Regular readers know that I tend to avoid political topics in this blog. They’re too contentious, and there are many sides to every issue. However, there is a bill currently being considered by the United States House of Representatives which I feel is too important to my readers for me not to mention it. H.R. 699, also known as the Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act, would prohibit ownership of many species of exotic pets throughout the United States. The reason given by supporters of this drastic measure is the danger of introduced species becoming established in the United States and harming native flora and fauna.
What HR 699 Would Do
According to an analysis posted by Drs. Foster and Smith, “If H.R. 669 passes, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) would be required to conduct a risk assessment for each nonnative wildlife species to determine if it is likely to ’cause economic or environmental harm or harm to other animal species’ health or human health.’ In order to be on the “Approved List” it must be established that the species has not, or is not likely, to cause “harm” anywhere in the United States. Species that are considered potentially harmful would be placed on an ‘Unapproved List.'”
Hamsters, guinea pigs, hedgehogs, exotic birds, gerbils, and various types of fish are just a few of the many species potentially affected by this legislation, should it pass and be signed into law by President Barack Obama. Current owners would be permitted to keep their pets, but ownership could not be transferred to any other individual for any reason. If the current owner died, moved, or otherwise needed to rehome their pet of a prohibited species, the only option would be for that pet to be euthanized.
- H.R. 699 contains exceptions for certain common pets, such as horses and goldfish, that are not native to the United States.
- The legislation would protect fragile ecosystems from the introduction of invasive species.
- In parts of the United States, notably Florida, exotic reptiles are often released into the wild by keepers no longer able or willing to care for their pets. This endangers humans and other pets, and threatens fragile native species.
- The only species to remain prohibited after a USFWS assessment would be species that have harmed or are likely to harm other animal species or human health.
- This legislation would affect millions of pet owners. It is simply too broad.
- The task for the USFWS of assessing the impact of thousands of species would take years, during which time breeders working to propagate rare species would be unable to continue their lines. This could impact the conservation of rare parrots, fish, and reptiles.
- H.R. 699 places an unreasonable restriction on owners even of pets ‘grandfathered in’ due to ownership before passage of the law, by forcing euthanasia of banned pets if the owner can no longer keep them.
- The definition of “harm” is not specified; therefore, even species like dogs and cats could potentially be classified as harmful to other animal species in the United States.
- Responsible pet ownership should be encouraged, not prohibited. Pet owners who don’t care enough to keep their pets from escaping also won’t care if they’re keeping illegal pets– it’s the law-abiding owners who would be punished by this law.
What to Do
Please visit this link to read the full text of the bill and view its cosponsors. If you’d like to express an opinion, the best way to do so is to write to your Congressional representative, and follow up with a Letter to the Editor in your local paper. Phone calls to Congressional offices are also effective.