Wild and exotic animals should be regulated for the following reasons:

(1) To prevent the introduction or spread of disease or parasites harmful to humans, domestic livestock and poultry, native wildlife, and captive wild and exotic animals;

(2) To ensure the physical safety of humans;

(3) To prevent the escape or release of an animal injurious to or competitive with agricultural, horticultural, forestry, native wildlife and other natural resource interests;

(4) To prevent the mistreatment of wild and exotic animals; and

(5) To prevent the removal and use of native wildlife taken from the public domain.

§20-17-2. Jurisdiction.

(a) The Division of Natural Resources will be the lead regulatory agency for entry and intrastate movement, sale, transfer, exhibition, possession and release of wild and exotic animals. Determination of adverse environmental and disease consequences posed by wild and exotic animals to free-living native wildlife is the responsibility of the Division of Natural Resources. In regard to disease implications, the Division of Natural Resources should consult with other agencies and authorities.

(b) The Department of Agriculture reserves the right to immediate examination and testing of wild or exotic animals when there is probable cause that the animals are harboring diseases or parasites suspected of endangering domestic animals. Measures deemed necessary to protect domestic animals and agricultural, horticultural and forestry interests, including quarantine, seizure, indemnification and destruction within the legislative authority of the Department of Agriculture, may be carried out independently of other state agencies. The Division of Natural Resources and the Bureau for Public Health will be advised of these activities. Actions taken by the Department of Agriculture will be compatible with the Federal Endangered Species Act and other federal laws.

(c) The Bureau for Public Health reserves the right to an immediate examination and testing of wild or exotic animals when there is probable cause that the animals are harboring diseases or parasites suspected of endangering public health. Measures deemed necessary to protect the public health including quarantine, seizure, and destruction may be carried out independently of other state agencies within the legislative authority of the Bureau for Public Health. The Division of Natural Resources and the State Department of Agriculture will be advised of these activities. Actions taken by the Bureau for Public Health will be compatible with the Federal Endangered Species Act and other federal laws.

(d) Any action taken by the Division of Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture or the Bureau for Public Health is subject to the provisions of the state’s Administrative Procedures Act.

§20-17-3. Definitions.

(1) “Bureau” means the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health;

(2) “Department” means the West Virginia Department of Agriculture;

(3) “Division” means the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources;

(4) “Domestic animal,” or the plural, means an animal which, through extremely long association with humans, predominately as companions and pets, has been bred to a degree which has resulted in genetic changes affecting the temperament, color, conformation or other attributes of the species to an extent that makes them unique and distinguishable from wild individuals of their species. A comprehensive list of “domestic animals” shall be set forth by the division, in consultation with the department and the bureau, pursuant to the rulemaking authority of this article or the current legislative authority of the division.

(5) “Livestock animal” means a captive animal raised solely for meat or animal by-products or as brood-stock held in cages, pens, fences, enclosures or other man-made means of secure confinement that limit their movement within definite boundaries or as further defined in chapter nineteen of this code.

(6) “Wild and exotic animal,” “animal” or the plural mean any animals other than those defined as domestic and livestock, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fresh water fish that are either native wildlife or exotic, including hybrids thereof, which, due to their inherent nature, may be considered dangerous to humans, other animals or the environment. A comprehensive list of “wild and exotic animals” shall be set forth by the division, in consultation with the department and the bureau, pursuant to the rule-making authority of this article or the current legislative authority of the division.

(7) “Person” means any individual, partnership, corporation, organization, trade or professional association, firm, limited liability company, joint venture, association, trust, estate or any other legal entity and any officer, member, shareholder, director, employee, agent or representative thereof.

(8) “Possessor” means any person who owns, possesses, breeds, transports, releases or has custody or control of a wild and exotic animal.

(9) “Wildlife” means all animals occurring naturally in the state, either presently or historically, as defined by section two, article one of this chapter. “Wildlife” are “wild and exotic animals” for purposes of this article, but to the extent that any other provision of chapter twenty of this code conflicts with these provisions, the division will need to clarify the applicability.

