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ASPCA Supports U.S. Pet Trade Ban on Exotic Constrictor Snakes

House Judiciary Committee passes H.R. 511
February 28, 2012

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today applauds the members of the House Judiciary Committee for passing H.R. 511, which bans the importation of and interstate trade in nine nonnative species of large constrictor snakes. This important bipartisan legislation, introduced by Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., amends the list of injurious species under the Lacey Act, a federal act prohibiting trade in certain wildlife, fish, and plants, to include the Indian python, reticulated python, Northern African python, Southern African python, boa constrictor, green anaconda, yellow anaconda, DeSchauensee's anaconda, and Beni anaconda. The committee adopted an amendment introduced by Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., that unfortunately creates an overly broad exemption to the ban for USDA license holders. The ASPCA hopes to see this problem addressed when the legislation is taken up on the House floor for final passage in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"The pet trade in these exotic reptiles poses serious threats to public safety, animal welfare, and the environment," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. "Passing H.R. 511 would mark a significant achievement for the welfare of these snakes, for the protection of our native species, and for the safety of our communities. The ASPCA urges support for this important legislation on the House and Senate floors."

In 2009, the U.S. Geological Survey determined that these nine constrictor snake species pose a threat to the U.S. environment, warranting their inclusion as "injurious" species under the Lacey Act. The Obama Administration recently finalized a rule that adds four of the nine recommended species of dangerous constrictor snakes to the Lacey Act list. Although that was a positive step forward, listing the four species addresses only part of the problem as two of the remaining species recommended for listing-reticulated pythons and boa constrictors-account for two-thirds of all U.S. trade in large constrictor snakes. Further, removing four of the recommended species from the U.S. pet trade only shifts the problem, as the other five species will fill the void in the market.

The exotic pet trade is a multi-billion dollar industry that contributes to the suffering of millions of animals, often threatening public health and safety, disrupting ecosystems and driving species to endangerment and extinction. Each year across the nation, countless numbers of exotic animals are purchased as pets at retail stores and from private breeders and dealers at auctions or over the Internet. Since the vast majority of people who keep exotic animals cannot meet their needs, the animals often become the victims of abuse and neglect.

Perry added, "While the animals pay the ultimate price, local governments and taxpayers are left to bear the enormous fiscal burden when dangerous wild animals are set loose or escape, or when they are seized due to neglect."

For more information about the exotic pet trade and to join the ASPCA's Advocacy Brigade, please visit www.aspca.org.