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The Conundrum of Laissez-Faire Herpetoculture

Conundrum of Laissez-Faire HerpetocultureLater this year someone is going to break into your house while you are sleeping. They are there to take things that do not belong to them; things you worked for, things you earned. Awakened by the noise they are making you confront them and are stunned to find that the thief is someone you had thought to be a friend. You toss him a loaded gun and scream, “Please don’t shoot me!” A few minutes later, as you lie bleeding on the floor, your precious possessions gone, you cry out, “I was always so nice to him. I can’t believe he shot me.” For reasons unknown it never computes that you put the gun in the thief’s hand. It was you that armed him with the weapon he used to wound you.  Who did you vote for in the last congressional election?  How about the last presidential election?  Who will you vote for in November?  More to the point: why did you vote for them? I can venture a few guesses. They include:

  • You always vote [Democrat | Republican | Independent].  The candidate doesn’t matter.
  • You vote for whoever is [Pro-Choice | Pro-Life].
  • You vote for whoever is [for | against] amnesty for illegal aliens.
  • You vote for whoever is [black | white | hispanic | asian].
  • You vote for whoever is [male | female].
  • You vote for whoever is [for | against] gun control.
  • You vote for whoever is [for | against] stronger environmental controls.
  • You vote for whoever is [for | against] unions.

I’m willing to bet that many people who read this voted the way they did because of their candidates position on as few as just one of these items/issues.  Some issues are so important to us that they act as blinders to everything else going on around us.  The pro-life/pro-choice debate is as good an example as any.  I know many women who want to know one and only one thing when deciding for whom to vote:  who is the pro-choice candidate.  Done.  Vote cast.  This is not a blanket statement, of course.  I know several women who vote for pro-life candidates, too.  What is important to understand is that the system in the United States is effectively a 2-party system; republican and democrat.  We can pretty safely categorize the republican and democratic tickets by the answers to all of the ‘for|against’ questions listed above.  But in the United States we do not vote on issues, we vote for candidates.  And in our current culture the elected candidates almost always vote along party lines.  This means that a vote for the pro-choice candidate is also a vote for the candidate who supports a larger, more powerful government, more entitlement programs, less individual accountability, amnesty for illegals, stronger gun control, more environmental regulations and stronger unions.  A decision made to only support the pro-life candidate is a vote for smaller government, more personal accountability, no amnesty for illegals, less gun control, fewer environmental regulations and no unions.  How do you feel about those other issues?  Did your vote for one issue just help to elect someone who does not reflect your position on the others?  Oops.

If you know how your candidate will vote when it comes to abortion, amnesty, gun control or unions ask yourself one more question:  will he or she vote for or against more controls (or bans) on the ownership of reptiles?  And is that position important enough to you to change the way you vote?  That’s a tough one, isn’t it?  If you are a snake breeder/keeper that feels that unions are a good thing and vote for the pro-union candidate you should only do so with full knowledge that you also just voted away your right to keep reptiles.  In our current culture of party-line voting you can’t have one without the other.  The decision to cast your vote based on a single issue may mean that you end up supporting things you didn’t intend.  It’s sad.  But that makes it no less true.

So here we have our conundrum.  “Leave us alone” we all shout.  The reptile community does not need regulation.  We don’t need the federal government telling us what kind of pets we can keep and we are sick of the continuous assault on the rights of responsible keepers.    But then about half of us vote for a candidate that is going to support that exact end result.  It’s a lot like giving a gun to the person who just broke into your home.  You let them in, you gave them the weapon and you are still wondering why they used it to hurt you.  Please wake up.

