Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Georgia Legislature Rushes to Regulate Reptiles; Hasty Move Could Cost Jobs

/PRNewswire/ -- Senate Bill 303, a bill that seeks to regulate the ownership and trade of certain reptiles is being rushed through committee. The bill introduced by Senator Douglas (District 17) would require a cost prohibitive permit system and micro chipping provision that could put reptile farmers out of business and take away the ability of people to own animals that are currently legal to own in Georgia. Penalties for violations of the statute could bring fines of up to $1000 and a year in jail.

Herpetoculture is a non traditional agricultural pursuit that represents a $3 Billion trade in the United States. Similar legislation at the federal level, although pushed aggressively by the Animal Rights Industry, has stalled do to severe impacts to small business and poor quality of underlying science being used as justification to shut down trade. The US Chamber of Commerce opposes the federal proposal citing, "this legislation would adversely impact tens of thousands of businesses". A group of top scientists from University of Florida, Georgia Southwestern State, The National Geographic Society commented in regards to "evidence" being used to condemn the industry, "It is a misrepresentation to call the document 'scientific,'" and further stated, "As written, this document is not suitable as the basis for legislative or regulatory policies."

The United States Association of Reptile Keepers, a reptile industry advocate, suggests a more balanced approach such as the law just recently passed in NC requiring caging standards and escape prevention protocols. Andrew Wyatt, President of USARK, insists that what is being proposed in GA will not add any level of secure containment. Wyatt says, "the bill we wrote and helped pass in NC addresses specific concerns with secure containment, safety and escape prevention that are not addressed in S303. Additionally it costs nothing and does not require state Dept of Natural Resources to administer. It is written into criminal statute." The USARK proposal actually provides a framework of best industry management standards that protects the public and the environment while allowing responsible ownership and trade to continue.

Georgia bill S303 will go to hearing for the second time before the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, February 3rd at 2pm in the State Capitol.

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