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The HSUS Calls for Comprehensive State and Federal Action on Large Constrictor Snakes

The Humane Society of the United States

Today, The Humane Society of the United States, the nation's largest animal protection organization, applauded the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for considering a prohibition on possession and sales of all reptiles of concern as pets. This regulatory action would complement pending federal legislation, also supported by The HSUS, to prohibit importation and interstate trade in certain constrictor snakes for the pet trade.

In a letter to the FWC, The HSUS highlighted the recent tragic death of a Florida toddler and proliferation of Burmese pythons in the Everglades as reasons to take swift action to stop the influx of large constrictor snakes, prevent the spread of Burmese pythons and prevent the introduction of other species. The HSUS also urged the FWC to take a proactive and comprehensive approach and not just focus on a limited number of species, so that the problem is not simply shifted to other dangerous reptiles, such as anacondas. Once they become established, removing invasive species is expensive and sometimes impossible.

"We urge the FWC to look to take broader, proactive measures this year to stop the importation into the state, breeding, sale and acquisition of all reptiles of concern, including all anacondas, before another child is injured or killed, and another invasive species becomes established in the wild," wrote Jennifer Hobgood, Florida state director for The HSUS. "If we do not address these problems now, we will have failed just as policy makers failed in not banning the trade in Burmese pythons a decade or two decades ago."

States generally regulate which animals can be possessed and sold within their borders, while the federal government oversees international and interstate trade, making both state and federal action necessary. The HSUS supports legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate (S. 373) by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 2811) by Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., to prohibit importation and interstate commerce in certain constrictor snakes. In addition, The HSUS supports legislation expected to be introduced in the Florida legislature to ban the import, sales and acquisitions of all reptiles of concern.

The HSUS emphasizes that these measures must address all large constrictor snakes. If restrictions are placed only on a few species, the trade will shift to other species. This trend is already evident. The number of Burmese pythons imported into the United States dropped from about 14,000 in 2002 to 1,500 in 2006. The trade moved to captive bred animals and imports of other species. Imports of reticulated pythons increased from about 5,000 to 13,000 and anacondas increased from about 1,200 to 11,000 over this period.

Facts

  • Florida lists Burmese/Indian pythons, African rock pythons, amethystine pythons, reticulated pythons, green anacondas and Nile monitor lizards as "reptiles of concern," which currently require a permit and microchip to keep as pets.
  • Including all reptiles of concern is essential, and any action should include all anacondas, not just green anacondas, which are currently the only anaconda species listed as a reptile of concern. Yellow anacondas can also grow beyond 10 feet long and threaten people and wildlife.
  • The U.S. House Judiciary Committee amended and approved H.R. 2811 on July 29. As introduced, the bill would have covered a range of python species. The committee amended the bill to cover only the subspecies Burmese pythons and species African rock pythons. The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.
  • A hunt for Burmese pythons in Florida is unlikely to make a dent in the problem because of the snakes' remarkable reproductive capacity and ability to blend into the environment.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.