ACTION ALERT: Federal Animal Program Ban

The “Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act” (or TEAPSPA) has now been introduced in the Senate (S. 2121) as well as the House of Representatives (H.R. 2683). These companion bills are broad-sweeping bans on “traveling animal acts” authored by radical animal rights groups. These animal rights extremists have again fed legislators their misinformation and false propaganda, so we must do our job to educate legislators properly. These bills have been introduced previously (more than once) and have not passed.

Very basic summary:

  1. Ban on all "exotic or wild animals" being transported and then viewed by any audience;
  2. “Exotic or wild animals” means any animal not widely accepted as a domesticated pet (i.e. domesticated dogs and cats, ferrets, gerbils, mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, or hamsters) or domesticated farm animal (i.e. horses, donkeys, mules, alpacas, bison, cattle, deer, elk, goats, llamas, reindeer, poultry, swine, and sheep);
  3. Affected species are identified through the broad and vague definition of "exotic or wild" which, as defined in this bill, is any species not widely recognized as domesticated;
  4. The bills do have species lists, which use the words “including but not limited to” (H.R.2863), and “includes” (S.2121). That means the law would be all-encompassing and not limited to the species directly listed in the bills;
  5. The definition of “performance” is overly broad and includes “any animal act, […] display, exhibition, fair, parade, petting zoo, […], or similar undertaking in which an animal is required to perform tricks, give rides, or participate as an accompaniment for the entertainment, amusement, or benefit of an audience.” Education can certainly be interpreted to benefit an audience;
  6. The only exemptions apply to programs in which the animal is not transported at a "non-mobile, permanent institution, zoo, or aquarium" which is accredited by one of three entities (AZA, WAZA, or GFAS) or one of few other specific exceptions;
  7. Any person in violation will face penalties provided in the Animal Welfare Act;
  8. This bill is not about elephant abuse or tigers jumping through fiery hoops. This bill bans school talks about tortoises and presentations at Scout meetings about snakes.

Please know that this bill and its introduction were written by a radical animal rights group and not by a member of Congress. The bill introduction text is littered with misinformation and falsehoods. It was clearly written to mislead the reader about exactly who this bill will impact.

The introductory "Findings" section of this bill utters absurd lies about the animal educators who will be affected. It claims that conditions of abuse are inherent to traveling performances of all kinds and that there are no responsible animal educators. The bill instead implies that every person who gives traveling presentations with animals is an animal abuser.

Below are just three examples of the falsehoods presented in TEAPSPA:

Lie: "exotic and wild animals are forced to perform unnatural tricks requiring extreme physical coercion, including, but not limited to the use of food and water restrictions, electric shock devices, bull-hooks, metal bars, whips, shovels, and pitchforks,  among other abuses." at Section 2. Findings (8)

Correction: That is complete and utter absurdity! Animal educators are not torturing their animals as stated in this bill. The types of animal abuse described are already punishable by current law (by multiple levels of government).

A tortoise walking across a room, or a gecko sitting in a presenter's hand should not be considered "unnatural tricks requiring extreme physical coercion."

Lie: “conditions inherent to traveling performances, including constant travel, temporary and collapsible facilities, and the prolonged confinement and physical coercion of animals, subject exotic and wild animals to compromised welfare and chronic stress, and present public and worker health and safety risks not adequately addressed by current regulation” at Section 2. Findings (1)

Correction: Animals used in animal outreach programs and other presentations are not subjected to "constant travel." Other claims made here label every animal educator as an animal abuser yet again. Current animal welfare regulations do address these concerns.

Lie: Displaying animals in educational outreach programs "...undermines conservation efforts necessary to protect threatened and endangered species." at Section 2. Findings (10)

Correction: The lies in this bill are extensive, and sadly that is only directly apparent to people who work with exotic animals. Can sparking interests in endangered species by providing in-person education about habitat loss and consumption as traditional foods and medicines undermine conservation efforts? Quite to the contrary, these programs encourage conservation in many ways.

There are plenty more such flagrant lies littered throughout this animal rights propaganda hit piece.

Similar animal performance and traveling animal act bans have been and are still being proposed across the country at local and state levels. Full disclosure is never provided by proponents as to the extent of the impact and consequences of the bill. Typically these bills are pitched to legislators as a way to end any animal abuse that may be occurring at small circuses and roadside animal shows.

Legitimate animal welfare laws already exist to address any issues of cruelty or neglect. These animal rights bills are superfluous schemes that primarily serve to further the reach of the radical animal rights groups promoting them, feeding their industry on legislative clout, and incrementally removing animals from our lives. Existing laws should be enforced; repetitive overlapping legislation proposals do nothing to aid enforcement, and merely waste taxpayer money, by allowing 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 many non-traditional livestock species at the State Fair or county 4-H fairs.

Basically, if an animal that is not widely considered domesticated is placed into a vehicle and taken to any location where it will be shown to someone other than a veterinarian in a private room, then it would become an illegal activity, and you a criminal. You could be a federal criminal for taking a leopard gecko into a school classroom for a presentation.

While the examples we provide may not be seen in the direct language of the law, the law could certainly be interpreted to include them. Any enforcement officer could apply this law to commonplace educational outreach programs that include exotic animals. "Performance" and "wild and exotic animal" are so broadly defined that the law can include any type of program and most animal species.

