ACTION ALERT: Illinois Animal Program Ban HB2554

UPDATE March 5: The bill sponsor tabled (pulled from consideration) HB2554 at today's hearing. This would not have happened without an outpouring of opposition!


Be sure to contact legislators listed below and also fill out this form. Be sure to choose "Opponent." LINK: www.my.ilga.gov/WitnessSlip/Create/118661?committeeHearingId=16603&LegislationId=118661&LegislationDocumentId=149787&GridCurrentCommittees-page=7&fbclid=IwAR10xoI3TM35w9ChdE1VSf1kqCrc78rh4MTSg9CNzzB-XS-zF53hbBSwhVs

Very basic summary:

  1. Ban on any animal species non-native to the U.S. being transported and then viewed by any audience;
  2. the only exemption applies to programs in which the animal is not transported at a "non-mobile, permanent institution, or other facility;"
  3. violation penalty is up to a year in jail and $2,500 fine (Class A misdemeanor);
  4. This bill amends the current law (720 ILCS 5/48-11) which only applies to elephants but would include ALL non-native species and those of a "foreign character" if it passes.

Illinois House Bill 2554 is a broad-sweeping ban on “traveling animal acts” which would include educational animal outreach and other programs which include any species not native to the United States. Animal rights and pseudo-animal welfare groups will again feed the legislators false propaganda and misinformation, so we must do our job to educate legislators properly.

Similar animal performance and traveling animal act bans are being proposed across the country at both the local and state levels. Full disclosure is never provided by proponents as to the consequences. Typically these are pitched to legislators as a way to end any animal abuse that may be occurring at small circuses and roadside animal shows. Animal welfare laws already exist to address any issues of cruelty or neglect, and these superfluous animal rights bills are pointless acts and schemes so that animal rights groups can continue to feed their industry, and incrementally remove animals from our lives. Current laws should be enforced without the continued unnecessary and repetitive legislation proposals which do nothing more than waste taxpayer money and allow legislators the veil to seem busy with "work" rather than addressing the hard issues.

This bill bans much more than lions jumping through rings of fire. It is a ban on taking a Greek tortoise into a classroom for an educational program about reptiles. It is a ban on taking a ball python, a red-eyed tree frog, a parakeet, and a hedgehog into a library for an educational show discussing the differences between reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. It is a ban on llamas and any other non-traditional livestock at the State Fair or county 4-H fairs. Basically, if an animal non-native to Illinois is placed into a vehicle and taken to any location where someone will see it, other than a veterinarian in a private room, then it would become an illegal activity, and you a criminal. You could receive a year in jail and a $2,500 fine for taking a leopard gecko into your child's classroom for a presentation.

While the examples we provide may not be the intent of the law, the law could certainly be interpreted to include them. Any enforcement officer could apply this law to your educational outreach programs. Performance is so broadly defined that it can include any type of program.

In this bill, an exotic animal is defined as any animal that is native to a foreign country or of a foreign origin or character, is not native to the United States, or was introduced from abroad.

It was introduced by Representative Camille Y. Lilly on Feb. 13 and has been assigned to the Judiciary - Criminal Committee. It has a hearing on March 5 at 4:00.

NOTE: There is a similar bill in the Senate (SB0154) that includes a species list. You can find the details on that bill at www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=0154&GAID=15&DocTypeID=SB&LegID=115836&SessionID=108&SpecSess=&Session=&GA=101.

The species list for SB0154 as introduced is below. Reminder: HB2554 includes ALL animals non-native to the U.S., not just the list below found in a separate bill.

  1. bear;
  2. cougar;
  3. elephant;
  4. giraffe;
  5. grey kangaroo;
  6. hippopotamus;
  7. jaguar;
  8. leopard, excluding a clouded leopard;
  9. lion;
  10. non-human primate;
  11. red kangaroo;
  12. rhinoceros;
  13. tapir;
  14. tiger; or
  15. zebra

LINK to committee members: HB2554 has been assigned to the House Rules Committee, which is where all House bills initially go to be sorted in Illinois. With enough opposition, it may just die there. You can find the members and their contact information at this link and we have listed their emails below: www.ilga.gov/house/committees/members.asp?committeeID=2312

Sample Messaging
(Three sample letters and also Talking Points)

Voice your opposition and educate legislators now!
TAKE ACTION by doing one or, preferably, all of the below.
Remember to be civil and professional at all times.

