Tag: s373

Pythons, Federalism and Mobility

Written by : Posted on February 3, 2010 : No Comments

pythonflagBack in high school I sat through more than one government class.  In my freshman year of college I went through the motions during a year-long course on the history of the United States.  While sitting in those classrooms I wasn’t really investing in the information, I was enduring it.  I memorized facts, names and dates that would need to later be regurgitated on an exam.  Despite the quality of my schooling I must admit that I failed to process the information as anything other than raw data.  True internalization of the information didn’t really happen for me.  Part of the reason I missed so much was (honestly) a general lack of interest.  For no good reason I found the history of places like Persia and Greece to be much more intriguing than that of my own country.  History is often presented by academia as a string of names, dates, documents and military conflicts, each of which is summed up in a few paraphrased and often opinionated paragraphs.  The impacts and long-term meanings of the events are not often taught in a way that encourages students to understand the information as it relates to their own lives.  The end result is that many of us fail to fully connect the dots on how the events that occurred before our birth actually impact our existence.  Teaching is an art form and most educators who have the ability to regurgitate facts lack the talent to make it relevant and interesting.  As a result many students frequently purge the information after its usefulness on a test is complete.  I do not fault my teachers for this.  I take responsibility for my own actions, including the concerned attention I did not pay to my own nation’s history.  During my earlier years I never fully took the opportunity to explore how the decisions of the founding fathers were supposed to impact the life I am living more than two hundred years later.  The past several years, however, have changed all of that in a way I never expected.  If someone had told me many years ago that it would be pythons and boas that suddenly caused the processes of government to be immensely relevant I would have rolled my eyes and wandered off.

I’m not a complete noob, mind you.  I have long understood the electoral college, the functions of the three branches of government, the importance of “checks and balances” and the general processes involved in making a bill into law.  But there was a long period of my life when I openly stated that it didn’t matter which individuals were in which positions in the state and federal government, that they had no direct impact on my day-to-day life.  Because it was instilled in me to do so from a young age I have always voted in the elections; local, state and federal.  I wanted my candidates to win but never really expected my life to go one direction instead of another if the results didn’t go my way.  I was naive.  I was wrong.  My eyes, today, are wide open and what I am seeing leaves me horrified, disappointed, disenfranchised and angry.

More than 200 years ago (in 1787) the Founding Fathers of our nation came together to rewrite the original Articles of Confederation, the result of which was the creation of our Constitution and what we all know to be the United States of America.  Many of the original authors of the Constitution were strongly motivated by a seemingly simple theme: limit the size, scope and power of the federal government, leaving the majority of the power in the hands of individual sovereign states.  Embracing the concept of  federalism, our founding fathers recognized the need for a central government in addition to each state’s autonomous government.  There was (and is) a lot of debate over how much power the federal government should have.   The United States, by Constitutional design, is a federation of states.  This means that each states governs itself in addition to the presence of a federal government.  Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution defines the scope of the federal government.  More specifically, it and the Bill of Rights are designed to limit the scope of the federal government’s power over the states.  That which is not the defined in the Constitution falls to the individual states to decide.  Placing strong limitations on the power of the federal government was intentionally done by the people who founded this nation.  The control the federal government was supposed to exert over the lives of citizens day-to-day activities was, by design, limited.  That power was intended to remain with the individual states.  However, largely due to two clauses in Article I, Section 8 (the so-called Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause) the federal government has piled up a long history of overstepping its Constitutional authority and increasing its power over the states.  This has been happening for a long time (since the end of the Civil War) and has been progressing very quickly since the mid-1930′s.  This accumulation of power by the federal government has been happening for so long that the overwhelming majority of us simply take it as normal.  Why would we question it?  It has always been this way, hasn’t it?  But understand this very clearly:  it is not supposed to be this way.  The federal government should not be making decisions that the states are Constitutionally obliged to make on their own.  I believe pet (reptile) ownership and invasive species law are excellent examples.

The 10th amendment to the Constitution should have sealed the deal on the where the bulk of the power in our federation resides.  It states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  To summarize, Article I, Section 8 and 9 define the scope of power for the federal government and the 10th Amendment ensures that power not specifically given to the federal government is in the hands of the states.  Take a minute and read Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution and the 10th Amendment.  It will take less time than it has taken you to read this far in my post.  Unfortunately, several of the clauses in Article I, Section 8 are sufficiently vague that they have been twisted and mangled by both Congress and the courts in order to seize more and more power at the federal level.  Reptile owners are experiencing the result of this first-hand.