(10) “Wildlife sanctuary” means a nonprofit organization as described in Section 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) of the Internal Revenue Code 1986, and its subsequent amendments, that operates a facility that is a place of refuge where abused, neglected, unwanted, impounded, abandoned, orphaned or displaced animals are provided care for their lifetime or released back to their natural habitat and is a facility with the following characteristics:

(A) No activity that is not inherent to the animal’s nature, natural conduct or the animal in its natural habitat is conducted except as needed for routine animal husbandry;

(B) No commercial activity involving any animal occurs including, but not limited to, the sale of or trade in animals, animal parts, animal by-products or animal offspring or the sale of photographic opportunities involving any animal or the use of any animal for any type of entertainment purpose;

(C) No unescorted public visitations or direct contact between the public and any animal; and

(D) No breeding of an animal(s) occurs in the facility.

§20-17-4. Possessing Wild and Exotic Animals Limited.

(a) Unless the activity is specifically exempted, no person may own, possess, breed, harbor, transport, release or have custody or control of a wild and exotic animal.

(b) Permit.– The division may issue a personal possession permit to a possessor of a wild and exotic animal prior to the effective date if:

(1) The possessor was in legal possession of the wild and exotic animal prior to the effective date of this article; and

(2) The possessor completes a notarized permit application for each wild and exotic animal by January 1 of each year containing:

(A) The name, address, telephone number and date of birth of the possessor.

(B) A description of each animal the applicant possesses, including the scientific name, sex, age, color, weight and any distinguishing marks or coloration that would aid in the identification of the animal.

(C) The exact location where the animal is kept and an accurate description of the secure, safe and humane enclosure where the animal is housed.

(D) The names, addresses and telephone number of the person from whom the possessor obtained the animal, if known.

(E) The name, address, and phone number of the veterinarian providing veterinary care to the animal and a certificate of good health, including proof that the animal has been sterilized, from the possessor’s veterinarian.

(F) Certification that the possessor is eighteen years of age or older and that the possessor has not been convicted of or found responsible for violating a local or state law prohibiting cruelty, neglect, or mistreatment of an animal and has not within the past ten years been convicted of a felony or been convicted for possession, sale or use of illegal narcotics.

(G) A fee of $200 has been made. The division shall keep fifty percent of the fee for handling its duties and remit the remaining fifty percent of the fee to the county human or animal control officer, or the sheriff in the alternative, to offset the cost of assisting in inspecting and controlling these animals. This will also provide the counties with important information about the wild and exotic animals in their vicinities.

(H) A plan for the quick and safe recapture of the wild and exotic animal if the animal escapes.

(I) Documentation that the possessor maintains liability insurance coverage in an amount of not less than $250,000 for damages stemming from destruction of property and death and bodily injury to a person caused by a wild and exotic animal.

(c) The county humane and animal control officers, or the sheriffs in the alternative, may be asked by the above agencies to inspect the wild and exotic animal and its enclosure. An inspection may be required by the division prior to issuing a permit. The possessor shall allow the division, department, bureau, county humane and animal control officers, and sheriffs, and their agents, to enter the premises where the animal is kept to ensure compliance with this article and other applicable laws.

(d) The division shall provide all possessor information obtained in the application to the department, bureau, county humane and animal control officers, or the sheriffs in the alternative, and shall strive to create a database tracking wild and exotic animals that these agencies can access.

(e) The division, department, bureau, county humane and animal control officers, or the sheriffs in the alternative, shall work together to share information regarding wild and exotic animals and to devise emergency response plans for emergent situations involving wild and exotic animals. Emergency contact information shall be provided to possessors in the application.

(f) The possessor shall use the emergency contact information immediately if it suspects the wild or exotic animal has a disease, injures a person, escapes or if any emergency arises involving the animal.

(g) Any possessor granted a permit shall notify the division of any changes to the stated information in the permit application at any time. Any changes will be disseminated to the other agencies.

(h) The possessor shall state in its notarized application that it will contact the division, the department, a wildlife sanctuary or an American Zoo and Aquarium Association accredited facility if the possessor can no longer care for the wild and exotic animal prior to releasing or euthanizing the wild and exotic animal.

§20-17-5. Exemptions.

The provisions of this article do not apply to:

(1) Institutions accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association or being mentored through the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

(2) Duly incorporated nonprofit animal protection organizations housing a wild and exotic animal at the written request of the division.