So let me cut to the chase and alienate about half of my readers:  When you vote for a Democrat there is an incredibly strong chance that you simultaneously vote to put an end to reptile ownership in the United States.  If you don’t believe me ask Congressman Bobby Scott (D), Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D), Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schulz (D) or Congressman Thomas Rooney (D).  Animal extremism (which includes fear-based bans on exotic animals) is mostly a party-line issue.  No, it’s not 100%, but it is heavily skewed toward Democrat support.  The fact is that if you voted for Barack Obama in 2008 you supported the creation of the perfect storm that led to the amendment of the Lacey Act in 2012 and if you vote for him again in November 2012 you need to do so knowing that you are supporting four more years of ever-increasing loss of reptile owner rights.  Barack Obama appointed Ken Salazar as the head of the Department of the Interior and it was Salazar that made the Lacey Act amendment happen.  Don’t be naive and think that Salazar did that without Obama’s blessing.  If re-elected I can assure you that Obama and Salazar are not done adding snakes to the Lacey Act and the HSUS is not done trying to use Congress to pass laws that strip you of your rights.  For whatever reason Democrats tend to support the objectives and aims of animal extremist organizations like the Humane Society of the United States.  If you don’t believe this please research which side of the aisle receives the bulk of campaign contributions from the HSUS.  The HSUS doesn’t support candidates that won’t support their agenda.

The decision to vote for a democrat is yours to make, of course.  But if you do please do me a favor:  be quiet about reptile-keeper’s rights.  Stop lamenting the increase in government control over pet ownership.  You condoned it at the ballot box.  Please stop supporting the fight for reptile keeper’s rights.  Do not contribute your money, your words or your time to the cause.  Please do not  give money to USARK, PIJAC or any other organization that claims to support the rights of exotic animal owners.  You are wasting either your money or your vote with your dichotomous actions.  If you vote democrat, please send your money to the HSUS or to Defenders of Wildlife instead.  You are supporting them with your vote so please have the courage of your convictions and support them with your dollars.  And yes, I am being sarcastic when I suggest making a financial contribution to the HSUS.  Every reptile keeper should have both a negative visceral and intellectual reaction at the suggestion to give them a single dollar.  So I can only wonder why the same reaction is not felt when you check the box to elect the candidate who is going support taking your snakes away from you.


Colin Weaver


  1. Jason Eossi July 19, 2012

    Another great write up Colin. Keep them coming we need your guidance. Our public is blind to the fact that our “liberals” are neocons posing as liberals???

  2. Andrew Busenbark July 19, 2012

    Hi Colin, thank you for saying it as clearly as you did, with a little effort they can follow your thoughts investigate what you say and form their own logical conclusions, but they won’t. I have friends that own their own businesses and make over 250K a year as I do and even though Obama says these people need to pay more in taxes my friends say this is not true. Now I have heard Obama say this in his own words and have shown articles to them where he says this, I am still wrong. Also you forgot about Bill Nelson, a democrat from Florida, he also was a major contributor of the Lacey act. I believe he was the deciding vote in Florida.Also a show on animal planet called swamp wars actually showed ball pythons as an invasive and potentially dangerous species. This show flashed pictures of different exotic reptiles that could be invasive and or dangerous and they showed a ball python. What? So keep writing Colin some of us really do appreciate your thoughtful words! Thanks.

  3. Frank the tank August 24, 2012

    I’m a democrat and a reptile lover, marine reef aquarium keeper, and own a cat too. This thing about democrats taking away your reptiles is a little hard to believe. But if it came down to it, I would give up all my snakes before voting for another W. Bush or any other Republican Candidate. They represent big corporations not the people.

  4. Author
    Colin Weaver August 24, 2012

    Frank, Thanks for your comment. At least you know where you stand. It is your decision to make. And choosing not to believe does not make something less true.

    As for the ‘big corporations’ versus the so-called ‘people’ comment: Who exactly are ‘the people’? I don’t think I’m one of them, whoever they are. Are you one of them? All political references to them seem to refer to an ethereal concept that is simultaneously no one body yet still every body. What is it that a democrat is going to provide for the people that a non-democrat won’t (please notice that I didn’t write Republican)? Handouts? Entitlements? Freebies? Tax returns in excess of what they paid in? How is it that they are going to provide it (whatever ‘it’ is)? Through higher taxes and more government programs, right? Who will pay those taxes? Who creates the businesses that creates the jobs that allows for the payment of taxes? Please don’t allow the word ‘government’ to enter your brain as you ponder that question. A statist democrat thinks it’s OK to take (steal) from those who can and do in order to give to those who can’t or won’t. Is it OK that the achievement of your ends justifies the seizure of my means?

