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March 2, 2010

The HSUS Commends Florida House Action on Reptiles

Bill would restrict trade in giant constrictor snakes as pets

The Humane Society of the United States applauds the Florida House of Representatives Policy Council for approving a bill to address the trade in dangerous wild animals as pets. H.B. 709, sponsored by Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Ft. Myers, would prohibit the import into the state, breeding, sale and possession as pets of the large constrictor snakes and Nile monitor lizards considered "reptiles of concern" in Florida.

"The Humane Society of the United States thanks the Council for acting to protect our environment, public safety and animal welfare," said Jennifer Hobgood, Florida state director for The HSUS, who testified in support of the bill on Tuesday. "We commend this bipartisan action and urge the Florida legislature to swiftly prohibit large constrictor snakes as pets in the state."

In addition to the state legislation, the U.S. Department of the Interior recently announced it would initiate regulatory action to list nine species of large constrictor snakes as injurious, which will prohibit the importation into the United States and interstate commerce of the animals for the exotic pet trade. Legislation is also advancing in the U.S. Congress to list the nine species as injurious.

Last July, a Florida toddler was tragically killed by a Burmese python kept in the home. If large constrictor snakes escape or are released into the environment, they can multiply rapidly and prey on native wildlife, depleting vulnerable species. Burmese pythons are widely established in the Everglades, and African rock pythons are also thought to be reproducing in Florida. A comprehensive 2009 report by the U.S. Geological Survey studied nine species of large constrictor snakes and found all nine pose high or medium risk to the environment. None are low risk. 

Facts

  • A companion bill to H.B. 709, S.B. 318, sponsored by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, unanimously passed the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee on Feb. 16.
  • A 2-year-old Florida girl killed by a Burmese python in 2009 was the fourth person killed by a pet python in the United States since 2006. The others were adults with experience handling reptiles.
  • S.B. 318/H.B. 709 covers the currently listed reptiles of concern: Burmese or Indian python, reticulated python, African rock python, amethystine or scrub python, anaconda, and Nile monitor.
  • Yellow anacondas can currently be kept as pets in Florida without a permit. S.B. 318/H.B. 709 would close this legal loophole by prohibiting all anacondas as pets.
  • S.B. 318/H.B. 709 grandfathers currently permitted reptiles for the remainder of the animal's life.

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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.

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