Each of the fifty states is an entity that embodies the needs and priorities of the individuals who live in them.  They are wonderfully diverse in geography, climate, natural resources and population.  Each state is unique and the needs of one are not the same as the needs of the next.  Because of their diversity it is not possible for the federal government to appreciate the impact of its decisions on individuals and communities within a state.  In fact, it is not the job of the federal government to make such decisions.  I direct you once again to Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.  The question of whether or not certain pythons and boas are a danger to the environment of a certain state is a state decision, not a federal one.  I suggest that the federal government’s decision to involve itself is an overstepping of its authority.  Unfortunately, through more than a hunderd years of power grabbing (the creation of the Department of the Interior and two of its agencies, US Fish & Wildlife and the US Geological Survey) the federal government has given itself the power to control the states in this matter.

One of the most simple and interesting aspects of federalism that I have come to embrace is the concept of mobility.  Because the power is supposed to reside in the hands of the state governments it is a citizen’s right to simply move somewhere else if the state enacts laws that are incongruous with their personal goals and/or beliefs.  Put more simply, if you don’t like what your state is doing, leave.  You can move to a state that is more closely aligned with your needs as a citizen.  However, when the federal government oversteps its authority and enacts federal law it leaves citizens with nowhere to go.  Because federal law is an umbrella that casts its shadow of control over all the states we are, in a very real sense, trapped.  There is nowhere to go to be free of the decisions of the federal government.  This should infuriate python owners in Vermont and South Dakota.  Their liberty is at risk because of a perceived problem almost two-thousand miles away in the southernmost portions of Florida.  For the python-loving residents of South Dakota the only way to rid themselves of such federal tyranny is to leave the country.  While moving from Florida to Virginia is readily do-able for most of the population, moving from Florida to Italy is not.  For me, this is the part I fear the most.  If laws banning pythons and boas are enacted at a federal level there is literally nowhere to go.  Mobility, which is a mechanism to free myself from the decisions of an individual state, will have been stolen from me.

The desire to increase the size, scope and power of the federal government is viewed as a positive by those who embrace statism.  Statists, whose actions and philosophies are most frequently aligned with what today is the far-left Democratic party, seek to increase power of the federal government in virtually all aspects of a citizen’s life.  It can be seen in large scale events like the government taking an ownership stake in corporations, government run health-care and social security.  It is also evidenced on a smaller scale in the desire for the federal government to impose a national ban on the importation and inter-state trade of pythons.  Why does the federal government need to impose rules on states who have no capacity to be affected by the suggested spread of the Burmese python (North Dakota, for instance)?  Why does the federal government simply not leave these decisions in the hands of states that deem themselves at risk?  This was the intent of the Constitution, was it not?  The answer can be summed up in one word:  power.  For statists, the acquisition of power at a federal level is taken at every opportunity in order to create a larger, stronger and more powerful central government.

As a side note:  The acknowledgment that pythons may one day have the ability to spread into the lower 1/3 of the United States is one piece in the highly political argument over global warming.  If the federal government concludes that the Burmese python will spread because of warming trends predicted by the USGS then it is yet one more piece of evidence that global warming is a real, human-caused, condition.  Such proof will be used to support future environmental legislation.  Do not think for a moment that this issue is just about pythons.  The trickery engaged in by people with political agendas takes on incredibly veiled forms.

Through their own local politicians the states have contributed to the increase of the power of the federal government by accepting the federal govenrment’s money to fund in-state projects.  It’s a nasty behavior, really.  By getting federal funding for state initiatives the states are getting their funding from all American taxpayers even though there is no benefit to the other states.  This smacks of abuse of power and should ring loud in the ears of reptile owners as Senator Bill Nelson of Florida (a Democrat) and House Representative Dennis Meek of Florida (also a Democrat) both introduced federal legislation to ban the importation and interstate transport of pythons (S373 and HR2811) in an effort to acquire federal tax dollars to fund the restoration efforts in the Florida Everglades.  There are also added fringe benefits for both of them.  Had the legislation passed their next election campaign would have heralded them as the “candidtate that saved the Everglades from the scourge of the Burmese python”.  Another shining example of this is the recent deal made by Senate Democrats with Ben Nelson (Democrat from Nebraska) to get the other 49 states to pay for the Medicaid expansion costs in Nebraska …forever!  The taxpayers of Virginia should be venomously opposed to the idea of paying for hospitals in Nebraska.  If you’re not, check the mirror for your lobotomy scar.