    I’m guessing you don’t support the way big corporations exploit these ‘people’ you refer to. I don’t support the exploitation of anybody, individual or business. Is it business you don’t like or is it ‘big corporations’? It has to be that you don’t like businesses. Because, as a democrat, you support the exploitation of those who [money] have and create [jobs] in order to give to those who contribute nothing (or little). Be altruistic with your own money, not mine. You are not a noble philanthropist if you take my money to give it to other people. You’re a thief if you do that. Obama regularly says that ‘lots of wealthy Americans wan’t to give more’. Guess what? Nothing is stopping them. Write a check. You don’t have to raise taxes on all higher income people just to get that money from people who are already itching to give it, do you? It’s a ponderous burden living amongst people who think this way.

    At least the people have a choice to not do business with the corporation. Choosing not to buy will eliminate any exploitation that may exist. Problem solved. It is not compulsory that you do business with Home Depot. If you don’t like them, seek further. You are not being forced to buy from them, sell to them or work for them. But the democratic party fully supports the exploitation of people who make more money than the elusive other ‘people’ you refer to. And that exploitation is unavoidable. It is enforced by a legal system that is ultimately backed by the capacity to physically seize assets and incarcerate those who do not comply. So you can just choose to not buy from the big, exploiting corporations and seek your means elsewhere. But people who work hard and are successful are forced to give up the product of their effort without capacity to walk away. Democrats call it ‘paying your fair share’ or something euphamistic like that. Call it what it really is: theft.


  5. Frank the tank August 29, 2012

    Ok so I did some research online, and discovered that the Lacey ACT was introduced by a republican John F. Lacey in 1900’s and signed by a Republican president William Mckinley. So its not just democrats. The invasion of the burmese python into the everglades as become a huge problem. Normally what occurs is that pet owners get tired of their snake or snakes, and decide to set it free into the everglades. Burmese pythons have thrived in this type of ecosystem with no top predator to prey on them. To stop burmese pythons invading the everglades you need some type of regulation, which I’m for. In terms of ball pythons, I think they are not part of this act or law, especially ball python morphs. In the wild these morphs are easily spotted and will not be able to thrive in the everglades or any natural ecosystem. Ball pythons can grow a max of 4.5 feet not big enough to survive top predators. They recently found a 17 feet burmese python in the everglades, University of Florida administired the autopsy. Regulating the trade of illegal animals stops invasive species from taking over our ecosystems. There’s only a few repitles on the list regarding the Lacey Act. Can someone provide the list of species, so we can have a better understanding of this act or law being questioned. Thx sorry for any misspelling or grammer issues, I typed this on my cell phone.

  6. Frank the tank August 29, 2012

    Did some more research, I found out the snake species listed in the Lacey Act. The following will be banned in trading or sales of snakes and/or eggs of Burmese python, the northern and southern African pythons, and the yellow anacondas. That’s it 4 species of snakes that are banned because they can be or are an invasive species to the everglades. Pet owners that have already these types of snakes will be able to keep them, with no penalty.

  7. Author
    Colin Weaver August 30, 2012


    I’m glad you did some additional reading. Unfortunately the trees are blocking your view of the forest. The Lacey Act is not the issue. Very, very far from it. Invasive species are not the issue. Again, very, very far from it. And it diminishes your credibility to actually re-write the lie about ‘pet snakes being irresponsibly released by owners’. Just because something is said on the news or written in a newspaper (or their web site) doesn’t mean it’s true. The pet-release ‘fact’ is a fabrication from the lobby for the elimination of reptiles as pets (e.g. the HSUS). The issue is animal extremism and the out-of-control animal rights groups that nurture it. If you follow the trail back through all of the legislative efforts you will find that they were written with the help of the Humane Society of the United States and introduced in Congress by Democrats. In fact, when all of the fighting was going on in the House of Representatives a few years ago (just after Obama was elected) it wasn’t the House Delegates making the arguments, it was the HSUS lobbyists. In November 2011, when Democrats lost the House in mid-term elections, the HSUS realized that there was no longer a chance to get legislation through. So they switched tactics and did an end-around on the legislative process. The tool used to make that end-around: the Lacey Act.

