2014: West Virginia SB 371

West Virginia SB 371 Action Alert

This bill was introduced January 16, 2014 and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources.

According to the bill:

“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.”

Animal welfare is a huge concern, but as we have seen in Ohio, bills such as this don’t work, overreach, cost tens of millions of dollars to the state and overload authorities making implementation and proper enforcement impossible. The only people punished are responsible pet owners.

The purpose of this bill is to prohibit the possession of wild and exotic animals (including herps) through a permit system, providing rule-making capability to authorities. Through rule-making, legislatures can first set broad definitions and statutes, then create stricter regulations without public comment or awareness. The rule-making process can easily lead to overreaching regulations. For example, a list of prohibited animals could be set in 2014 and then amended at will by authorities.

While intentions may be good, this is simply creating laws and wasting money while much more pressing matters should be addressed.

You can view the full bill text at www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bills_text.cfm?billdoc=sb371+intr.htm&yr=2014&sesstype=RS&i=371.

Contact information for all Committee on Natural Resources members is at the bottom of this page.

At this time, it is crucial for West Virginia to contact legislators and address their concerns. Also, any herp societies, 4H clubs, pet businesses, pet owners, etc. should collaborate. USARK is here to assist, advise and provide valuable information at local and state levels, but local herpers, exotic pet keepers, business owners and others affected need to make their voices heard.

Below is a sample letter. It is always best to personalize the letter is some manner. Remember to always be professional and civil when addressing legislators and commenting publicly.
__________________________________________________________________________________________

Sample Letter for West Virginia

Committee on Natural Resources Member,

I write today to oppose SB 371. This bill will punish not only responsible reptile keepers by requiring additional costs and hardships to own, possess, breed, harbor, transport or have custody of exotic animals and reptiles, but this bill will cost the state of West Virginia millions or even tens of millions of dollars to implement and enforce. While I understand your concerns over public safety, the exotic and reptile pet communities have evolved greatly and pet owners are much more responsible and educated. A public safety concern is non-existent. The minuscule number of occurrences have all involved occupational risks by pet owners or workers at facilities with these animals. Bills such as this only create problems that did not previously exist. States that have passed similar bills recently are now seeing the mistakes made and problems created to protect the public and environment when they were never really threatened.

On its own, the reptile sector of the pet industry represents annual revenues over $8,000,000 for West Virginia’s small businesses. Reptiles purchased as pets require caging, food and other supplies. Many reptiles are individually valued well over $1,000. An estimated 30,000 residents in West Virginia responsibly own reptiles. This legislation does not protect the citizens of West Virginia but it does punish them. This type of legislation is pushed by anti-pet groups posing as animal welfare organizations. Animal cruelty should certainly be addressed, but banning and over-regulating pet ownership are not effective means to handle this concern. It’s a shame that the great state of West Virginia would allow special interest groups to influence public policy and not protect the freedoms of its citizens.

Responsible pet owners are constantly being punished by overreaching legislation. The reptile segment of the pet industry accounts for nearly $1.5 billion dollars in the U.S. annually and that revenue is being threatened by continual legislation. With so many critical dilemmas in our country including poverty, failing education system, hunger, shortage of jobs and pollution, why are states focusing so many resources to “fix” problems that don’t even exist? State governments should be fixing real issues and not removing more freedoms from their hardworking and taxpaying citizens. Pet ownership is a matter of personal responsibility and not government action. I implore you to vote “No” on SB 371.

Sincerely,

Your name, address, contact info, etc.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Contact Information for Sponsors and Committee on Natural Resources Members

Senator Jeffrey Kessler: SPONSOR (not on Committee)
Email: jeff.kessler@wvsenate.gov
Room 227M, Building 1State Capitol ComplexCharleston, WV 25305
Phone: (304) 357-7801

Senator Rocky Fitzsimmons: SPONSOR (not on Committee)
Email: rocky@fitzsimmonsfirm.com
Room 204W, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Phone: (304) 357-7918

Senator Ron Stollings: SPONSOR (not on Committee)
Email: ron.stollings@frontier.com
Room 439M, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305

Phone: (304) 357-7939

Robert D. Beach (D – Monongalia, 13) SPONSOR
bob.beach@wvsenate.gov
Capitol Office: Room 204W, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 357-7919
Home: P.O. Box 1620, Morgantown, WV, 26501
Home Phone: (304) 932-7170

William R. Laird IV (D – Fayette, 10)
william.laird@wvsenate.gov
Capitol Office: Room 229W, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 357-7849
Home: 225 Highland Avenue, Oak Hill, WV, 25901
Home Phone: (304) 469-8055

Larry J. Edgell (D – Wetzel, 02)
larry.edgell@wvsenate.gov
Capitol Office:Room 206W, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 357-7827
Home: 600 Fifth Street, New Martinsville, WV, 26155
Home Phone: (304) 455-5304

Donald H. Cookman (D – Hampshire, 15)
donald.cookman@wvsenate.gov
Capitol Office: Room 417M, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 357-7980
Home: 356 Woodland Way, Romney, WV, 26757
Home Phone: (304) 822-5104, Business Phone: (304) 357-7980

Douglas E. Facemire (D – Braxton, 12)
douglas.facemire@wvsenate.gov
Capitol Office: Room 217W, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 357-7845
Home: P.O. Box 215, Sutton, WV, 26601
Home Phone: (304) 765-2231, Business Phone: (304) 364-9903

Mike Green (D – Raleigh, 09)
mike.green@wvsenate.gov
Capitol Office: Room 206W, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 357-7831
Home: P.O. Box 274, Daniels, WV, 25832
Home Phone: (304) 763-3365, Business Phone: (304) 763-3461

Brooks McCabe (D – Kanawha, 17)
brooks.mccabe@wvsenate.gov
Capitol Office: Room 209W, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 357-7990
Home: 1223 Staunton Road, Charleston, WV, 25314
Home Phone: (304) 342-1961, Business Phone: (304) 347-7500

Roman Prezioso (D – Marion, 13)
roman.prezioso@wvsenate.gov
Capitol Office: Room 465M, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 357-7961
Home: 1806 Dogwood Drive, Fairmont, WV, 26554
Home Phone: (304) 366-5308

Bob Williams (D – Taylor, 14)
bob.williams@wvsenate.gov
Capitol Office: Room 223W, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 357-7995
Home: P.O. Box 562, Grafton, WV, 26354
Home Phone: (304) 842-7161

Bill Cole (R – Mercer, 06)
bill.cole@wvsenate.gov
Capitol Office: Room 200W, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 357-7843
Home: 404 Oakhurst Avenue, Bluefield, WV, 24701
Home Phone: (304) 324-0040, Business Phone: (304) 3270511

Mike Hall (R – Putnam, 04)
mike.hall@wvsenate.gov
Capitol Office: Room 245M, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 357-7901
Home: 76 Crystal Springs, Winfield, WV, 25213
Home Phone: (304) 757-8249, Business Phone: (304) 549-8126

Evan H. Jenkins (R – Cabell, 05)
evan.jenkins@wvsenate.gov
Capitol Office: Room 216W, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 357-7956
Home: 121 Oak Lane, Huntington, WV, 25701
Home Phone: (304) 523-1365, Business Phone: (304) 925-0342

Chris Walters (R – Putnam, 08)
chris.walters@wvsenate.gov
Capitol Office: Room 441M, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 357-7866
Home: 117 Walnut Street, Nitro, WV, 25143
Home Phone: (304) 542-1049, Business Phone: (304) 346-4823

Article written by USARK