(3) Animal control or law-enforcement agencies or officers acting under the authority of this article.

(4) A person who is licensed by the division to rehabilitate native wildlife. Persons are only exempt for the native wildlife in their possession.

(5) Licensed veterinary hospitals or clinics treating wild and exotic animals.

(6) A wildlife sanctuary as defined under this article.

(7) A licensed or accredited research or medical institution.

(8) A licensed or accredited educational institution.

(9) A lawfully operated circus or rodeo.

(10) A person temporarily transporting a wild and exotic animal through the state if the transit time is not more than ninety-six hours and the animal is at all times confined sufficiently to prevent the wild and exotic animal from escaping.

§20-17-6. Confiscation and disposition of wild and exotic animals.

(a) The division, department or bureau may immediately confiscate any wild and exotic animal if the animal is kept in contravention of this article. The possessor is liable for the costs of placement and care for the wild and exotic animal from the time of confiscation until the time of return to the possessor or until the time the animal has been relocated to an approved facility, such as a wildlife sanctuary as defined under this article or an institution accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

(b) If a wild and exotic animal is confiscated due to the animal being kept in contravention of this article, the possessor must post a security bond or cash with the division, department or bureau in an amount sufficient to guarantee payment of all reasonable expenses expected to be incurred in caring and providing for the animal including, but not limited to, the estimated cost of feeding, medical care and housing for at least thirty days. The security bond or cash does not prevent the division from disposing of the animal after thirty days unless the person claiming the animal posts an additional security bond or cash with the division, department or bureau to secure payment of all reasonable expenses expected to be incurred in caring and providing for the animal for an additional thirty days and does so prior to the expiration of the first thirty day period. The amount of the security bond or cash shall be determined by the division and based on the current rate to feed, provide medical care and house the animal.

(c) If the possessor of a confiscated animal cannot be located or if a confiscated animal remains unclaimed, the division, department or bureau may contact an approved facility, such as a wildlife sanctuary as defined under this article or an institution accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association; allow the animal to be adopted by a person who currently possesses a personal possession permit; or, may euthanize the animal.

(d) If the wild and exotic animal cannot be taken up or recaptured safely by the division, department or bureau or if proper and safe housing cannot be found, the division, department or bureau may immediately euthanize the animal.

§20-17-7. Rule-making authority and agency cooperation.

(a) The division, department and bureau may develop inter-agency agreements or propose rules for legislative approval in accordance with article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code to implement this article and to take other action as may be necessary for the proper and effective enforcement of these provisions.

(b) The division, department and bureau shall cooperate to implement the provisions of this article and to take other action as may be necessary for the proper and effective enforcement of these provisions.

 

NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to prohibit the possession of wild and exotic animals. The bill provides for a permit for those in possession on the effective date for limited exceptions to the prohibition and for removing the animals if they are being kept in violation of this article. The bill expresses legislative intent. The bill establishes agency jurisdiction. The bill defines certain terms. The bill permits expansion of the definitions. The bill limits custody and control of wild and exotic animals. The bill provides a permit for persons who possess a wild and exotic animal prior to effective date. The bill sets forth permit requirements. The bill requires a notarized permit application and fee. The bill splits the fee with Division of Natural Resources and county humane and animal control officer or the sheriff, in the alternative. The bill provides exemptions. The bill requires interagency cooperation. The bill provides rule-making authority.

 

The bill repeals §20-2-51.

 

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.

HSUS: The Pacelle Propaganda Machine Hampers Progress For Animals

By Erika N. Chen-Walsh

This post was previously published on my personal blog, A Legal Perspective, on December 3, 2012.

Wayne Pacelle, CEO and president of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) blogged today, lambasting Andrew Wyatt and U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) for opposing  U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney’s (R-FL) animal rights driven House Resolution 511.  HR 511 seeks to amend title 18, United States Code (the “Lacey Act”), to prohibit the importation of nine species of constrictor snakes as injurious species.  These include the Burmese python, the reticulated python, the North African rock python, the South African rock python, the Boa constrictor, and three species of anaconda.