    It is silly that you trumpet the fact that people who currently own Burmese pythons can keep them without penalty. What else woud they have done about them, Frank? Think about it: if they had made them illegal to own they would have made tens of thousands of people criminals overnight. If those people didn’t want to be criminals they would have three choices: 1. Kill their snake. 2. Turn their snake in to a round-up station and they would kill it. 3. Release it into the wild (since that is what puppets believe that all snake keepers do anyway). All of those would be bad publicity for the Obama administration. The HSUS is perfectly content to let everybody who has a Burm today keep it until its life is naturally over …and then not get another one. The end of Burmese python pet ownership through the elimination of breeders, interstate transport and finally, owners. It might take a decade or more but the HSUS has plenty of time and they are eternally patient and vigilant. One species down, more to go. Chip away at it, HSUS, chip away. Frank and his fellow democrats believe you are doing good work.

    In the end, Frank, you are a Democrat. I’m not going to write anything here that is going to cure you of that. I respect your right to make your own decisions but you are wrong in the conclusions that lead to them. You are welcome to not believe what I write and you are welcome to continue voting the way you do. But all I need is one person in your state to read, understand, believe, and change their vote. Because that one vote will negate yours… and that’s all I need to do.

    Finally, Frank. I invite you to think deeply about what will happen to the trade of Burmese pythons because they are not able to be transported across state lines. People in Florida are still allowed to keep and breed them. How has the change to the Lacey Act helped the problem in the Everglades? How has the inability to take a Burmese python from Washington State to Oregon helped the problem in Southern Florida? It hasn’t, Frank. Do you really think people were making road trips from Kentucky to Southern Florida to release their unwanted Burms? The Lacey Act change has pretty much killed the legal trade of Burmese pythons. Could Florida not have banned the ownership of Burmese and corrected the problem without Federal intervention?


  8. DogCatcher August 31, 2012

    This was a very good article. In the end, you may be falling prey to your own concerns about party lines, though. Currently, HSUS is more supportive of republican candidates since they seem to be more responsive to accepting campaign donations and listening to animal rights concerns. As you know, animal rights means no use of animals. Not even police dogs, so snakes have no chance. Just be careful to heed your own advice. A vote on party lines for its own sake is risky. Tides change, my friend and the “small government” mantra is now “small government for you” and bail outs for me.

  9. Author
    Colin Weaver August 31, 2012

    Touche. I suppose I do come across as a big Republican supporter. I’m not. I’m just really, really against the liberal agenda. I agree with about 65% of what the Republican party stands for vs. less than 5% of the Democratic party. Since the current reality provides me only two ‘real’ choices I am left supporting the one that offends me the least. And yes, I am fully conscious that my rabid dislike of all things Democrat can taint my perspective. I try to keep myself honest by asking questions, researching as much as I can and taking what I read in context. Hopefully, I’m right. I never endeavor to be intentinally wrong.

  10. Billy Elliott September 9, 2012

    I must say that I am very surprised that you posted this. Glad that someone has the guts to say how they really feel without worrying about if someone else is going to try and protest your place of business because of what you say. Surprised, but glad. Thank you for bringing this subject up and being proud of who you are and how you feel. This subject is very sensitive to many people, and I agree with you that about 60% of what the Republican party stands for I agree with. We are stuck with this two party system and it will always be who stands for more of what I agree with than the other guy (or gal). One thing I saw in the news this week was a stat that came out that said 46 million Americans, or a full 15% of our country are using food stamps. Not only is that number WAY too high, our president is PROUD to have that many people using government assistance and would be happy to add millions more! Most people in this country using food stamps are not poor. They are lazy. How many of them have cell phones, cable/satelite tv, multiple cars, spend their money on booze/cigarretes/drugs?

    Sorry to go off on a whole other subject than what you wrote about, but I did just want to say thank you for saying what you believe in.

  11. Halie Hovenga April 3, 2013

    Love your articles on the breeding business, Colin. Keep em’ coming, please :-)

    As for this one, I’m afraid it’s overly simplistic. If exotic laws were a party-line issue, we wouldn’t see legislative “attacks” on reptile (and other exotics) ownership at the state level irregardless of how the state voted in the presidential election or which party controls the given state’s general assembly. Virginia, for example, voted for Barack Obama in both ’08 and ’12; yet, the state is Republican controlled and enacting some of the most personally invasive laws imaginable. This can be seen throughout the South, legislative attacks on all types of personal freedoms. In North Carolina, a bill updating an outdated obscenity law making an errant (female) nipple a felony offense, for example, not to mention. Obscenity and reproductive health laws are rife throughout the south and some of the most personally invasive laws for a family, not just the individual woman.