  1. Fax letters to Representatives’ offices;
  2. Mail letters to Representatives’ offices;
  3. Send emails to Representatives’ offices;
  4. Make phone calls to Representatives’ offices;
  5. Be sure to fill out the witness slip and choose "Opponent": www.my.ilga.gov/WitnessSlip/Create/118661?committeeHearingId=16603&LegislationId=118661&LegislationDocumentId=149787&GridCurrentCommittees-page=7&fbclid=IwAR10xoI3TM35w9ChdE1VSf1kqCrc78rh4MTSg9CNzzB-XS-zF53hbBSwhVs.

Judiciary - Criminal Committee: www.ilga.gov/house/committees/members.asp?committeeID=2362

Judiciary - Criminal Committee email list:

justin@repslaughter.com, repcassidy@gmail.com, staterepterribryant@gmail.com, Staterepbuckner@gmail.com,
Cabello@ilhousegop.org, repconnor@gmail.com, will@repguzzardi.com, RepHalpin@gmail.com,
repjayhoffman@gmail.com, McCombie@ilhousegop.org, info@repmikezalewski.org, info@repdeliaramirez.com,
office@repstavamurray.com, arthurt@ilga.gov, Assistance@StateRepWest.com, McDermed@ilhousegop.org

Sample Letter Headings or Email Subject Lines

  1. NO to HB2554
  2. STOP HB2554
  3. HB2554: Traveling Animal Act Ban is Unjust
  4. HB2554 Opposition
  5. STOP House Bill 2554

Sample Letters/Emails
Please edit and personalize the sample letters.

Sample Letter 1

Dear Illinois Representative,

I implore you to stop House Bill 2554. As a dedicated advocate for animal welfare, I ask you to realize that this bill is redundant, and a waste of Illinois taxpayers' money. Illinois already has extensive animal welfare and anti-cruelty laws.

This bill is far-reaching and rife with unintended consequences, including making criminals out of those dedicated individuals who responsibly conduct educational programs with animals. Proponents for this bill have a radical agenda and should not be confused with people who are legitimately concerned for animal welfare. Hopefully, you will do what is right for Illinois, the animals, and responsible animal educators by saying NO to HB2554! Have a good day.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME HERE]

Sample Letter 2

Dear Illinois Representative,

As a dedicated advocate for animal welfare, I implore you to stop House Bill 2554. Illinois already has extensive animal welfare and anti-cruelty laws. Enforce those current laws! Please realize that this bill is redundant, and a waste of Illinois taxpayers' money.

Among other overreaching measures, this bill bans many educational outreach programs before students and Scout troops. Those who would travel with their animals to teach school children about tortoises and exotic birds will be made into criminals!

The fact is that this legislation is unnecessary. HB2554 would be just another unnecessary law! Punish the "bad actors" and the criminals. No new law is needed to protect animals, nor does the current Traveling Animal Act need to be amended.

Thank you for your time and consideration on this matter. Hopefully, you will do what is right for Illinois, the animals, and responsible animal educators by stopping HB2554! Have a good day.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME HERE]

Sample Letter 3 (great to use when faxing or mailing)

Re: Opposition to House Bill 2554, unlawful use of an exotic animal in a traveling animal act

Dear Illinois Representative,

You must stop House Bill 2554, an act to ban all exotic animals in “traveling animal acts.” As an Illinois resident and dedicated advocate for animal welfare, I am informing you that this bill is bad government policy and it is bad for the people and animals in Illinois. While similar legislation is being introduced across the U.S., this bill is not the same. It goes far beyond others and demonizes legitimate animal educators whose programs could easily be seen as a “traveling animal act.”

I am a fierce advocate of responsible animal ownership. It is unreasonable to punish those engaging in conscientious animal husbandry and outreach with such a misguided attempt to crack down upon those who are negligent. This bill is redundant, and a waste of Illinois taxpayers' money.

Allow me to emphasize three of the major problems with HB2554:

  1. The overreach and unintended consequences are immense! The definition of “performance” would ban educational talks with a Greek tortoise at a school or library, for example.
  2. This would be just another unnecessary and superfluous law! Illinois already has animal welfare laws, including the expansive Humane Care for Animals Act (510 ILCS 70).
  3. Regarding reptiles and amphibians, the Illinois Herptiles-Herps Act (510 ILCS 68) specifically regulates the transportation and public display of herptiles (reptiles and amphibians).

Please take heed and be cognizant of the unintended consequences of this bill. HB2554 infringes on the rights and freedoms of responsible animal owners who provide education regarding their animals to thousands of Illinois residents annually. Now those citizens could face up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine for activities that educate and enhance their communities.

Such educational animal outreach events allow children to actually see animals in person. There are many ways to learn about animals, but seeing them in person leads to much greater appreciation, and fuels the desire to learn and to conserve animals and their habitats. This is an important benefit which is not cruel to the animals involved.

