Arizona Proposed Wildlife Rule Changes

The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) has proposed some rule changes which will impact exotic animal keepers and businesses. There is a comment period (ending September 28) and a public meeting on December 5th at the AZGFD headquarters at 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ from 8:00-5:00 PM that will allow public comments. Comments regarding proposed changes can be submitted to rulemaking@azgfd.gov. We will have more information soon.

Some proposed changes include the below. See the complete list at www.azgfd.gov/nrm/files/Article%204%205YRR%20Summary.pdf. More information at www.azgfd.gov/inside_azgfd/rules/documents/Article4NPRM_000.pdf. The process for changing these regulations can be found at www.azgfd.gov/inside_azgfd/rulemaking_process.shtml.

EMAIL ADDRESS for comments: rulemaking@azgfd.gov

TALKING POINTS
You may copy/paste and edit any of these to form your comment. Some points reference similar issues but will provide variance in comments.

  • I oppose the addition of non-native species that are Federally-listed as threatened to Arizona’s Restricted Live Wildlife list because it would harm decades of conservation work accomplished within the State of Arizona.  Many private keepers have invested years and even decades into breeding these species and ensuring their survival while wild populations are devastated from habitat loss due to human over-population.
  • The Endangered Species Act already regulates animals that are threatened/endangered. The proposed regulation changes for Arizona are far over-reaching and much more prohibitive than the federal law. These proposed rule changes would lead to added stress and certainly the loss of life for may of these animals now requiring procedures that are not common veterinary practices (i.e. sterilization of reptiles and amphibians).
  • As the Commission has declared regarding hedgehogs, there is not a threat of non-native, exotic species of herps to establish themselves in Arizona. Exotic herps have been kept as pets for several decades without consequence in Arizona.
  • The proposed rule is based upon the “potential” for imported wildlife to transmit disease into healthy wildlife populations. The current rules already provide for the protection of native wildlife populations by prohibiting the release of captive wildlife into wild populations.
  • Merely requiring a “potential” for disease transmission fails to apply the “sound science” standard acknowledged as appropriate for this purpose. Sound science requires quantification of the risk to allow one to assess the usefulness of any proposed rule and to consider less restrictive alternatives that could produce the same desired result.
  • Requiring health certificates for imported reptiles and amphibians will result in a devastating financial burden to business currently conducted at local reptile and amphibian shows, local pet stores and from interstate purchases. Because the transmission of diseases from captive reptiles and amphibians is extraordinarily rare, the proposed rule is unnecessarily restrictive.
  • By allowing the propagation and sale of offspring from native species, the pressure upon native populations is reduced. People who are able to purchase captive-bred reptiles and amphibians choose to do so rather than buying or collecting wild-caught animals. Captive-bred animals make better pets and are acclimated to captive husbandry.
  • It is estimated that over 100,000 Arizona residents responsibly keep reptiles as pets (via a national study from the American Pet Products Association: APPA) and that the reptile segment of the pet industry yields annual revenues of nearly $30,000,000 in Arizona (via an economic study done by Georgetown Economic Services).
  • Herps are also not a concern for zoonotic disease transmission. While it is possible for a human to get salmonella from herps, proper hygiene eliminates the risk. The Department certainly cannot warrant the overreaching punishment to thousands of responsible keepers because a few people don’t wash their hands.
  • The inclusion of federally-listed non-native threatened/endangered species will have a negative impact on captive breeding programs for these species. Many Arizona residents have spent tens of thousands of dollars to ensure captive breeding populations of species struggling or nearly extinct in the wild.
  • By prohibiting propagation of federal-listed threatened/endangered species, the Department is inhibiting the survival of endangered species. This will occur if the Commission adds federally-listed threatened/endangered species to their list of Live Restricted Wildlife and amends the rule to also end breeding activity and require sterilization of animals.
  • The requirement to permanently mark or microchip wildlife is overreaching and unnecessary as breeders should be allowed to continue working with and breeding these animals. Not only are many species very small and this is simply impossible, but these procedures risk unwarranted health concerns from the added stress.
  • While the Department states that fees will be minimal per animal, many breeders have dozens of animals and the fees would prove detrimental to keeping this animals and they would need to be euthanized or surrendered.
  • The proposed rule deals with animals intended as captive pets, which are not allowed to be released into the wild (already addressed in an existing rules) and should have little impact on wild populations.
  • Requiring health certificates for all mammals, birds, and reptiles would lead to selective enforcement, rampant unenforceable violations, and a huge economical impact should the department try to enforce on the pet industry.