In addition to the overt fabrications in the introductory “Findings” section, this bill lacks basic legislative research. For instance, the bill states:

This Act shall not be interpreted to- authorize the interstate transport of a threatened or endangered species, which is prohibited under the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 5 1538)

Contrary to this statement, the interstate transport of species listed under the Endangered Species Act is not prohibited. It is only interstate sales which are prohibited without a permit. The bill authors are not concerned about such details; this bill is written to further extreme animal rights ideals and to limit opportunities for human-animal interactions in the name of ending animal abuse. This bill is not about animal welfare.

 

The House bill sponsor is democrat and co-sponsors include 22 democrats and 1 republican. H.R.2863 has been referred to the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture.

You can read the bill text for H.R.2863 at www.usark.org/2019-teapspa-hr2863.

 

The Senate bill sponsor is democrat and co-sponsors include 3 democrats. S.2121 has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

You can read the bill text for S.2121 at www.usark.org/2019-teapspa-s2121.

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.

How to contact your federal Representatives: www.house.gov/representatives/find

Look up your federal Senators: www.senate.gov/senators/index.htm

Sample Letter Headings or Email Subject Lines

  1. NO to HR2863
  2. STOP HR2863
  3. HR2863: TEAPSPA is Unjust
  4. HR2863 Opposition
  5. STOP TEAPSPA

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

Sample Letter 1

Dear U.S. Representative,

I implore you to stop HR2863 titled the "‘Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act," or TEAPSPA. As a dedicated advocate for animal welfare, I ask you to realize that this bill is redundant, misleading, and a complete waste of taxpayers' money and government resources.

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 America, the animals, and responsible animal educators by saying NO to HR2863! Have a good day.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME HERE]

Sample Letter 2

Dear U.S. Representative,

As a dedicated advocate for animal welfare, I implore you to stop HR2863 titled the "‘Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act," or TEAPSPA. The United States already has extensive animal welfare and anti-cruelty laws. Enforce those current laws! Please realize that this bill is redundant, and a waste of taxpayers' money and your time as a member of Congress.

Among other overreaching measures, this bill bans many educational outreach programs before students and Scout troops, classifying such beneficial programs as inherently cruel 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. HR2863 would be just another unnecessary law! Punish the "bad actors" and the criminals. No new law is needed to protect animals.

Thank you for your time and consideration on this matter. Hopefully, you will do what is right for America, the animals, and responsible animal educators by stopping HR2863! Have a good day.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME HERE]

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

Re: Opposition to HR2863, the "‘Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act" (TEAPSPA)

Dear U.S. Representative,

You must stop HR2863 titled the "‘Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act," or TEAPSPA. As an American citizen 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 U.S. Similar legislation is being introduced at various levels across the U.S. However, this bill goes far beyond others, declaring that traveling with animals is inherently cruel, and demonizing legitimate animal educators whose programs will qualify as “traveling animal acts.”

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 U.S. taxpayers' money and Congressional resources.

Allow me to emphasize two of the major problems with HR2863:

  1. The overreach and unintended consequences are immense! The overly broad definition of “performance” would ban educational talks with a Greek tortoise at a school or library, for example.
  2. This bill would become just another unnecessary and superfluous law! Animal welfare and anti-cruelty laws already exist.

Please take heed and be cognizant of the unintended consequences of this bill. HR2863 infringes on the rights and freedoms of responsible animal owners who provide education regarding their animals to tens of thousands of U.S. residents annually. Now those citizens will be considered federal criminals 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 obscenity of this bill is staggering. Who would imagine that taking a tortoise, parrot, ferret, sugar glider, or any commonly kept pet animal – that may not be widely considered a “domestic 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.

Thank you for your time and consideration on this matter. Hopefully, you will do what is right for America, the animals, and responsible animal owners and educators by stopping HR2863 before it gets going. NO to TEAPSPA! Have a good day.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME HERE]

 

Talking Points

  1. The United States already has animal welfare laws, including the Animal Welfare Act. Enforce those laws!
  2. If someone is irresponsible with an animal in America, they can be punished under existing laws at multiple levels of government.
  3. This bill would make illegal the thousands of beneficial, educational outreach programs performed each year by responsible animal keepers.
  4. The definitions used in this bill turn upstanding citizens into criminals.
  5. The very programs that inspire and set forth the paths for tomorrow's conservationists, veterinarians, and biologists will be banned!
  6. It is unreasonable to punish those conducting responsible education programs with such a misguided attempt to crack down upon actual animal cruelty.
  7. 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.
  8. Prohibitions such as this proposed ban demonstrate an irrational approach over common sense.
  9. Collective punishment (punishment of everyone due to the actions of one or a few) is never a good government practice.
  10. This bill is yet another solution in search of a problem.
  11. This will be nothing but another superfluous and selectively enforced law which will punish responsible citizens while criminals will go unpunished.
  12. The bill will yield scores of unintended consequences.
  13. 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 unwittingly become a criminal merely for educating others about animals!

Finally and frankly, the bill sponsors should be ashamed (and penalized) for allowing their names to be attached to such complete falsehoods. These are members of Congress spreading falsities and deceiving American citizens. Deceitful animal rights bills such as this make a mockery of our government. Legislators who fall for this disinformation without verifying the statements made should be removed from office immediately.

The facade created by the animal rights movement continues to tug at heartstrings through misleading propaganda. Creating an image misunderstood by the general public allows them to make hundreds of millions of dollars annually by profiting from these animals. Profits do not go to the animals but they do go to overpaid executives, offshore bank accounts, lobbying efforts, and self-promotion.

Article written by USARK