As states accept more and more federal funding they give more and more power to the federal government.  Over time they have become dependent upon the flow of money and, as a result, are often held hostage because of it.  For example, in 1974 the federal government enacted the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act which federally mandated the speed limit on the nation’s highways to 55 mph.  In 1986 Nevada changed the speed limit to a 3-mile stretch of highway to 70 mph.  Within a few hours of doing so the federal government revoked their highway funding.  The state changed the limit back to 55.  (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Maximum_Speed_Law).

In the end none of this talk about the abuse of federal power really matters.  And that saddens and frustrates me.  The federal government has acquired the power to determine the fate of pythons and boas in the pet trade.  Right or wrong the power is there.  Nothing in the near future is going to change that.  If the unthinkable happens and pythons and boas are added to the Lacey Act as injurious species you can rest assured that there will be legal challenges that play out over a span of years.  But the fight over the fate of pythons and boas is not about science.  It’s about politics.  Are Burmese pythons truly a threat to the lower 1/3 of the United States?  In the end it doesn’t really matter.  This is about special interest groups, campaign contributions, pet projects, and government power.  Pythons are being sold as creatures with the power to completely destroy ecosystems, hunt humans and spread disease.  None of it is true.  But facts don’t matter …and that is a shame.

Regards,

Colin Weaver

Herein Lies a Problem

Written by : Posted on January 15, 2010 : 2 Comments

Sigh…

I recently received a letter from the office of my representative in the US House of Representatives.  The letter reiterates what one of his staffers told me during a face-to-face meeting when I went to his office in Washington DC.  While I characterize Mr. Forbes as a delegate who is “on the side” of responsible pet owners I think his opportunity for opposition has been limited.  This is, of course, unfortunate.  What is more unfortunate is that the limitation stems from one of S373 and HR2811′s biggest sources of resistance: USARK.

Letter from Randy ForbesIn Mr. Forbes letter he points out that which we already know: an agreement has been reached between USARK and the HSUS to limit the scope of HR2811 to Burmese and African Rock pythons.  That agreement unanimously passed the House Judiciary Committee on 7/29/09.  I was at that hearing, I watched it happen.  USARK, in what they believed was an effort to save all pythons, offered Burms and Afrocks in the spirit of “we’ve got to give them something.”  In reality USARK’s compromise didn’t give supporters of the bill nearly as much as it took away from its opponents.  On July 28th Mr. Forbes was opposed to HR2811.  By the time the afternoon of the 29th rolled around he had little choice but to support it.  Why?  How can he oppose a bill that has been agreed upon by both sides of the issue?  He can’t.  It would be politically silly and a waste of time to do so.  This was the exact sentiment shared with me by one of his staffers during our meeting.   USARK’s decision to agree to a limited scope for HR2811 effectively ensures its passage when sent to the House floor for a vote.  I can see delegates saying, “HSUS likes it and the snake people like it, too?  All right then!  Let’s vote on this thing and go grab a burger.”  What is there to debate?  It appears that everybody is happy.  Except me.  I’m not happy.

If S373 passes the impending full Senate vote and HR2811 passes a House vote the absolute best we can hope for when the two bills are reconciled is the elimination of Burmese and African Rock pythons.  It won’t be any time soon that I forgive anybody who is responsible for that.