SAMPLE LETTER (composed by Arizona herpers)
Be sure to include your name and Arizona address

SUBJECT: Objection to proposed Article 4 Rule Changes

Arizona Game and Fish Department
5000 W. Carefree Hwy, DORR
Phoenix, AZ 85086
rulemaking@azgfd.gov

September 25, 2014

Reference: Proposed Rule Change Written Comments

Attention: Celeste Cook

Dear Arizona Game and Fish Department,

Following are my comments relating to the upcoming proposed rule change by the AZGFD. My comments come from the viewpoint of a private individual who will be affected by the proposed regulations. I am a responsible animal keeper and find the proposed rule changes to be over-reaching and unjustifiable based upon the best peer-reviewed scientific research available.

R12-4-404
Possession of Live Wildlife Taken Under an Arizona Hunting or Fishing License
Replace the term “personal use” with the term “noncommercial use” in reference to authorized activities as "personal use" is an ambiguous term.

I am opposed to the proposed rule for the following reasons:

1. The proposed rule is redundant. R12-4-404 already defines the commercial activities that are not allowed. R12-4-404-B states; "An individual shall not dispose of wildlife taken as prescribed by this Section or offspring of the wildlife by selling, bartering, trading, or exporting it for commercial purposes. Exported live wildlife and its offspring shall not be sold, bartered, purchased, rented, leased, offered for sale, or used for any commercial purpose."

2. The addition of the term "noncommercial use" would limit the already allowed actives defined in R12-4-404. R12-4-404-A states; "An individual may possess, transport, place on educational display, photograph, propagate, or kill." If there is a commercial purpose for any of these activities it would not be allowed. For example, photographs of any legally-held wildlife in which photographs are intended to be sold or to be used in a field guide would be in violation of the proposed rule.

3. Further, I would recommend that the existing term "for personal use" be removed from the rule as well as the same term not being replaced with "noncommercial use." Both terms are redundant, ambiguous, and confusing.

R12-4-405
Importing, Purchasing, and Transporting Live Wildlife Without an Arizona License or Permit
Require mammals, birds, or reptiles imported into this state to be accompanied by the health certificate required under 3 A.A.C. Ch 2, Articles 4 and 6, when applicable to minimize disease exposure to wildlife populations.

I am opposed to the proposed rule for the following reasons:

1. The referenced code 3 A.A.C. Ch 2, Articles 4 and 6, (also referred to as R3-2-601) which requires "animals" to be accompanied by a health certificate states; "The following terms apply to this Article: "Animal" means livestock, feral swine, ratite, bison, water buffalo, oxen, llama, and any exotic mammal not regulated as restricted live wildlife by the Arizona game and Fish Department." Most mammals, birds, or reptiles are not included in the definition of "Animal" and do not require a health certificate per the referenced code.

2. The proposed rule deals with animals intended as captive pets, which are not allowed to be released into the wild (already addressed in an existing rules) and should have little impact on wild populations.

3. Requiring health certificates for all mammals, birds, and reptiles would lead to selective enforcement, rampant unenforceable violations, and a huge economical impact on the pet industry. The proposed rule would require all mice, rates, hamsters, leopard geckos, rat snakes, king snakes, etc. be examined by an accredited veterinarian before they are shipped into the state. The industry would not be able to absorb the cost. The proposed rule would have the unintended result of damaging the industry to a point that it could end the legal trade in pet reptiles.

R12-4-406 Restricted Live Wildlife
Indicate that federally listed threatened/endangered species and all transgenic are restricted live wildlife.

I am opposed to the proposed rule for the following reasons:

1. It is redundant. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) already controls the activity relating to threatened and endangered species. The Lacey Act deals with the trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally-taken, possessed, transported or sold.

2. The proposed rule may also be in violation of ESA 6(f)(2).

3. 16 U.S.C. Chapter 35 section 1538 and the ESA Section 9(a)(1)(E)&(F) do not prohibit the activity the proposed rule would restrict.

4. There are already many federally-listed endangered or threatened species and their captive produced offspring in the state. If the proposed rule is implemented it will immediately result in legally-possessed animals and their owners to be in violation of the rule.

5. The rule does not address the disposition of the once legally-held animals. Are they to be destroyed, turned over to the state, or "grandfathered in?" What of their offspring? Will captive breeding be banned?

6. I understand the issue with transgenic animals graying the identification of protected species but what rule or directive places the moral or ethical decision of hybridization on the AZGFD?

R12-4-406 Restricted Live Wildlife
Includes all wildlife, as defined under 17-101, and listed under AIS Director's Order #1 as restricted live wildlife.

I am opposed to the proposed rule for the following reasons:

1. It is unclear as to how this rule is to be applied. ARS17-101-24 defines wildlife as: "Wildlife" means all wild mammals, wild birds and the nests or eggs thereof, reptiles, amphibians, mollusks, crustaceans and fish, including their eggs or spawn.

AIS (Aquatic invasive Species) Director's Order #1 deals with aquatic invasive species.

Will the rule include all wildlife as restrictive wildlife as well as all aquatic invasive species as restricted wildlife or are only AIS species listed as restricted wildlife. If the latter is the case why is the term "Wildlife" defined as part of the rule. The rule is unclear and redundant.