*Editor's Note: This item was updated on May 4: "Non-Native Species Bill Needs Changes, Sponsor Says."*
Opponents of House Resolution 669, known as the Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act, proclaimed the bill “effectively dead” after a Congressional subcommittee hearing April 23 in Washington, D.C.
The legislation could have halted trade in thousands of nonnative animal species in the U.S., including most birds, reptiles, fish and several mammals—hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs and ferrets—commonly kept as pets.
Pet owners and pet industry players throughout the country have been contacting their representatives in grass-roots opposition to the bill.
The hearing was held by the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife, chaired by Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, who wrote the bill.
The hearing record is being held open for 10 days for responses and for the panel to decide whether to proceed with the bill.
But Andrew Wyatt, president of the United States Association of Reptile Keepers, called the hearing a “smashing success.”
“H.R. 669 is effectively dead,” Wyatt said.
“Two weeks leading up to the hearing, USARK mounted a grass-roots campaign of letter writing and phone calls,” he said. “We swamped Capitol Hill with almost 50,000 letters that were delivered to subcommittee members.”
Wyatt added that on top of that, thousands of phone calls were made and e-mails and letters sent to subcommittee members.
Marshall Meyers, CEO and general counsel for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, testified before the panel as a representative of pet owners and the pet industry.
“We support the development of a strategic, risk-based process to prevent the introduction of invasive species into the United States,” Meyers said in written testimony.
Invasive species are nonnative species that can be harmful if introduced into the environment.
However, he continued, the current draft of the bill “does not adequately take socio-economic issues and risk management options into account” and would “require funds and staffing not currently available, nor likely to be available, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”
Meyers said PIJAC is willing to work with the subcommittee to craft more realistic legislation that serves the public and affected industries alike.
“We recognize the bill is by no means perfect and that changes will be needed to address various concerns before any legislation moves forward,” said Rep. Bordallo, the chairwoman.
“As it stands, PIJAC still has issues with points of this bill’s impracticality or lack of clarity,” Meyers said.
“During the past few weeks I have received thousands of calls, e-mails and letters written by constituents in strong opposition to this bill,” subcommittee member Rep. Henry E. Brown, R-S.C., said during the hearing.
Later, Wyatt quoted Harry Burroughs of the subcommittee staff as telling him, "I haven't seen a letter writing campaign like this in 30 years! You should be proud of yourselves."
Rep. Eni F.H. Faleomavaega of American Samoa, a bill co-sponsor, congratulated Meyers, PIJAC and the pet industry for the tremendous grassroots response that has been generated, noting that it is important to have input from constituents.
Wyatt added that Faleomavaega said that the letters and phone calls hit them like a “buzz saw.”
“We’re so proud of all the people out there who sent letters and e-mails and made phone calls,” he said.
No further action is necessary from pet owners and the pet industry, Wyatt said. PIJAC and USARK will continue to monitor the bill.