It’s a horrifying proposition but plausible to think that one of the best things that could happen at this point is that the HSUS gets one of their Democrat House delegates to introduce a new amendment to HR2811 that makes it mirror the current verbiage of S373 (e.g. all 9 animals in the USGS report).  At least that way the venomoid-rendered opposition in the House can have a renewed reason to oppose the bill.  How else are they supposed to argue against it?  That’s not really the kind of gamble I’d like to take but…

Colin Weaver

Republicans, Democrats and Reptiles

Written by : Posted on December 17, 2009 : 12 Comments

“Liberty, once seized, is seldom reclaimed.” -M. Levin

Democrats Lead HR2811 and S373Many reptiles owners who are concerned about HR2811 and S373 may not realize it but these bills are positioned almost 100% along party lines.  Democrats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate are in favor of it.  Republicans oppose it.  Republicans do not oppose these bills because they love pythons.  They oppose the bills because they seek to bypass normal processes that have been in place for a long number of years, a point USARK has been trying to make.

The fundamental nature of the Democratic party is to seize the liberty of individuals in order to provide for the perceived benefit of the masses.  According to Democrats, the impacts on individuals are secondary to the needs of the many.  The way that state-minded Democrats (state as in “statism”) endeavor to do this by taking steps to give government more and more control over the lives of individuals.  Easy examples include Social Security, the current health care debacle and the huge ownership stake government has recently taken in both the automotive and financial services industry.  Bailouts were given and control was taken to protect the masses.  The result:  a larger government with reach yet further into the lives of individuals.

Fellow snake owner, you are now poised to be on the receiving end of that same seizure of liberty so often employed by the Democratic party.  They want to take away your right to own the snake of your choosing for the betterment of the masses.  It is a decidedly Democrat thing to do.  What makes it worse is that all of you know that the reasons offered for why your rights are about to be seized are not even based on facts.

Remember this the next time you go to the polls and have to choose Republican or Democrat.  Many people in this country are single-issue voters.  In our last round of elections many chose to vote Democrat solely because it wasn’t “voting for Bush”.  The result of those elections are that we now have a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, a Democrat-controlled Senate and a Socialist, er, Democrat President.  The Humane Society of the United States swooped into action as soon as that criteria was met (Democrats all-around).  The result to the reptile community is the pain we are all feeling today.  Never forget that.

Cheers,

Colin Weaver

P.S. – Mid-term elections are about a year away.  If we can survive this round we can fix our problems (the reptile problem, that is) at the ballot box next year.

Note:  I opened this up to discussion on the ball-pythons.net forum but they moved it to their “Quarantine Room” that is not visible to the general public.  I guess it was more direct and to the point than what they like on their site.  It’s their site, their call.  Someone on that site suggested that I was unfairly trying to make this into a partisan issue.  Uh, I’m not trying to make it a partisan issue, IT IS A PARTISAN ISSUE.  This isn’t a secret.  Pretty much across the board Democrats appear to be lined up to vote in favor of it and Republicans will oppose it.  That is a fact and not a politically motivated attack on the democratic party.  It is what it is.

  • In June 2008 HR6311 was introduced by a Democrat.  This bill had the same aims as HR669.  Despite being introduced in a democrat-controlled House, HR6311 never even made it out of committee.  Nobody fought too hard for (or against) this bill because George Bush was in office and he would have vetoed it.
  • On January 26th, 2009, less than a week after Obama was sworn into office and the Democrat hat-trick was complete, HR669 was introduced by a Democrat.  The reptile community had its first unified and loud reaction.  The House sub-committee backed off in response.
  • On June 10, 2009, HR2811 was introduced by a Democrat.  This bill seeks to perform an end-around on the legislative process by adding large constrictors to the Lacey Act.
  • On February 3, 2009, barely 2 weeks after Obama’s inaguration, S373 was introduced by a Democrat.  This is the Senate version of HR2811.  This bill also seeks to perform the same end-around on the legislative process by adding large constrictors to the Lacey Act.

There are two themes at work in the timeline above:  1)  There have been repeated efforts to take away the rights of pet owners and 2) they have always been introduced by HSUS-sympathetic Democrats.