Do not lump the credible services provided by educators into the same category as acts of animal cruelty. The flagrance of this bill is staggering. Who would imagine that taking a tortoise, parrot, ferret, or any other non-native animal to a school for an educational seminar would be a crime? You will be making criminals out of people who just want to share their understanding of, and joy in their animals.

Please contact stakeholders and actual experts (not the phonies working for those who support this bill) for any factual information regarding reptiles and amphibians, as well as other exotic animals.

Thank you for your time and consideration on this matter. Hopefully, you will do what is right for Illinois, the animals, and responsible animal owners and educators by stopping HB2554 before it gets going. NO to HB2554! Have a good day.

Sincerely,

 

[YOUR NAME HERE]

 

Talking Points

  1. Illinois already has animal welfare laws, including the expansive Humane Care for Animals Act (510 ILCS 70). Enforce those laws!
  2. If someone is irresponsible with an animal in Illinois, he can be punished under existing laws.
  3. Regarding reptiles and amphibians, the Illinois Herptiles-Herps Act (510 ILCS 68) specifically regulates the transportation and public display of these animals.
  4. This bill would make illegal the hundreds of beneficial, educational outreach programs performed each year by responsible animal keepers.
  5. The definitions used in this bill turn upstanding citizens into criminals.
  6. The very programs that set forth the paths for tomorrow's conservationists, veterinarians, and biologists will be banned!
  7. It is unreasonable to punish those conducting responsible education programs as a misguided attempt to crack down upon those performing animal cruelty.
  8. Books and videos are great, but actually seeing animals leads to much greater appreciation and fuels the desire to learn, and to conserve animals and their habitats.
  9. Prohibitions such as this proposed ban demonstrate an irrational approach over common sense.
  10. Collective punishment (punishment of everyone due to the actions of one or a few) is never a good government practice.
  11. This bill is yet another solution in search of a problem.
  12. This will be nothing but another superfluous and selectively enforced law which will punish responsible citizens while criminals will go unpunished.
  13. The bill will yield scores of unintended consequences.
  14. Why would someone who educates a classroom about reptiles or brings a hedgehog to a Scout troop meeting be expected to know about this law? Even worse, such a person will be a criminal!

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House Bill 2554 Text

Bill text: www.ilga.gov/legislation/101/HB/PDF/10100HB2554lv.pdf

Or below (text in CAPS is new language amending the current law and text with strikethrough is current):

Section 5.  The Criminal Code of 2012 is amended by changing Section 48-11 as follows:

  • Sec. 48-11.  Unlawful use of an EXOTIC ANIMAL elephant in a traveling animal act.
    • (a)  Definitions. As used in this Section:"EXOTIC ANIMAL" MEANS ANY ANIMAL THAT IS NATIVE TO A FOREIGN COUNTRY OR OF FOREIGN ORIGIN OR CHARACTER, IS NOT NATIVE TO THE UNITED STATES, OR WAS INTRODUCED FROM ABROAD INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, LIONS, TIGERS, LEOPARDS, ELEPHANTS, CAMELS, ANTELOPE, ANTEATERS, KANGAROOS, AND WATER BUFFALO AND SPECIES OF FOREIGN DOMESTIC CATTLE, SUCH AS ANKOLE, GAYAL, AND YAK OR A WILD ANIMAL."Mobile or traveling animal housing facility" means a transporting vehicle such as a truck, trailer, or railway car used to transport or house animals while traveling to an exhibition or other performance."Performance" means an exhibition, public showing, presentation, display, exposition, fair, animal act, circus, ride, trade show, petting zoo, carnival, parade, race, or other similar undertaking in which animals are required to perform tricks, give rides, or participate as accompaniments for entertainment, amusement, or benefit of a live audience."Traveling animal act" means any performance of animals where animals are transported to, from, or between locations for the purpose of a performance in a mobile or traveling animal housing facility.
    • (b)  A person commits unlawful use of an EXOTIC ANIMAL elephant in a traveling animal act when he or she knowingly allows for the participation of an EXOTIC ANIMAL African elephant (Loxodonta africana) or Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) protected under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 in a traveling animal act.
    • (c)  This Section does not apply to an exhibition of EXOTIC ANIMALS elephants at a non-mobile, permanent institution, or other facility.
    • (d)  Sentence. Unlawful use of an EXOTIC ANIMAL elephant in a traveling animal act is a Class A misdemeanor.
  • (Source: P.A. 100-90, eff. 1-1-18.) Lilly

Article written by USARK