New house resolution puts exotic pet owners at risk


Victoria Foster, Staff Writer

On Feb. 4, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the COMPETES Act to be reviewed by the Senate. Right before the act was passed, House Resolution 4521 (HR 4521) was silently added to the list of things to be implemented.

HR 4521 is a series of Lacey Act amendments that will change the wording, and effectively the purpose, of the Lacey Act to affect keepers of all animals who are non-domesticated and animals not listed on the soon to be made White List. This means all birds, reptiles, aquatics, invertebrates, arachnids, and more in all areas of animal keeping.

The Lacey Act is a federal law that “combats illegal trafficking of wildlife, fish, and plants” according to the US Department of Agriculture. It monitors the legal transportation of certain species of plants and animals within the continental United States through a series of black lists that exist by state, with a very small black list within the Lacey Act itself.

HR 4521 will change the current black list to a federal White List, meaning that any species not listed on this white list (which is still to be determined but is said to contain only domesticated animals) will be illegal to transport across state lines for any reason. This means moving, buying/selling, temporary veterinary care, and educational programs from both individual owners and large organizations of reptiles, birds, aquatics, invertebrates, arachnids and other common exotic pets and their eggs/offspring will be a federal crime.

Individuals who are found guilty of breaking the Lacey Act law can be charged up to $10,000 per offense on a civil level, and up to $20,000 and/or five years in prison on a criminal level. This penalty will remain unchanged even if HR 4521 were to pass through the Senate.

According to the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA), not only will this have a drastic effect on the exotic pet trade and the individuals and businesses within it, having a white list for the entire country could lead to problems with delays on legal animal transport. “Misidentifications and mistakes by inspectors can lead to holding and seizure of perfectly legal shipments, resulting in significant stress on the animals being transported,” according to the NAIA.

The United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) is currently working to stop HR 4521 from passing in the COMPETES Act, which has yet to be finalized and sent to the Senate.

Click here to see what steps the USARK recommends to take to stop HR 4521 and to learn more about the Lacey Act and the COMPETES Act.