By Erika N. Chen-Walsh
Pennsylvania residents, beware. A sleeper bill has been moving through the legislature that is going to outlaw nearly all reptiles.
On April 27, 2011, Representatives Edward G. Staback (D), Thomas R. Caltagirone (R), Mark B. Cohen (D), John R. Evans (R), Patrick J. Harkins (D), John D. Hornaman (D), Babette Josephs (D), Sid Michaels Kavulich (D), William F. Keller (D), Thaddeus Kirkland (D), Thomas P. Murt (R), Bernie O’Neill (R), Ken Smith (D), John Taylor (R), Mike Carroll (D) and Jennifer L. Mann (D) introduced Pennsylvania House Bill 1398.
HB 1398 will operate as a ban on all species of reptiles as well as many other species of animals. It is strongly supported by the Humane Society of the United States.
HB 1398 defines as “Exotic Wildlife” (but is not limited to) all of the following: all bears, coyotes, lions, tigers, leopards (including snow leopards and clouded leopards), jaguars, cheetahs, cougars, wolves, nonhuman primates and any crossbreed of the afore mentioned which have “similar characteristics in appearance or features.”
The definition also includes “all nonindigenous animals.”
Birds, horses, zebras, donkeys, camels, alpacas, llamas, deer, moose, elk, wild cattle, spiral horned antelope, rats, mice, chinchillas, viscachas rabbits, hares, hedgehogs, moonrats, gliders, striped possums, guinea pigs, and domestic animals as defined in the Pennsylvania animal cruelty statute are exempted from the definition.
Any person in possession of “Exotic Wildlife” will be required to have a permit. Any person that imports, possesses, buys, sells, locates or finds for a fee, barters, donates, gives away at least five “Exotic Wildlife” animals shall be considered an “Exotic Wildlife Dealer.”
No new possession permits will be issued after January 1, 2013. Only renewals of possession permits issued before December 31, 2012 will be issued after that date. Propagation permits shall be permissible under the existing Code, 34 Pa.C.S. § 2930. However, since no one in the state will be able to obtain a possession permit after January 1, 2013, having a propagation permit seems rather pointless.
The United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) took early and swift action against HB 1398 in 2011 and had been assured that HB 1398 was tabled. This was not the case. After its April introduction, HB 1398 was amended on May 25, 2011. It passed out of the Pennsylvania House unnoticed on January 24, 2012. It was referred to the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee on February 1, 2012. It passed out of Committee on March 28, 2012 (the day after the Ohio Senate held Committee hearings on SB 310 until after 6:00 p.m.) and was first considered on the Pennsylvania Senate floor on the same day.
HB 1398 needs only two more considerations before the Senate before a vote is taken. The next two considerations must be before the full Senate. (To learn how a bill becomes a law in Pennsylvania, click here.) If it passes in the Senate, it will go before Governor Corbett who can sign HB 1398 into law. The Pennsylvania legislature reconvenes on April 30, 2012.
HB 1398 is vague, over broad, burdensome and will divest Pennsylvania residents of the right to own reptiles and other animals. It is a total ban.
It is imperative that Pennsylvania residents make their opposition to HB 1398 known. To find out who your senator is, please click here. A full list of email addresses for Pennsylvania senators can be found here.
USARK will be in Pennsylvania when the session resumes in April to protect your rights to keep your reptiles. Join us by contacting your legislators and voicing your opposition to HB 1398.