A Ream of Paper, a Photograph, a Child and a Tanned Snake Skin

Written by : Posted on December 6, 2009 : 2 Comments

A ream of paper, a photograph, a young child and a tanned snake skin …this is the sum total of all arguments provided by advocates of a ban on pythons. In a purely technical sense they are wholly and completely inadequate. But the adequacy of arguments is not a prerequisite for buy-in from the misinformed masses. Sound bites and sensationalized overstatements are more than sufficient to convict in the mind of a Congressman or Senator. It is, of course, true (in a purely legal sense) that you are not guilty until convicted. As is often the case, things that exist on paper and in principal struggle to manifest themselves in reality. The practical result of our legal process is not ‘innocent until proven guilty’. It is actually this: You are guilty because you are charged. The verdict is irrelevant in the long-term. If you don’t believe me ask anyone who was ever legitimately acquitted on charges of rape, murder or child pornography; they never get their lives back. An innocent man set free after mistakenly being accused of doing something horrible to a child is never, ever, going to have a job in a daycare center. Why? Because truth and reality do not matter in the long-term. “Perception, ” as I was told in my younger years, “is reality.” The subtle irony of using a sound-bite to reinforce my perspective on sound-bites does not elude me. History is remembered by most people as snapshots, impressions and feelings. The stronger the feeling, the stronger the memory is; the longer it remains. Whether the feelings were created by information with a basis in truth is less important than the emotions they elicit. The horror we all felt to hear that a child was killed by a python left a scorch in the minds of most Americans. None of the facts in the case are going to distract people from the initial shock of the claim. All the media had to do was say it and it was forever true in the hearts and minds of our neighbors.

A photo of an alligator exploding out of the belly of a Burmese python…

The militant congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz epitomized the overuse of this fantastical photo during her rude questioning of USARK’s Andrew Wyatt at a Congressional hearing on H.R. 2811. In Congress it is generally frowned upon to say things like, “Talk to the hand. I ain’t tryin’ to hear it.” Her position as a congresswoman is supposed to constrain her outbursts so the best she could do was to repeatedly hold up the infamous picture to punctuate her close-minded tirade. As a representative of the rational people of her district in Florida she is completely invalid; a danger to anybody who endeavors to participate in a careful contemplation of facts.

A tanned snake skin unfurled by Senator Bill Nelson during a session in the Senate…

In July of 2009 Senator Bill Nelson unrolled the skin of a 16ft Burmese python to a round of oooh’s, aaah’s and gasps from those in attendance. The Senator did not precede his dramatic presentation by saying, “This skin is almost twice as long as the animal that used to own it. Tanned skins are always significantly longer than the original animal.” Why would he need to say such things? Everybody know this, right? For him to diminish the dramatic effect of such a gesture would have been presumptuous about the intellect of his audience. Leave people to draw their own conclusions; it’s better that way. Now is a good time for me to point out that I am often being facetious when I write.

A child killed by a Burmese python…

The logistics of this tragedy have experienced Burmese python keepers around the country scratching their heads. People who keep large snakes are well aware of how they behave and the description of the wounds and the manner of the attack are so incredibly contrary to the actual behavior of these animals that every Burmese python keeper I know is saying, “It just dosen’t make sense. Burms don’t do that.” Maybe it’s wishful thinking on behalf of snake owners (myself included); we don’t want it to be true. But the confusion remains; the way this snakes is alleged to have killed this child is as unusual as the event itself. But guess what? None of my pondering matters. The Burmese python has been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion. Facts are not relevant. It won’t matter if the police come out tomorrow and say that the boyfriend accidentally killed the child and then staged the scene to make it look like the snake did it. The child is dead and the python has been assigned blame. The result is simple: large constrictors are now in the category of things that are a “threat to human safety”.

A ream of paper in the form of a report from the USGS…

Several men of science have come out in opposition of this piece of literature and it appears that they are being written off as reptile-loving quacks. This particular writing of mine is not the forum for me to offer a contradiction to the USGS’ slanted report. You know what matters about this report? It is thick. Very thick. 300 pages, give or take. I am confident it has been printed and placed in a 3-ring binder by many congressional staffers. How many have actually read it? Very few, I’m sure. How many have read it and then sought professional advice as to the validity of its content? Fewer still. It’s 300 pages, after all, and there are more pressing matters in the country. Heck, I haven’t even read every word of it. This is the reason for the so-called Executive Summary. Distill this content into something small, please. Twenty pages? No, still too big. Senators and Congressmen are busy people. Let’s get this down to something smaller. A few sound bites would be nice. Perhaps a picture or two. It’s odd, …I just read a similar distillation of Sleeping Beauty to my daughter tonight as she went to bed. In ten lavishly illustrated pages the entire story of Aurora was told and at no point was an admission made that many relevant facts were being omitted. I am left to wonder if members of the House and Senate are aware that they are being read bedtime stories …stories re-written by special interest groups (HSUS and Nature Conservancy) that are full of canned and baseless drama. But the best stories are the ones that have a villian and an innocent child, are they not? Fairy tales. But the python is not a beautiful princess. No prince is riding to its aid. This time Maleficent may actually win…

