Pet Python Ban?

(Updated 7/31 below) The reptile keeping world is up in arms over a House Bill, HR 2811, which would ban all python imports.  According to PetHobbyist.com:  “Congressman Kendrick Meek of Florida has authored a bill, HR 2811 , that would ban the “species genera Python” from being imported or sold across state lines. While in response to the recent Florida death of an infant by her parents’ Burmese python, the law is written such that it appears to also ban snakes such as the ball python — an animal usually included on zoo, herp society, and pet information resources as a good snake for first time pet owners.”

Ball pythons can make good pets and there are some great overseas breeding and ranching projects of chondro and other pythons, too.  Banning all pythons will no doubt increase black market trafficking of not only pythons but of other wildlife, too, and will put legitimate reptile breeders and dealers here and abroad out of business.  There are better legislative options than a blanket ban on all pythons to improve protection of the environment, the public, and the animals.

Unfortunately, some leaders in the reptile industry (e.g., USARK) are lobbying Congressman Meek and others to change the bill language to ban only imports of Burmese pythons.  This is a silly proposal which ignores the fact that reticulated pythons, anacondas, and other giant reptiles pose dangers equal to or greater than Burmese pythons.  PetHobbyist is correct in calling for an amendment that bans imports by species, not the whole python genus.  USARK is wrong to call for a Burmese python-only ban.  Neither group proposes any positive change on wild caught reptiles.

Here is an email I sent USARK asking that they propose a federal amendment based on Florida’s new Reptiles of Concern law:

Dear USARK,
 
As a lover of reptiles and reptile keeping, and as one who has spent the last several years analyzing the reptile trade, I believe you do a tremendous disservice to the hobby by limiting your proposed amendment (below) to Burmese python imports when Florida’s list of Reptiles of Concern makes it clear the giant reptiles that jeopardize the hobby and the public include reticulated pythons, anacondas, amethystine pythons, African rock pythons and Nile monitors.  I ask that you enhance the leadership your organization has shown on this issue and press for an amendment to include the full list of Florida’s “reptiles of concern.”   Failing to do that avoids the central problem and demeans a legitimate concern that not all pythons should be treated alike.
 
Sincerely,
 
Bryan Christy

UPDATE 7/31/2009:  As reported from the House Judiciary Committee on July 29, HR 2811 will ban imports of two pythons species:  Burmese pythons and African Rock pythons.  Two leading advocate-opponents on the python legislation, US Assoc. of Reptile Keepers (USARK) for the reptile industry and the Humane Society (HSUS) which appears to be against any reptiles as pets, may not be that far apart in what they will accept in a final law. Here’s USARK’s statement on the Committee result.  Here’s HSUS’s.

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