USARK brings attention to new ‘Traveling Animal Act’


Victoria Foster, Staff Writer

On Jan. 19, The United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) published a newsletter detailing their ongoing opposition to House Bill 5999. The bill’s purpose, titled the “Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act of 2021”, is “to amend the Animal Welfare Act to restrict the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling performances” (HR5999).

The bill was introduced by Senator Robert Menendez (D-Arizona) on Nov. 11, 2021, and was then later referred to the House Committee on Agriculture on Nov. 17. The bill has not made any new progress since this date.

The USARK claims that the bill will harm a majority of educational outreach programs run by animal keepers and make it a federal crime to bring certain animals to schools, festivals, conventions and similar occasions. Educational animal outreach programs are used to inform and educate the public, typically schools, in an engaging manner between people and animals.

The USARK also claims that the bill is intentionally worded for broad interpretation.

“‘The Traveling Animal Act’” covers any transportation of animals for a ‘performance’” USARK stated in their newsletter. “Performance is defined to cover any exhibition or display where animals are used as ‘entertainment, amusement, or benefit’ to an audience. Learning about and enjoying interactions with animals are ‘benefits.’ Many people are ‘entertained’ simply by seeing animals in person.”

HR5999 has a list of organizations exempt from the bill. The exemptions include the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

Animal sanctuaries who participate in commercial trade, including photographic opportunities, or who breed exotic or wild animals are not included in the exemption list. Educational animal outreach programs are usually conducted by people who do not associate with these organizations and are also not included in the exemption list.

The list of wild or exotic animals includes, but is not limited to non-domestic canines, non-domestic felines, crocodiles, tortoises and monitor lizards. HR5999 will make it illegal to transport these animals to schools, conventions, festivals and more, even for educational purposes.

The USARK is a non-profit organization centered around science, education, conservation and the responsible private ownership and trade in reptiles and amphibians. Click here to read the newsletter and learn more about the USARK and their opposition to the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act.