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February 28, 2012

House Action Comes Just Weeks After Announcement of Final Interior Department Rule That Covered Just Four of Nine Species Posing Risk

The Humane Society of the
United States applauds the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s passage of H.R.
511, a bill that will add nine species of large constrictor snakes to the list
of injurious species under the Lacey Act.

“The House Judiciary
Committee recognized that the trade in large, constricting snakes is reckless
and irresponsible, putting people, ecosystems and the animals that live in
them, and the snakes themselves at risk,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO
of The Humane Society of the United States. “We hope that the bill is
scheduled for a vote on the House floor soon, and that the Senate takes up the
matter expeditiously.”

The HSUS thanks the author of the bill, Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., for his
leadership on the issue, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith,
R-Texas, and Ranking Member John Conyers, D-Mich., Subcommittee Chairman Jim
Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., and Ranking Member Bobby Scott, D-Va., for their strong support of the
legislation.  Three other committee members, Reps. Elton Gallegly,
R-Calif., Howard Berman, D-Calif., and Ted Deutch. D-Fla., showed tremendous
leadership in advocating for the legislation and fending off some harmful
amendments.

H.R. 511 would ban the
import or interstate trade for use as pets of the Indian python (including
Burmese python), reticulated python, Northern African python, Southern African
python, boa constrictor, green anaconda, yellow anaconda, DeSchauensee’s
anaconda and Beni anaconda. The bill addresses the trade in nine species
identified by the U.S. Geological Survey as posing “high” or “medium” risk of
becoming established in the wild as an invasive species. Passage of this
legislation would spare thousands of high-maintenance, powerful predators the
suffering of the exotic animal trade.

In March 2010, the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service proposed a rule to ban nine species of pythons, boa
constrictors, and anacondas identified in the USGS report as posing significant
risk to the environment. In January 2012, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
announced a final rule restricting trade in just four of the nine species—a helpful
step, but one covering just 30 percent of imports of the nine species posing a
significant risk to the environment.

By including only some
species, the trade will simply shift to the other species—including boa
constrictors and reticulated pythons which represent two-thirds of the trade,
and boa constrictors identified as posing “high” risk—and the threats to public
safety, animal welfare, and the environment will continue
uninterrupted. It’s for this reason that The HSUS strongly supports enactment
of H.R. 511.

The ecological havoc wrought
by invasive snakes is worse than anyone anticipated.  A January 2012
report by researchers with the National Academy of Sciences found that Burmese
pythons, in a little more than a decade of colonizing the Everglades, have
wiped out 99 percent of raccoons, opossums and other small and medium-sized
mammals, and 87 percent of bobcats. A great American ecosystem has been
put at grave risk because of this invasive species. By having such an
impact, it will inevitably harm the ability of Florida panthers, one of the
most endangered animals in our nation, to survive.  We must act now in
order to prevent large constricting snakes from colonizing other ecosystems and
having such a devastating impact on them, too.

The U.S. Department of
Interior expected to spend $100 million in 2011 controlling invasive species,
including the pythons breeding wild in Florida. “We must prevent these problems
from developing in the first place, and not spend taxpayer dollars to clean up
problems we should have anticipated,” added Pacelle. “It’s fiscally reckless to
allow these impacts to continue given their predictability.”

Constrictor snakes have
killed 15 people in the United States, including seven children, with
reticulated pythons accounting for the largest share of attacks. The
tragic death of a Florida toddler in 2009 put a fine point on why the private
ownership of these animals is just not worth the risk of children or adults
being killed by them.

The Committee rejected an
amendment offered by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, that would have removed boa
constrictors from the trade restrictions; boa constrictors represent more than
55 percent of the large constrictor snakes in the trade, are identified as
posing “high” risk, have already colonized South Florida, and have killed at
least two people in the U.S. including a 34-year-old Nebraska man who was
strangled to death in 2010. The Committee accepted an amendment offered by Rep.
Dennis Ross, R-Fla., to exempt any USDA-licensed exhibitor from the trade
restrictions, which The HSUS believes is too broad and provides a major
loophole for the reptile trade, especially since the Secretary of the Interior
already has the regulatory authority to grant individual exemptions for
legitimate purposes. 

 

Media Contact:
Stephanie Twining: 301-258-1491; stwining@humanesociety.org

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Article source: HSUS

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