U.S. Court of Appeals says “We agree with ARK.”

What an amazing accomplishment for the Reptile Nation!

Briefly, the U.S. Court of Appeals determined that, as a matter of law, USARK got it right – the Lacey Act does not prohibit transportation and commerce of species listed as injurious between the continental states. This means the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) can’t restrict the commerce and transportation of species listed as injurious within the 49 continental states (excluding the District of Columbia). In other words, shipments from Indiana to Texas, for example, will not be restricted at the federal level. The issue is now settled in the eyes of the Court.

Before going further, we must proclaim huge thanks to Shaun Gehan, Joan Galvin, Richard Stanley, members of our legal team at Kelley Drye in Washington, D.C. including David Frulla, our members, the USARK Board of Directors, fundraising coordinators (especially RAACA and NARBC), supporters, donors and everyone else who made this possible. This is indeed just a short list and is not all-inclusive. Please know that USARK is very aware of those who actually contributed to the battle. You are all greatly appreciated!

Yet another tremendous milestone in USARK’s history!

Shaun Gehan, the lead attorney and chief architect behind the lawsuit, stated: “When Phil Goss and his able USARK legal aids first met with us to discuss going forward with the challenge to the Lacey listings, we felt we had a very special opportunity to make legal history. We knew our case was compelling and the research bore out our hunch that USFWS had misapplied Lacey. The fact that the Judge was so clear in his ruling only reinforces what we knew to be true.”

USARK’s federal legal and legislative consultant, Joan Galvin, had this to declare: “Congratulations to USARK and Phil Goss for their leadership and faith in our legal team to invest in and make possible this landmark legal victory for USARK's members. Shaun Gehan's theory of the case proved to be incredibly compelling to the court and we have him, along with the Kelley Drye legal team, to thank for reversing the government's misapplication of the Lacey Act.”

USFWS only started expanding its reading of the law in the 1980s, decades after Congress added the language at issue in USARK’s case. Just as in the two constricting snake listings USARK challenged, USFWS then started dropping the phrase “continental United States” from the introductory portions of its listing decisions. In its place, the agency simply applied the transportation and commerce restriction between all states. On April 7, 2017, the Court put an end to that, noting that Congress spoke clearly as to the limitations that attach when a species is determined to be injurious.

Read the court document at www.usark.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/USARK-Lawsuit-Appeals-Mem-Op.pdf.

What now?

First, we do ask that you rely upon information and updates provided by USARK, as unfortunately there is misinformation being posted by people and groups not directly affiliated with USARK in attempts at self-promotion.

One point is very clear! The Court has made its decision and it agreed with USARK! There are still some loose ends to tie up with the preliminary injunction. As you will recall, the lower court’s order applied only to reticulated pythons and green anacondas, and forbade shipments into Florida and Texas. USARK’s attorneys will ask the Court to lift that order, and make the more recent order immediately effective.

In addition, and as a general matter, a court will stay its order until the time has lapsed for the government to file an appeal or seek reconsideration of a decision. In the interim, our legal team advises that USARK members postpone any shipments or other related business decisions until the lower court’s order is lifted and the ruling is broadly applied. USARK will provide updates on these concerns.

We should mention, however, that requests for a rehearing and petitions for appeal to the Supreme Court are rarely granted. Further, this was a unanimous decision by a three-judge panel that affirmed the decision of the trial court judge. Chances of a successful appeal, or the government appealing at all, appear very remote.

While the Court has stated their ruling quite bluntly, we do ask that the Reptile Nation await the final go-ahead from USARK before shipping species listed as injurious. USARK members who have been shipping reticulated pythons and green anacondas for the last two years following our awarded injunctive relief may certainly continue to do so.

Note that this ruling will not nullify any local or state laws regarding these species. Also, importation into the U.S. of species listed as injurious is still prohibited under the Lacey Act.

Thank you again to all those who made this possible. USARK has had many victories outside of this federal battle and has completed a great amount of work on other issues. None of our incredible accomplishments over the last few years would have been possible without your support.

Donate to the Reptile Defense Fund

Information for making donations online and via check/money order can be found at www.usark.org/reptile-defense-fund-2/. You can make one-time, weekly, monthly or annual donations. You can also include a message that will be posted on the Legal Defense Fund Donor Wall at www.usark.org/usark-announcement/reptile-defense-donor-wall/ for all to see, or you can even choose to make your donation or donation amount anonymous. Thanks for your support as we protect the freedoms of the Reptile Nation against overreaching anti-herp legislation and battle the animal rights groups working to remove all animals from our lives.

Article written by USARK