May 4, 2009
U.S. Rep.Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, sponsor of the Nonnative Wildlife Prevention Act and chairwoman of the Congressional subcommittee that held a hearing on the bill in April, has acknowledged that the legislation needed to be changed before it progresses further.
“We recognize the bill is by no means perfect and that changes will be needed to address various concerns before any legislation moves forward,” Bordallo said of House Resolution 669.
Her acknowledgment came toward the end of the April 23 hearing and reflected the results of a grass-roots protest against the legislation from the pet industry and pet owners.
Subcommittee members said they received thousands of calls, emails and letters from pet owners and others urging defeat of the legislation, which could mandate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to approve or disapprove most non-native animal species, including birds, fish, reptiles and small mammals, for importation and trade within the United States.
“It is clear that committee members from both sides of the aisle heard from the pet-owning public about their concerns with this bill,” said Marshall Meyers, CEO and general counsel of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, who testified at the hearing. “We’re extremely grateful to the thousands of groups who galvanized their members…PIJAC will continue working with members of the subcommittee, the Executive Branch, and other stakeholders to ensure the process proceeds in a transparent, inclusive and strategic manner.”
During his testimony, Meyers said the pet industry was interested in addressing invasive species but that the proposed legislation was problematic.
“We support the development of a strategic, risk-based process to prevent the introduction of invasive species into the United States,” Meyers said in his testimony.
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.
“As it stands, PIJAC still has issues with points of this bill’s impracticality or lack of clarity,” Meyers said.
Some opponents 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.
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.
“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.
PIJAC and USARK will continue to monitor the bill and plan to alert the industry and pet owners of future developments.
Editor's Note: This item updates "Effort to Ban Exotic Pets 'Effectively Dead'" which was posted April 24.
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