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Lacey Act Amendments Worry Exotic Pet Breeders

By Alejandro Ramirez

As the America COMPETES Act of 2022 passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 4, many small businesses that focus on breeding and selling exotic pets have begun to worry due to one particular amendment.

The Lacey Act Amendments of 2022 are amendments that will be added to the Lacey Act of 1900 and into the America COMPETES Act. This was an act that prohibited the trafficking of organisms that are illegally taken, possessed, transported or stolen. 

The new Lacey Act Amendments would go one step further. It prohibits shipments of wild animals across state lines within the continental United States, authorizes the Department of the Interior to prohibit the importation of any species that is deemed a threat to the interests of the United States, and it prohibits the importation of any nonnative species of animal. 

It also establishes that a ban of particular species may be overturned if the species does not pose a risk of becoming an invasive species in the United States.

This new law has worried the exotic pet industry and many have expressed their dislike for these new amendments. The United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) have been particularly vocal about their opinions.

“They’re now going to put every animal; fish, bird, small mammals, no matter what it is, it will be prohibited from going across state lines for any reason,” said Andrew Potts, owner of Herps Hobby Shop Reptile Breeding Center in Oldsmar, FL. and member of USARK.

Herps Hobby Shop Reptile Breeding Center was opened in 1991 by Potts and several other hobbyists who were breeding reptiles and selling reptiles in their house. 

Potts expressed concern over how it would affect the reptile industry but he ultimately expressed even more concern over how it would affect exotic pet owners.

“Non-traditional pet owners…. these people are completely unaware that this is happening,” said Potts. “So, they might, not knowing, buy something and then go across state lines and then they get a felony. That’s what people should be worried about. A law that can really affect them but they are completely unaware of it.”

According to Potts, however, the industry that will be heavily affected is the aquaculture/fish and coral industry.

Jack Donohoe recently started a small business in January 2022. He harvests, grows, and later sells corals for the aquarium hobby. 

“I definitely don’t support it, [the Lacey Act]” said Donohoe. “I have my collector license and I’m allowed to ship corals and fish across the country. This would really hurt my business.”

One other issue expressed by Potts and Donohoe about the new Lacey Act Amendments is the rumor of a possible “white list.” This would mean that only species that go through an administrative process and are found to not be at risk would be allowed to be imported within the United States.

“[I] would never support our white list,” said Potts. “That’s what got us into this position in the first place; agreeing with what animals were cool to keep and what animals were not.”

However, Donohoe believes that blacklists, the banning or restriction of certain individual species depending on how dangerous or invasive they are to a state, are the way to go if something like the Lacey Amendment pass.

Todd Campbell is an associate professor of biology at The University of Tampa and focuses on the prevention of new invasive species in Florida. According to Campbell, white lists are much more difficult to manage due to the sheer number of species that would be on this list.

“The blacklist is more manageable, and Florida, at least in terms of state-level restrictions on big reptiles, has always used the blacklist,” said Campbell.

New species, such as the green iguana, the green anaconda, and 14 other big reptile species have recently been added to Florida’s blacklist of animals in 2021 while several other species, such as the Nile monitor and the African rock python were added years before.

“These laws came too late,” said Campbell. “The key to avoid invasive species is prevention. But, some of the banned species aren’t established so bans and restrictions might prevent another species from getting out.”

Potts intends to oppose the Lacey Act Amendments until the end.

“The USARK and I will fight fire with fire to not let this amendment pass,” said Potts. 

Photo Courtesy of Public Domain Images

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