Andrew Wyatt preparing to testify before the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs

Apparently, the reptile community, led by Andrew Wyatt, has struck a nerve with the $200 million plus per year animal rights legal behemoth, HSUS.  Pacelle’s angst at Wyatt is not particularly surprising.  Since co-founding the United States Association of Reptile Keepers in 2008, Wyatt has emerged victorious in more than two dozen state engagements defending the rights of herptile owners as well as multiple federal entanglements.  These victories have come on a shoestring budget and against HSUS’s powerhouse millions.  Wyatt is most certainly a bothersome thorn in Pacelle’s manicured paw, and one that will not go away.

Pacelle said today, “But the reptile lobby—yes, there is such a thing—has been thrashing its collective tail and saying how benign these snakes are and that cold weather will prevent the snakes from going much farther than the Everglades (I guess it’s no matter to these supposed snake “lovers” that the snakes will freeze to death).”

Pacelle’s comment is interesting for two reasons.  First, using HSUS’s own statistics, 17 people have been killed by large constrictors in the US since 1978.  HSUS further claims that there have been 1,111,768 large constrictors imported since 1977.  Using those figures alone, without factoring in the millions of large constrictors bred in captivity this country since 1978, it makes the risk of death from a large constrictor less than 0.01%.  Large constrictors may not be “benign,” but the risk of being killed by a vending machine, a clothes dryer, a sand hole, a shark attack, a dog or a bee are significantly higher than the statistical risk of being killed by a large constrictor.

Second, Pacelle seems to concede that the snakes will freeze to death if they travel north of the most southern tip of Florida.  HSUSclaims on its own web site about reptiles, “Wild animals are best left in the wild where they belong.”  As great a shock as it may come to HSUS, animals in the wild are not frolicking about making daisy chains and counting stars as they do in Disney movies.  Wild animals die of disease, injury, predation, starvation, and yes, from the elements of nature.

Clearly, Pacelle’s remark is intended only to inure sympathy from animal lovers who don’t truly understand the issue. HSUS has used similar rhetoric about dog breeders, showing a decided recalcitrance to distinguish between responsible breeders and puppy mills.  Responsible reptile owners and breeders do not want to see the suffering of any herptile, and they certainly don’t advocate releasing any captive reptiles into the wild.

Pacelle’s tantrum continues, “Somehow the snake lobby, in the form of the U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers, has hoodwinked a number of Republican House members and apparently convinced them that this is a matter of “economic freedom.”

This is about economic freedom. HSUS does not have the right to deprive American citizens of their property interests and their livelihoods simply because Pacelle doesn’t agree with reptile ownership.  It must be incredibly empowering for one person to believe that his ideology should translate into law for every American citizen, but it is the duty of lawmakers to protect the interests of their constituents, no matter how much it upsets Mr. Pacelle.  The majority of people involved in true herpetoculture, the breeding and ownership of captive bred reptiles, care immensely about the health and welfare of the animals they keep.  (If Pacelle is truly concerned about the welfare of animals, perhaps he should revisit his endorsement of convicted dog fighting felon, Michael Vick, who, for a monetary donation, now receives Pacelle’s endorsement.)

Pacelle speciously condemns U.S. Rep. Southerland for condoning the import of  “dangerous invasive species into the country for use as pets, even if they are creating ecological havoc, injuring and killing private citizens, and costing the nation millions of dollars in terms of containment activities.”  (When he hasn’t got facts, he embellishes.)  Notably, Pacelle provides no back up for his inflammatory and false rhetoric.  HSUS’s fall back plan is to continue to terrify the public about non existent threats in order to feather HSUS’s own legal nest.  (HSUS has conceded in its Motion to Intervene in Ohio that it has an economic interest in winning legislative engagements because doing so attracts more monetary donations.  I will be writing on that topic next.)  If Pacelle needs to succeed in state and federal legislatures in order to attract the hundreds of millions of dollars that pay his six figure salary, perhaps he should set his sights on those more dangerous predators, such as vending machines, clothes dryers and sand holes.

U.S. Representatives Fleming and Southerland, Dr. Brady Barr, Shawn Heflick, Colette Sutherland and Andrew Wyatt should be commended for bringing facts to the table regarding the threat of pythons in the Everglades and the economic impact of arbitrary and capricious government action.  The role of our representatives in Congress is to protect our rights from unnecessary and harmful legislation, not to ensure that Pacelle has enough “wins” to fund HSUS into perpetuity.