USARK Responds to USFWS Announcement on Constrictor Snakes
March 6, 2015, Loxahatchee National Wildlife Center, FL - USARK President Phil Goss publicly spoke out against the FWS decision to add four species of snakes as injurious under the Lacey Act today. Goss was in attendance when the announcement was made by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe to finalize the Constrictor Rule at a press conference. Demonstrating a pattern of government overreach and complete disregard for widely recognized peer-reviewed science, USFWS will expand the Lacey Act’s injurious list to include the Reticulated python, as well as DeSchauensee’s, Beni and Green anacondas. Boa constrictors were not added.
At the public press conference, Goss pointed out the bogus science and noted that pet owners in 48 states were now being penalized rather than focusing resources and attention on the Burmese python situation in Florida. Goss also responded to questions from the national and local media in advance of and immediately following today’s announcement.
Speaking to the Miami Herald yesterday before the final announcement, Goss said: “This is an extreme case of government overreach. Numerous professionals have spoken out against the junk science used to list the original species. This is not based on legitimate science or sound public policy.”
Special thanks to Matt Edmonds of Edmonds Reptiles, Lucas Matlock of Matlock Morphs, and other herpers who showed up to support the reptile community at the press conference. Edmonds provided excellent comments and questions to Ashe which left Ashe searching for appropriate answers. Edmonds made the reptile world proud today.
USARK has been in contact with legal counsel and is prepared to take whatever steps are necessary to fight this blatant regulatory incursion into the lives of pet owners, hobbyists, breeders, educators and scientists across the country. We will take immediate steps to amend our current federal lawsuit against FWS to include Reticulated pythons and Green anacondas which we expect will strengthen our case.
In addition, we are exploring all options including seeking a potential injunction to stop FWS from enforcing its new listing until a judge has ruled on the pending lawsuit. This type of Government abuse must be stopped.
One of the key counts in USARK’s lawsuit challenges the authority of FWS to restrict interstate transport within the continental United States under the Lacey Act. As stated in the original statute, the Lacey Act grants FWS authority to prohibit: 1) importation, and 2) “any shipment between the continental United States, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any possession of the United States.” (18 U.S. Code § 42) In other words, FWS can prohibit shipments from the 49 continental U.S. states to Hawaii, but cannot ban shipments from one continental U.S. state to another.
In other counts, USARK has challenged the basis on which FWS added the original species of constrictor snakes to the Lacey Act. The initial listing was based on non-peer-reviewed junk science claiming that Burmese pythons could survive winters in 1/3 of the U.S. Contrary to legitimate science and many veterinarians, biologists, physiologists and herpetologists refuting the faulty USGS study used to list these species, FWS has done as they please. This is unjust, overreaching and an extreme abuse of government authority. The Reptile Nation will prevail!
View the FWS announcement at
Constrictor Rule Finalization FWS Q & A: www.usark.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Injurious-2015-QA-Retic-Green.pdf
A. This is known as the 'Constrictor Rule.' This rule has previously listed species of constrictor snakes as injurious under the Lacey Act. That makes interstate transportation/commerce and importation illegal.
Q. Is this same as the Burmese python listing?
A. There were 9 species originally proposed. Four species were listed and the rule remained open. The remaining five species (Boa constrictor, Reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, Green anaconda and Beni anaconda) are now being reviewed. These species have remained in limbo following the 2012 listing of Burmese, Indian, Northern/Southern African pythons and Yellow anaconda.
Q. Is this new?
A. The threat never went away and it didn't suddenly re-emerge. USARK has remained active on the issue including a lengthy document delivered to the Department of the Interior (DOI) and USFWS during a Washington, D.C. meeting in April 2013 disputing the bad science that was used to list the original species in 2012.
Q. Is this a ban and are my pets illegal?
This is not a ban on having these snakes as pets. If a species is listed as injurious, it makes interstate transportation/commerce and importation illegal (according to FWS). You could not take your snake across state lines for any reason; not to the vet, not for an educational show, not to a reptile show, not because you moved or were transferred for work, etc. Since interstate transportation is banned, breeders cannot sell or ship their offspring to those outside of their state. Any snakes you have will be legal to keep, you just can't move them. Essentially, the species may no longer be in the pet community as breeders would lose the majority of their customer base.
A. The Lacey Act deals with injurious, similar to invasive, species. It has no jurisdiction over exaggerated public safety risks or animal welfare. While the animal right (AR) groups push for a listing due to these reasons, because even they know there is no legitimate science to warrant a listing on injurious grounds, that is not the role of Lacey Act.