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West Virginia HB 4393 Update

West Virginia Action Alert/Update

House Bill 4393 has been passed by committees in the House and the Senate. West Virginia residents must contact Governor Tomblin's office now and continue to contact legislators. Governor Tomblin vetoed the Dangerous Wild Animals Act previously due to financial hardships that would be placed upon the state. Similar legislation in Ohio in 2012 led to the construction of a $2.9 million temporary-housing facility for animals that could no longer be kept due to the newly-implemented law.

The Action Alert can be found at www.usark.org/campaign/west-virginia-house-bill-4393. It is also critical to send individual emails using the information at www.usark.org/2014-blog/2014-west-virginia-house-bill-4393.

Be sure to write "No on HB 4393" or similar as the subject. Contact Governor Tomblin at www.governor.wv.gov/Pages/SubmitaCommenttotheGovernor.aspx.
Mailing Address: Office of the Governor
State Capitol
1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East
Charleston, West Virginia 25305
Office Telephone: (304) 558-2000 or 1-888-438-2731

West Virginia HB 4393 (Dangerous Wild Animals Act) was introduced February 3, 2014. View the HB 4393 Committee Substitute text at www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bills_text.cfm?billdoc=HB4393%20SUB.htm&yr=2014&sesstype=RS&i=4393.

According to the bill: "The possession of dangerous wild animals presents serious public health and safety concerns and shall be regulated."

Notes on bill

  • A Dangerous Wild Animal Board (DWAB) will be created: Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources and the Director of the Division of Natural Resources, or their designees
  • The DWAB will write an initial list of "dangerous wild animals" (DWA) that will be prohibited and will review the list annually.
  • The initial proposed DWA list includes (DWA species are not limited to the below):
    • Constrictor snakes greater than six feet, and venomous snakes; Alligators and caimans; Bears; Big cats; Canids; Primates
    • The final list would not be known unless the bill passes into law and then the newly-formed "Dangerous Wild Animals Board" would designate species as dangerous. If the bill passes, no species would be prohibited until the initial list is finalized. Speak up now!
  • A person may not possess a dangerous wild animal without a permit.
  • Permit holder details:
    • Fee to be established.
    • DWAs may not be bred or replaced.
    • DWAs may not come into physical contact with a member of the general public.
    • Each DWA must be permanently marked with a unique identifier.
    • Must maintain records for each DWA, including veterinary records, acquisition papers, the purchase date and other records that prove ownership.
    • Must present proof of liability insurance of $300,000 or more with a deductible less than $250.
    • Permit renewed annually.
    • Other details in bill text.
  • Punishment details:
    • A person who violates a provision of this article is guilty of a demeanor and fine of $200 to $2,000 for each animal.
    • A person who releases or possesses a DWA is guilty of a misdemeanor and may be jailed for up to one year or fined $500 to $2,500, or both confined and fined.
    • A person who owns a DWA that injures an individual is guilty of a felony and may be imprisoned for one to three years, or fined $1,000 to $5,000, or both imprisoned and fined.
    • Other details in bill text.

At this time, it is crucial for West Virginia exotic pet keepers to contact legislators and address their concerns. Also, any herp societies, 4H clubs, pet businesses, pet owners, etc. should collaborate.

Additional Arguments (Talking Points)

  • Financial:
  • Similar legislation in Ohio led to a $2,900,000 temporary-housing facility for animals that could not be kept by responsible owners.
  • This law will cost West Virginia millions of dollars more to implement than the money raised from permits.
  • A proper fiscal estimate should be presented before hastily passing a law that will cost the state millions of dollars.
  • Money has been spent since the bill was passed in Ohio on June 6, 2012 by the state and legislators who are still making changes to the law.
  • Caging requirements have still not been finalized in Ohio, over 18 months after the law passed.
  • The new law led to millions of dollars invested by Ohio, and West Virginia HB 4393 is very similar.
  • Additional financial hardships will be placed on pet owners by requiring costly permits and may force them to surrender, or even release, their beloved pets.
  • Other Points:
  • There has never been a death from a constrictor snake in west Virginia.
  • No member of the general public has ever been killed by a constricting snake species.
  • Only 10 deaths from large snakes are documented since 1990 in the entire United States. At least one of these cases is noted as fraudulent.
  • Boas are one of the most common pet snake species in America. There are 9 subspecies and dozens of localities of Boa constrictor. Some of these localities rarely exceed 5’ in length and 4 pounds in weight. That is hardly dangerous.
  • Exotic species of reptiles are also not a threat to the environment. They cannot establish themselves in West Virginia as the climate is not acceptable.
  • Extreme southern Florida is the only environment in the continental U.S. that allows a minuscule number of exotic species to barely survive in the wild. The Burmese python population has been in southern Florida since 1991 and has not moved north. This population is not the result of released pets, but occurred after a research facility was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew.
  • An estimated 30,000 residents in West Virginia responsibly own reptiles.
  • Reptiles are housed indoors and simply do not pose any public safety concern.
  • The newly-created "Dangerous Wild Animal Board" will review species annually so pet owners must constantly be concerned with their pets being added as a "dangerous wild animal."

