House Judiciary Committee Passes Snakes Bill

Last week the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 511, a bill from Representative Rooney (R-FL) that would add nine species of large constrictor snakes to the list of species that are prohibited from being imported or crossing state lines.  Unfortunately, this positive effort was undermined by an amendment to allow a broad exemption for certain exhibitors of snakes, including many roadside zoos and circuses.

Before the markup of HR 511, NECIS sent in the attached letter (HouseJudiciary_HR511) urging support for the passage of the legislation.

While NECIS applauds the effort of Representative Rooney and the committee for passing the legislation, NECIS cannot support the bill with such a broad loophole, and calls on Members of Congress to eliminate the loophole as it heads to the floor of the House of Representatives.

These species of large constrictor snakes are having a devastating impact in the Florida Everglades.  In fact, a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that small mammal populations in the Everglades are crashing, coinciding with increasing numbers of exotic pythons.

In early 2010 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed adding the nine species of snakes in H.R. 511 to the list of injurious species.  However, in January 2012, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar released a final rule with just four of the nine species prohibited from import and interstate trade.  This decision did not “finish the job” and left 5 snakes species, identified by the U.S. Geological Survey as posing a “significant risk,” off the list.  Unless all 9 species are listed as injurious, the threats to public safety and ecosystems will continue.

At least 2,500 different species of non-native wildlife were imported to the U.S. in the last decade.  Research indicates more than 300 of those species are already known to be potential invaders or present disease risk.  The total U.S. cost attributed to invasive animals and associated animal diseases is estimated to be as much as $35 billion per year.