Colin Weaver

Oh, Sinister Python, How Lazy You Are

Written by : Posted on November 10, 2009 : No Comments

Large constrictors, burmese pythons in particular, are typically lazy things.  I have written it before that the burmese pythons I have kept in the past were some of the most gentle animals I have ever owned.  The way they are characterized in the media and by the HSUS is completely undeserved.  Here is a video showing just how interested in hurting people they really are.  HSUS loves to try and sell pythons to uninformed politicians as sinister, people stalking creatures.  The reality is quite the opposite.

The reptile community could really use a good public relations campaign right about now.  I recommend you stop waiting for our industry’s “leadership” to make things right.  You need to find a way to do something yourself.  If you own a large constrictor why don’t you take a moment to mail (no, not email) some photos and perhaps a video to members of Congress showing them how your snake is not menacing and how you take care to be a responsible snake owner.  Legislating to the lowest common denominator is no way to run a country.  The only thing being paraded in front of our representatives are the negative husbandry examples.  I know there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of responsible owners of large constrictors.  What an awesome impact it would be if even 40% of us sent in personal testimonials about our pets.  If you’re not motivated you better get there; your rights are on the line.  If you are motivated, double it.  I do not want to wake up one day and not have the right to own the reptile of my choosing.

P.S. – I seriously doubt politicians watch youtube so don’t post videos there thinking they are going to make it to the eyes of a government representative.  I’ll throw a few bucks down and wager that the overwhelming majority of politicians don’t even check their own email.  Kick it old school and send in a personal letter.

Cheers,

Colin Weaver

An Open Letter to Dog Owners

Written by : Posted on November 9, 2009 : 2 Comments

Fellow pet owner,

My name is Colin Weaver.  I am 37 years old.  I am probably a lot like you in that I have had a dog and/or a cat as part of my family for all but a tiny handful of years in my life.  My current dog, a 4-year old Weimaraner named Seven, is not just a pet; she is a member of my family.  Taking care of her and protecting her is no less a responsibility than taking care of my 3-year old daughter.

In addition to being a dog lover I am also an enthusiastic reptile fan.  In particular I have an affinity for pythons.  This fact, I suspect, will immediately distance some of you.  Pythons are not conventional pets and because pythons are enigmatic they are often feared.  Despite their fast-growing popularity, they are on the edge of mainstream pet ownership.  It is true that reptiles do not show the same affection toward their owners that dogs and cats do.  The opposite, however, is not true.  The way you feel about your dog or cat is the way that many feel about their reptiles.  For the moment I ask that you not judge the particular animal that some choose to make a part of their lives.  For now, just focus on the way you feel about your pets and give credit to reptile owners for feeling the same way about their companions.

In the United States dog ownership is under constant attack.  The source of this attack is most commonly the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).  Volumes have been written on the Internet about their deceptive ways but they continue to be successful in launching attacks against pet owners (and breeders) around the country.  I know your frustration regarding this because I feel it, too.  Dogs are only one of several targets of the HSUS.  Reptile keepers are also struggling with the HSUS’ powerful lobbying skills.  At this moment there is a bill in Congress called HR2811 which seeks a nationwide ban on many of the most popular reptiles in the pet community (the Senate version of the bill is called S373).  At a recent hearing in the House a team of more than 25 HSUS members were present to forward their efforts to get this bill made into law.

The reasons proposed for this ban are false.  They are being sensationalized by the HSUS and this is being compounded by the media.  South Florida does have a problem with a population of pythons having established themselves in the Everglades.  This problem, which is isolated to extreme South Florida is being used as a point of leverage to ban the ownership of pythons and boas throughout the entire United States.  There are two primary points of the HSUS argument:

1.The HSUS and USGS feel that the python might be able to spread north from Florida and establish itself in the lower 1/3 of the United States.