Below is a sample letter. Be sure to write "No on HB 4393" as the subject. 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 HB 4393

Subject: NO on HB 4393

Dear West Virginia Legislator,

As a responsible pet owner, I oppose HB 4393, the "Dangerous Wild Animal Act.". This bill will punish responsible reptile and exotic animal keepers and is overreaching legislation. Some of the proposed reptile species are commonly kept as pets and many citizens will be affected. This is unconstitutional and far overreaching legislation.

Pet snakes do not pose a public safety threat. There has never been a death from a constrictor snake in west Virginia. They are housed indoors and there has never been a member of the general public killed by a constricting snake species. Only 10 deaths from large snakes are documented since 1990 in the entire United States. At least one of these cases is noted as fraudulent.

Similar legislation in Ohio led to a $2,900,000 temporary-housing facility for animals that could not be kept by responsible owners. The permit fees associated with this act will not cover even a small percentage of the millions of dollars that West Virginia will spend to implement these regulations.

Education before legislation is of utmost importance, especially when impacting the lives of so many pet owners. For example, many constrictor snake species at 6' in length weigh less than ten pounds and pose threats to only feeder rodents. That is hardly a "dangerous wild animal." Even larger snakes pose no threat as they are housed inside and in secure housing. Please listen to your constituents and get the full truth about reptiles as pets.

These species are also not a threat to the environment. They cannot establish themselves in West Virginia as the climate is not acceptable. Extreme southern Florida is the only environment in the continental U.S. that allows a minuscule number of exotic species to barely survive in the wild. The Burmese python population has been in southern Florida since 1991 and has not moved north. This population is not the result of released pets, but occurred after a research facility was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew.

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. If this bill passes, the anti-pet groups won't be there to assist during the aftermath.

Please consider your constituents and their freedoms. Pet ownership is a matter of personal responsibility and not government action. I implore you to vote “No” on HB 4393.

Sincerely,

Your name, address, contact info, etc.
__________________________________________________________________________________________

Contact Information for Senate Judiciary Committee and Sponsors

Email addresses are below but view additional contact information at http://www.legis.state.wv.us/committees/senate/SenateCommittee.cfm?Chart=jud.
Contact Governor Tomblin at www.governor.wv.gov/Pages/SubmitaCommenttotheGovernor.aspx.
 
Randy Swartzmiller (D - Hancock, 01) Lead sponsor
rswartzmiller@gmail.com
Capitol Office: Room 242M, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 340-3138
Home: 216 Heartwood Drive, Chester, WV, 26034
Business Phone: (304) 479-5140
 
Senator Palumbo: corey.palumbo@wvsenate.gov
Senator Tucker: greg.tucker@wvsenate.gov
Senator Beach: bob.beach@wvsenate.gov
Senator Cann: sam.cann@wvsenate.gov
Senator Cookman: donald.cookman@wvsenate.gov
Senator Fitzsimmons: rocky@fitzsimmonsfirm.com
Senator Hall: daniel.hall@wvsenate.gov
Senator Kirkendoll: art.kirkendoll@wvsenate.gov
Senator Miller: ronald.miller@wvsenate.gov
Senator Snyder: herb.snyder@wvsenate.gov
Senator Unger: john.unger@wvsenate.gov
Senator Williams: bob.williams@wvsenate.gov
Senator Carmichael: Mitch.Carmichael@wvsenate.gov
Senator Nohe: dcnohe@suddenlink.net
Senator Cole: bill.cole@wvsenate.gov
Senator Jenkins: evan.jenkins@wvsenate.gov
Senator Walters: chris.walters@wvsenate.gov
Sponsors:
Delegate Erikka Storch: erikka.storch@wvhouse.gov & (304) 340-3378
Delegate Kevin Craig: kjcraigwv@aol.com & (304) 340-3116
Delegate Brady Paxton: brady.paxton@wvhouse.gov & (304) 340-3146
Delegate Ron Fragale: ron.fragale@wvhouse.gov & (304) 340-3102
Mike Manypenny (D - Taylor, 49) Co-sponsor
mike.manypenny@wvhouse.gov
Capitol Office: Room 203E, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 340-3139
Home:Route 3, Box 202, Grafton, WV, 26354
Business Phone: (304) 677-0379
 
