ALERT: Florida New “Reptiles of Concern”

UPDATE 5/4/19: These bills failed to pass committee and are now dead for this session.

UPDATE 3/5/19: HB1105 has been referred to the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee. Contact details for all Representatives can be found at www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Committees/committeesdetail.aspx?SessionId=87&CommitteeId=3024.

UPDATE 2/27/19: A companion bill has been introduced in the House as House Bill 1105. This means there are two bills of very similar language (jn this case, the exact same) in both the House and the Senate. HB1105 was introduced by Representative Michael Gottlieb and has not been assigned to a committee. All information below applies to both bills.

HB1105 text: www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?FileName=_h1105__.docx&DocumentType=Bill&BillNumber=1105&Session=2019

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Florida Senate bill 1236 (SB1236) and House Bill 1105 (HB1105) seek to add the Argentine black and white tegu (Salvator merianae) and green iguana (Iguana iguana) as "reptiles of concern." This term is dated and no longer used by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Two categories, conditional and prohibited, are now used. While worded differently, this bill would have Argentine black and white tegus and green iguanas listed as either conditional or prohibited. There are some problems here.

Section 9, Article IV of the Constitution of the State of Florida prevents the state legislature, counties or municipalities from promulgating statutes or local ordinances that regulate or prohibit the possession of wild animals (this includes native and non-native wildlife and most non-domesticated animals kept under human care). In the Florida Supreme Court, it has been upheld that a municipality may not enforce ordinances relating to the preservation or control of wildlife within its corporate limits. Other cases have even shown that FWC has, within its exclusive control, authority over the state legislature in regards to wildlife. For reference, Section 9, Article IV of the Florida Constitution can be found at the bottom of this page. While the legislature may enact laws to aid FWC, that is not the case here.

It is likely that either Senator Farmer is not aware of FWC's supreme authority regarding these animals or he has introduced this bill in order to move the regulation of tegus up FWC's to-do list. Either way, the regulation of tegus and green iguanas remains solely in the hands of FWC and we have been anticipating action on these species for several years.

Oddly, SB1236 and HB1105 also include a ban on pet leasing. Three other Florida bills also address this issue (H379, S316, and S774). It is possible that the reptile species listings language could be removed from the bill. The pet leasing ban may be the ultimate plan for this bill.

Florida stakeholders should contact Senator Gary Farmer and Representative Michael Gottlieb, as well as their own senators and representatives, and make them aware of FWC's authority regarding reptiles. SB1236 and HB1105 have not been assigned to committees nor scheduled for hearings.

Please note: If one these bills passes, Florida Statute § 379.372 would be amended to allow current owners of black and white tegus and green iguanas to keep their animals (grandfather clause). While the bill states a date of 2010, that would be updated and replaced with a new effective date.

Sample Messaging for Senate Bill
Please edit and personalize. Remember to be civil and professional at all times.

You can find all of Senator Farmer's contact information at www.flsenate.gov/Senators/s34. Just click "Email this Senator" to send him a message. Phone calls, faxes, and mailed letters should also be used and are more effective than emails.

You can find your Florida State Senator by simply typing your address at www.flsenate.gov/senators/find.

Bill text: www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/1236/BillText/Filed/PDF

Dear Senator,

I send this letter as a Florida resident concerned with the filing of Senate Bill 1236. If you are not aware, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC, holds supreme authority over what the State defines as wild animal life. This includes the two reptile species listed in SB1236: Argentine black and white tegu (Salvator merianae) and green iguana (Iguana iguana). My statement can be verified by reviewing Section 9, Article IV of the Constitution of the State of Florida.

Since FWC and not the State legislature hold authority over wildlife regulation, the language pertaining to these two reptile species should be removed from SB1236. For many reasons, a common sense approach should be taken regarding these species and certainly not the listing of them as prohibited. Allow FWC to address this issue. Thank you for your time and have a good day.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]

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Sample Messaging for House Bill
Please edit and personalize. Remember to be civil and professional at all times.

You can find all of Senator Farmer's contact information at www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/details.aspx?MemberId=4724&LegislativeTermId=88. Just click "Contact Member" to send him a message. Phone calls, faxes, and mailed letters should also be used and are more effective than emails.

You can find your Florida State Senator by simply typing your address at www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/myrepresentative.aspx.

Dear Representative,

I send this letter as a Florida resident concerned with the filing of House Bill 1105. If you are not aware, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC, holds supreme authority over what the State defines as wild animal life. This includes the two reptile species listed in HB1105: Argentine black and white tegu (Salvator merianae) and green iguana (Iguana iguana). My statement can be verified by reviewing Section 9, Article IV of the Constitution of the State of Florida.

Since FWC and not the State legislature hold authority over wildlife regulation, the language pertaining to these two reptile species should be removed from HB1105. For many reasons, a common sense approach should be taken regarding these species and certainly not the listing of them as prohibited. Allow FWC to address this issue. Thank you for your time and have a good day.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Section 9, Article IV of the Florida Constitution

Fish and wildlife conservation commission.—There shall be a fish and wildlife conservation commission, composed of seven members appointed by the governor, subject to confirmation by the senate for staggered terms of five years. The commission shall exercise the regulatory and executive powers of the state with respect to wild animal life and fresh water aquatic life, and shall also exercise regulatory and executive powers of the state with respect to marine life, except that all license fees for taking wild animal life, fresh water aquatic life, and marine life and penalties for violating regulations of the commission shall be prescribed by general law. The commission shall establish procedures to ensure adequate due process in the exercise of its regulatory and executive functions. The legislature may enact laws in aid of the commission, not inconsistent with this section, except that there shall be no special law or general law of local application pertaining to hunting or fishing. The commission’s exercise of executive powers in the area of planning, budgeting, personnel management, and purchasing shall be as provided by law. Revenue derived from license fees for the taking of wild animal life and fresh water aquatic life shall be appropriated to the commission by the legislature for the purposes of management, protection, and conservation of wild animal life and fresh water aquatic life. Revenue derived from license fees relating to marine life shall be appropriated by the legislature for the purposes of management, protection, and conservation of marine life as provided by law. The commission shall not be a unit of any other state agency and shall have its own staff, which includes management, research, and enforcement. Unless provided by general law, the commission shall have no authority to regulate matters relating to air and water pollution.

Article written by USARK