    When it comes to weighing the issues, two things come to mind, first personal freedom, then morality. I enjoy personal freedom, but that means not only being able to own and breed reptiles but also to be able to buy the morning after pill over the counter or to get an abortion if I so choose. This second freedom is so important to me that I will vote for it at the expense of other freedoms if the latest jackass in office decides to hold it hostage under the guise of “small government.” The second issue, morality, is quite sticky, but it’s one I have some experience with being degreed in philosophy and steeped in ethical studies. Sometimes our choies are hard. I mean, I want to have reptiles, and I want to breed them, but I also want that my neighbors and marginalized peoples not suffer from hunger and that hard working people have access to affordable health care and not be robbed penniless by a privatized medical system and bloodsucking pharmaceutical industry. That not just wealthy children but all children have food and opportunity for an excellent education places a moral imperative on me that I vote with my conscious considering the least among us and not just my own desire to bank on breeding animals (which is another ethical consideration all together).

    So considering that both parties attempt to enact invasive legislations, some more personal than others, and considering that ethical considerations outweigh (at least for me) my perceived right to breed exotic animals for profit, it’s just not as simple as voting red equals more freedom and voting blue equals less freedom. The real question each person must ask is what *is* freedom? And is my freedom of greater value than freedom for other people? The answer to these questions places an imperative on the individual to vote according to their personal conscious and to understand and acknowledge one important moral fact: Voting according to conscious may create additional challenges and burdens for me or for an entire society, but that has no bearing on it absolutely being the right thing to do. Sometimes doing the right thing is hard.

  12. Colin Weaver April 4, 2013


    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on the things I write. I appreciate it.

    I’m always happy to see that reptiles can be a common footing for people who disagree on things politically and philosophically. I tend to walk away and say, “Well, at least we’ve got snakes…”

    I’m curious about the personally invasive laws you mentioned (in Virginia). I don’t know about them so if you’d let me know, I’ll be grateful.

    People who read what I write often assume that I’m a republican. I’m not. For those who care I consider myself an Objectivist Libertarian with an unfortunate tendency toward anarchism (a realization with which I continue to struggle). I’m not perfect at being one (an objectivist libertarian) but I’m constantly learning and assimilating. The sad state of our political system sometimes forces me to seem republican because I am so NOT a democrat.

    The fate of reptiles is more of a party line issue than it is not a party line issue. But reptiles are not interesting enough to be considered an issue for either party, I’m afraid. They become a party line issue by being pawn material in larger environmental issues (e.g. global warming allows Burmese pythons to migrate north into New York, for instance). They are positioned in the environmental battle to become anecdotal evidence (most likely for an environmentalist Democrat) later down the line. They are also a party line issue because it is more of a tendency for Democrats to take the “I know what’s best for you so I’m going to make rules that decide for you” approach. No, republicans are not immune from such things either. But come now, who does it more? Health care and Social Security come to mind right about now.

    I’m going to refrain from commenting on your digs on the health care system. We do not agree and never will. Back and forth between us will not yield any results. I can tell from you comments that the gap between our perspectives is not one to be bridged.



  13. ExoticPetsHQ June 6, 2013

    Fascinating read/perspective and I appreciate the tone that allows for discourse and discussion.

    I think the average voter, as cynical as they are, are also incredibly naive when it comes to the workings of their elected officials. One only needs to look to the Peoples Republic of California as a shining example of the shenanigans perpetrated by elected officials right under the nose of the oblivious public.

  14. P.J. July 9, 2013

    Very informative. I wish I had read this before polling time. Live and learn I guess. I feel ashamed of myself because I am a very strong supporter of USARK and the rights of reptile keepers above all other issues. I didn’t do enough research before voting and now I will be stuck with the consequences. My idea of freedom is somewhat of a mixed bag, and both parties have their pros and cons. But in the end, the issue that matters most to me is snakes. If I cannot own burmese pythons, I will never be completely happy again. If a nationwide ban occurs I will have to leave the country and go somewhere that I can own them. My snakes are what motivates me to do virtually everything I do. You have informed me, sir, and changed my vote.

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