  • Because pythons cannot control their own body temperature this is simply not possible.  Highly experienced reptile veterinarians with detailed understanding of reptile physiology have testified to this fact.  The ecosystem of South Florida is largely unique in the United States.  Their ability to spread north from the Everglades is false and being driven by nothing more than the average person’s fear of snakes.  Pythons have been kept as pet for not less than 50 years in this country.  If they had the ability to establish themselves in other parts of the country, they would likely have done so by now.  One of the USGS’ selling points on this matter is that global warming over the next 100 years could allow the snakes to survive further north.  Is that what we’re going to do now?  Legislate the pet trade on what might happen in the decades to come?  Really?  Remember the movie Minority Report starring Tom Cruise?  In that movie people were  arrested and put in prison for crimes they were going to commit in the future.  Banning the ownership of snakes because the temperature might change in the future is just as preposterous.  That movie sought to teach us a subtle lesson; it appears that it was not learned.

2.Pythons are a public safety issue.

  • The HSUS states that pythons kill people and are a risk to public health.  This is both fear-driven and false.  Of the pets that people choose to keep pythons are one of the least likely to be a danger.  Severe injury or death because of a python is incredibly rare.  It is estimated that more than 5 million Americans own a reptile, several hundred thousand of which are large pythons and boas.  Over the past 30 years there have been a total of 12 deaths attributed to large pythons.  While nobody should ever discount the value of a life we have to admit that so few deaths in that many years is hardly justification for pythons being a public safety issue.  It is worthy to note that none of those 12 deaths was from a python or boa escaping into the wild and attacking someone.  Each of those incidents occurred in the home and each was the result of poor caging and/or improper handling.  The simple fact of the matter is that responsible ownership of pythons and boas is not a public health concern.

The pythons in the Everglades is a decidedly Florida problem.  Florida Fish and Wildlife has jumped on the bandwagon of this ban because federal legislation means federal dollars.  The prospect of getting the entire country to fund Everglades restoration is a compelling motivator.  In order to generate support for their desired end-result they have begun actively searching for pythons and when found they parade them about on the evening news.  The media, and their love of all things sensational, is glad to feature them.

One of the most recent efforts of the HSUS has been to call for a ban on the Boa Constrictor in addition to several python species (they initially tried to ban all pythons).  Suggesting a ban on ‘boa constrictor’ is the same thing as suggesting a ban on all terrier breeds because you feel that pit bulls are a problem.  It it absolutely ridiculous.  If one of the 15 species of terriers (that’s how many my research showed there to be) was a member of your family how would you feel if they were banned because of a HSUS/media-driven view of pit bulls?  I hope you would be as frustrated and angry as the reptile community is right now.  Similar to the diversity of terriers, there are literally dozens of different types of boa constrictors and most of them are very small as adults.  We are in danger of seeing a huge portion of the pet trade eliminated by this proposed legislation.  We are scared. We are angry.  And we are frustrated.

Now, here is the point of my letter:  The reptile community is not large enough to indefinitely withstand the assault being launched by the HSUS and our current political representation is too new and inexperienced to avoid being blindsided by the clever lobbying skills long-since perfected by the HSUS.  The passage of this bill is a very real possibility.  Because of this I am asking you to help me and the rest of the reptile community.  I need your help.  Part of my livelihood and my right to responsibly own the pet of my choosing is in danger of being taken away from me.  I need you to defend pet ownership in this country by contacting both your delegate in the House of Representatives and your Senator and tell them you oppose HR2811 (the House bill) and S373 (the Senate version of the bill).  I need this help because I believe with all my heart that the only way that pet owners in this country are ever going to be safe against the efforts of organizations like the HSUS is for all of us to work together to protect the rights of all pet owners, regardless of what type of pet it is.

Do this for me.  Please.  I need your help.  Make the call to your House delegate and your Senator and I, in return, make myself available to you when you need help in your fight for your right to have the pet of your choosing.  It is past time for the pet owners of this country to come together, to form a collective and work as a unit to oppose the HSUS’ attacks on responsible pet ownership.

To find out who represents you in the House of Representatives, follow this link:  https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

To find out who represents you in the Senate, follow this link:  http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

HR2811 is currently in committee in the House.  Here is a list of the committee members: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/committee.xpd?id=HSJU

Thank you,

Colin Weaver
cmweaver@gmail.com