Reptile Group Sues U.S. Government Over Snake Ban

The United States Association of Reptile Keepers is suing the Interior Department over its ban on importation of and interstate trade in four constrictor snakes. The group says the ban is costing the industry millions of dollars.

A trade association dedicated to the reptile industry is suing the U.S. Department of the Interior to overturn its ban on four species of constrictor snakes.

This is a powerful day for the Reptile Nation, as we fight to protect your rights to pursue your passion and defend your businesses against unwarranted and unnecessary government intrusion.

In the lawsuit [PDF] filed late last month, the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) says the ban, which falls under the Lacey Act and prohibits importing the snakes or moving them across state lines, is costing the reptile industry tens of millions of dollars. The snakes in question include Burmese pythons, yellow anacondas, and northern and southern African pythons—all listed as “injurious” under the act.

“The market for large constricting snakes is entirely dependent on interstate transportation and commerce among the continental states,” USARK stated in the lawsuit. “The biggest economic drivers are the literally hundreds of large and small tradeshows held throughout the country each year to which breeders and hobbyist bring, show, and sell their animals.”

The association, whose members include veterinarians, researchers, breeders, manufacturers, feed producers, hobbyists, and pet owners, is calling into question the science the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used to list the four snakes as injurious.

The ban protects wildlife, especially in the Florida Everglades, and prevents the non-native snakes from spreading, Ken Warren, a spokesman for the wildlife service, told the Associated Press . ‘‘These snakes have the potential to expand beyond South Florida. Large constrictor snakes have demonstrated that they are highly adaptable to new environments, consume a large number and variety of native species, and dramatically change the ecosystems they invade.’’

An editorial in the South Florida newspaper The Sun Sentinel said lifting the ban “makes no sense at all,” citing the threat these snakes pose to wildlife and people. “It is a little difficult to shed tears for their loss and potential loss when you consider the damage these reptiles have done and could do,” the editorial stated. “The Everglades are fragile enough without the invasive species doing more damage to wildlife and putting humans in danger.”

But that has not deterred USARK, which has been laying the groundwork for the lawsuit for several months. “This is a powerful day for the Reptile Nation, as we fight to protect your rights to pursue your passion and defend your businesses against unwarranted and unnecessary government intrusion,” the group said in a statement to supporters.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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