“All That is Gold Does Not Glitter”- JRR Tolkien
Recently it has been reported that CA AB339, dubbed the “Swap Meet Bill”, has been amended to exempt, “Any reptile and aquatic trade show…”. While this is true, the full implications of AB339 have not been addressed. The United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) has reported that, “In April, a joint effort between USARK and PIJAC had this bill amended to exclude reptile shows.” This statement was made with no reference to other qualifying language in the bill that could have notable consequences for show promoters and vendors; qualifications that the US Herpetoculture Alliance believes could nullify the exemption, and/or limit the types of transactions that could be engaged in at California reptile shows.
While the US Herpetoculture Alliance commends the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Counsel (PIJAC) and it’s “pet reptile” arm, USARK, for securing the exemption, the full consequences of AB339 suggest closer scrutiny is appropriate. Due diligence and careful scrutiny are the hallmarks of honest and effective advocacy.
The critical questions are these:
1) While not implicit in the bill, does AB339 give the State of California de-facto authority to enforce the Food and Drug Administration’s four inch turtle rule that has been on the books since the 1970’s? And if so;
2) Would that authority nullify the reptile show exemption if reptile show promoters continue to allow venders to sell baby turtles and tortoises; subjecting vendors to potential fines and disciplinary action?
3) Why have these questions not been explained by those that reported on AB339?
It appears that Section 122373 of AB 339 would indeed give the State authority to enforce the FDA “Four Inch Turtle” law:
” This chapter shall not apply to the following: (j) Any reptile and aquatic trade show, provided all of the following circumstances exist: (2) The show’s sponsor or permittee ensures compliance with all federal, state, and local animal welfare and animal control laws.”
It is possible that these questions may be answered in time, when and if AB339 is passed, but the US Herpetoculture Alliance wants to give notice that California show promoters and their vendors could be at risk if they continue to sell baby turtles and tortoises at California reptile shows (if AB339 is indeed passed).
It is our hope that PIJAC/USARK have already vetted these questions and answers are forthcoming, but it is no secret that “bricks and mortar” pet stores are already subject to the FDA four inch turtle law. The lack of an explanation for stakeholders on these points begs another question, “Was the reference to federal law overlooked?”
If the implications of Section 122373 are as they appear, AB339 would “even the playing field” between pet stores and hobbyist trade shows taking away the current competitive advantages held by show venues. Show vendors would be subject to the same rules as pet stores… No sales of baby turtles and tortoises.
The US Herpetoculture Alliance continues to OPPOSE AB339, but with support from the pet industry and animal rights advocates it may already be a forgone conclusion.
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