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Non-Native Species Bill Needs Changes, Sponsor Says

Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2009, 7:18 p.m., EDT 

Koi is one species that could be barred from trade under the original proposed legislation.
Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, sponsor of HR 669, the Nonnative Wildlife Prevention Act, and chairman of the Congressional subcommittee that heard the legislation in April, acknowledged the legislation needed to be changed before it progressed further.

“We recognize the bill is by no means perfect and that changes will be needed to address various concerns before any legislation moves forward,” said Rep. Bordallo. 

Her acknowledgment came toward the end of the April 23 hearing and reflected the results of a grass-roots protest against the legislation from the pet industry and pet owners.

Subcommittee members said they received thousands of calls, emails and letters from pet owners and others urging defeat of the legislation, which could mandate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to approve or disapprove most non-native animal species, including birds, fish, reptiles and small mammals, for importation and trade within the United States.  

“It is clear that committee members from both sides of the aisle heard from the pet-owning public about their concerns with this bill,” said Marshall Meyers, CEO and general counsel of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, who testified at the hearing. “We’re extremely grateful to the thousands of groups who galvanized their members…PIJAC will continue working with members of the subcommittee, the Executive Branch, and other stakeholders to ensure the process proceeds in a transparent, inclusive and strategic manner.”

During his testimony, Meyers said the pet industry was interested in addressing invasive species but that the proposed legislation was problematic.

“We support the development of a strategic, risk-based process to prevent the introduction of invasive species into the United States,” Meyers said in his testimony.

However, he continued, the current draft of the bill “does not adequately take socio-economic issues and risk management options into account” and would “require funds and staffing not currently available, nor likely to be available, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Meyers said PIJAC is willing to work with the subcommittee to craft more realistic legislation that serves the public and affected industries alike.

“As it stands, PIJAC still has issues with points of this bill’s impracticality or lack of clarity,” Meyers said.

 Some opponents proclaimed the bill “effectively dead” after a Congressional subcommittee hearing April 23 in Washington, D.C.

The legislation could have halted trade in thousands of nonnative animal species in the U.S., including most birds, reptiles, fish and several mammals—hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs and ferrets—commonly kept as pets.

Andrew Wyatt, president of the United States Association of Reptile Keepers, called the hearing a “smashing success.”

“H.R. 669 is effectively dead,” Wyatt said.

“Two weeks leading up to the hearing, USARK mounted a grass-roots campaign of letter writing and phone calls,” he said. “We swamped Capitol Hill with almost 50,000 letters that were delivered to subcommittee members.”

Wyatt added that on top of that, thousands of phone calls were made and e-mails and letters sent to subcommittee members.

“During the past few weeks I have received thousands of calls, e-mails and letters written by constituents in strong opposition to this bill,” subcommittee member Rep. Henry E. Brown, R-S.C., said during the hearing.

Later, Wyatt quoted Harry Burroughs of the subcommittee staff as telling him, "I haven't seen a letter writing campaign like this in 30 years! You should be proud of yourselves."

Rep. Eni F.H. Faleomavaega of American Samoa, a bill co-sponsor, congratulated Meyers, PIJAC and the pet industry for the tremendous grassroots response that has been generated, noting that it is important to have input from constituents.

Wyatt added that Faleomavaega said that the letters and phone calls hit them like a “buzz saw.”

“We’re so proud of all the people out there who sent letters and e-mails and made phone calls,” he said.

PIJAC and USARK will continue to monitor the bill and plan to alert the industry and pet owners of future developments. <HOME>

Editor's Note: This item updates "Effort to Ban Exotic Pets 'Effectively Dead'" which was posted April 24.

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Non-Native Species Bill Needs Changes, Sponsor Says

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Reader Comments
There are obviously no Democrocy or freedoms any more! They seem to keep making the decisions for us!!! This is not fair in any way you want to view it! They want to take my fish ... well they are going to have to kill me first! Hopefully they are going to do it humanly ... like they say they will to the animals/pets they seize! This is totally ridiculous!!!
Where I live, no species of exotic would survive our winters, I am in Illinois. The only tank buddy compatable to this climate is the pond snail & horwort!!! Guess what, I aint gettin' rid of any of it!!!I have several different Species of P{Plant, Snail. Fish & Algae growing) & they will not take any of it from me!!! Not to mention the Snakes we all have & the rodents that we breed for feeding. Someone is ABSOLUTELY CRAZY HORSED if they think this Bill/Act will pass ... I hope!!! My friend that owns a Full Fledged Pet Shop has an appointment with Gary Dahl ... state lefislatir/iLLINOIS tommorow & happens that MR. Fshl has a big ass tank full of NON-Native Fish sPECIES in his Office! Personally I don't think Illinois has a worry about this Bill/Act but do the other US Cont> States ... ??? Anyones guess now!!!
Kim, Bureau, IL
Posted: 5/19/2009 5:33:56 PM
I thought we were a democracy and had freedom. Those freedoms are slowly being taken away from us and this is a good example. Why don't legislators focus on something worthwhile, perhaps, focusing on animal cruelty and making punishment far harsher than it already is??? Or, perhaps allocating more funds into animal investigators so that there are adequate people to actually do this???

My suspicion is that someone slipped a so-called "legislator" some money to start something like this. Money talks, unfortunately, and there are some slimey people out there who think their money can get them anything they want. Unfortunately, in our greedy society, this tends to be true.
Cathy, Rochester, NY
Posted: 5/16/2009 5:13:08 AM
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