Danny Wells (D - Kanawha, 36) Co-sponsor
danny.wells@wvhouse.gov
Capitol Office: Room 210E, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 340-3287
Home: 34 Bridlewood Road, Charleston, WV, 25314
Home Phone: (304) 542-0284
John N. Ellem (R - Wood, 10) Co-sponsor
john.ellem@wvhouse.gov
Capitol Office: Room 150R, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 340-3394
Home: P.O. Box 322, Parkersburg, WV, 26102
Home Phone: (304) 863-0375, Business Phone: (304) 424-5297

Louisiana Action Alert

Louisiana Senate Bill 357 seeks to ban constrictor and venomous snakes. The constrictor snakes listed below currently require a permit from LA Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (DW&F) once they reach 8' and can be kept by private keepers. This bill amends the current law and bans all species listed, regardless of size. The venomous species below would also be illegal to keep and permits would not be available to private keepers. Only certain institutions would be exempt (animal sanctuaries, zoos, aquariums, wildlife research centers, scientific organizations, and medical research facilities as defined by the U.S. Animal Welfare Act). View the Action Alert with bill text at www.usark.org/campaign/2014-louisiana-senate-bill-357-action-alert. Additional legislator contact information is located at www.usark.org/2014-blog/2014-louisiana-senate-bill-357.

This is far overreaching, unconstitutional legislation that turns pet owners into criminals overnight. It would also lead to the immediate euthanization of all Burmese pythons, Southern African pythons, African Rock pythons and Yellow anacondas kept as pets as they are federally listed as injurious under the Lacey Act and cannot be legally transported out of state.

Banned Non-venomous snakes: Carpet and Diamond pythons, Boa constrictors (all subspecies), Reticulated python, Papuan python, Olive python, Scrub python, Amethystine python, Southern African python, African Rock python, Indian and Burmese pythons, and any species of Anaconda

Banned Venomous snakes: Families Viperidae (Pitvipers and Vipers), Elapidae (Cobras and Mambas), Hydrophiidae (Sea Snakes), Atractaspididae (Mole Vipers), as well as the genera Dispholidus, Thelotornis, and Rhabdophis of the Family Colubridae

The bill was introduced on 2/28/14 by Senator Chabert and assigned to the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

South Carolina Action Alert
House Bill 3985 seeks to ban many species of herps including Boa constrictors, Reticulated pythons, and any species of animal listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. This means chinchillas, prairie dogs, certain parrots/parakeets/macaws, some iguana species, and even species of small fish, salamanders, and toads would be considered "Dangerous Wild Animals." Even if these animals are captive bred, they will be illegal. Find the Action Alert at www.usark.org/campaign/south-carolina-h-3895-dangerous-wild-animals-act. It's crucial to send individual messages to legislators found at www.usark.org/press-releases/south-carolina-h-3895-dangerous-wild-animals-act.

Wisconsin Action Alert

Assembly Bill 703 will ban crocodilian species and some mammals. It will place financial burdens upon municipalities, encouraging them to place stricter regulations and potentially add species as prohibited. The Action Alert can be found at www.usark.org/campaign/wisconsin-assembly-bill-703. Be sure to send individual messages and get additional information at www.usark.org/uncategorized/2014-wisconsin-assembly-bill-703.

Maryland Action Alerts
There are two similar bills, SB 827 and HB 1124, in Maryland. These bills propose amendments to the current law. Both bills place additional restrictions on currently regulated facilities and also remove exemptions from Class C Exhibitors License holders. Find information for SB 827 at www.usark.org/2014-blog/2014-maryland-senate-bill-827-amendments and for HB 1124 at www.usark.org/2014-blog/2014-house-bill-1124.

State Action Alerts: Let Them Hear You!

Act now! You must contact your legislators as your voices matter most. Your opposition will stop anti-reptile and anti-pet legislation! USARK has made it easy to contact the appropriate lawmakers at the links below, so take a few minutes to protect your freedoms, support your herp community and then share the Action Alerts with all pet owners... ALL pet owners should be fighting overreaching and unconstitutional anti-pet legislation.Emails, networking with pet owners/businesses/organizations, attendance at public hearings, phone calls, legislator meetings, mailed letters, and faxes should all be happening in mass. Enough voices do make a difference and these bills can stopped. USARK is contacting legislators and we are active on state issues, but they must hear directly from their constituents.

More State Herp-related Bills

Additional 2014 state bills can be found at www.usark.org/2014-legislation.

National Reptile & Amphibian Advisory Council (NRAAC) Law Symposium

The Reptile and Amphibian Law Symposium & Workshop will be held March 7-8 in Washington, D.C. This is an essential event for anyone interested in the impact of law and regulation on the keeping, breeding, care, and conservation of reptiles and amphibians. Get more details at www.usark.org/2014-blog/nraac-law-symposium.

Article written by USARK