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Keep up with news and features of interest to the reptile and amphibian community on the blog. We cover breaking stories from the mainstream and scientific media, user-submitted photos and videos, and feature articles and photos by Jeff Barringer, Richard Bartlett, and other herpetologists and herpetoculturists.

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Legislative alert: Pennsylvania looking to ban sale of alligators, venomous snakes

By Cindy Steinle
Wed, February 9 2011 at 08:24

Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)

Jesse Rothacker here. This story has misrepresented me, unfortunately. I have been asking legislators for years to ban the sale and purchase of American Alligators, and ONLY American Alligators. Our rescue gets weekly calls for unwanted gators, and we have to turn most of them away because there is simply nowhere to go with them when they're more than a few years old. Zoos and institutions don't want them, private owners don't have the resources for a giant aquatic reptile that may live 50 years, and they cannot be released in the wild. The best owners usually do a great job with their pet alligator for 5-20% of the animal's lifespan at most. Even for owners who love their pet alligator, the story rarely has a happy ending for the animal. And when unwanted gators are released in local creeks or found abandoned around town or in vacant apartments, the entire reptile community suffers from the negative press.

However, I have never advocated regulations beyond this one species. In fact I warned legislators NOT to include other exotics in an alligator bill. Although Senator Alloway told me that he is being pressured to ban many exotics, I have been adamant about limiting the regulations to ONLY this one species. My idea is to ban the sale and purchase of A. mississippiensis, but NOT possession. So current gators would not be affected, but dealers would no longer be able to add new gators into the pet trade in PA. Please contact Senator Alloway's office and ask them to limit the bill to A. mississippiensis.

Here is the link for the current version of the bill:

At this point the bill has not been introduced because Senator Alloway is still seeking legislators to consponsor it. I urge all keepers to get involved in the process! I know keepers have mixed opinions on regulating alligators, but we can all agree that a ban on several species at once is not good for anyone. Please contact Senator Alloway's office and urge him not reevaluate.

We are also asking him to provide time for public comment and public "work groups" that include breeders, academics, zoos, rescues, etc (similar to the work group that helped with the 2007 PA native species laws, and changed the law to exempt subspecies, color morphs, etc).

Please remember that Senator Alloway's office is also being pressured by groups that do not share the interests of the reptile community. He needs to hear from us to, so please be respectful and reasonable. But whatever you do, please make your voice heard in his office and be a part of the process.

Your friend in education and conservation, Jesse Rothacker
#1 Jesse Rothacker (Homepage) on 2011-02-11 06:59 (Reply)
"private owners don't have the resources for a giant aquatic reptile that may live 50 years"

"The best owners usually do a great job with their pet alligator for 5-20% of the animal's lifespan at most. Even for owners who love their pet alligator, the story rarely has a happy ending for the animal."

I responded over in the law forum Jesse. As you know, I have a female American Alligator who is in her teens/early 20's and was initially a rescue who has been in my care for over 10 years, with no plans of her going anywhere else for the rest of her life. (Barring any laws which would make it illegal for me to continue keeping her, which is getting harder every year...)

I can say from experience, properly keeping and maintaining a female American Alligator is no where as expensive as properly keeping and maintaining a large varanid, like a Water Monitor.

While I don't sell or buy alligators, (or any crocodilians OR venomous snakes) that part of this does not effect me personally, I'd hate to be a venomous snake keeper & breeder and have this pass. (And just because I am not one doesn't mean I'd sell out my fellow herpetoculturist - I know there are responsible venomous snake keepers & breeders here in PA)

I too have been offered Alligators that I do not wish to keep, or can not keep, and a few times I have taken Alligators in and passed them immediately along to a rescue, or another person so they wouldn't be dumped in the wild. I've done the same thing for lizards, snakes & turtles too though. I agree Alligators are sold cheaply and in numbers at PA's reptile expos, and that irresponsible people can and do purchase them. The same exact thing is true of venomous snakes, especially the poor snakes sold basically as novelty animals.("Venomoids")

Being that the law would be JUST to end the selling and purchasing of American Alligators in the state of PA, and not affect the possession of, I am much less bothered by it, but am concerned about once it gets in place, it being "extended" in the future. I take it this ban would also mean that no PA citizen could legally purchase an alligator from another state where they can be legally posses either?

As I said on the law forum, if you ban American Alligators, and let other species be legal, some other crocodilian is just going to "fill the hole" - Years ago, it used to be that Spectacled Caimans that were purchased in droves and given away. The caimains I have, and have had came to me in that exact way. Those animals were imported in numbers and were at every show - until they were federally banned. Then gators took their place.

Whats next then, are you going to be deluged with Nile crocs, until we have banned the sale of all crocodilians here in PA?

I am pretty sure there are gator farms that will take unwanted gators. I've seen a few rescues here in PA say they will take ANY unwanted reptile, and seem to include crocodilians. (I've seen some especially indicating crocodilians - wither these are legitimate rescues or not, I have no idea)
#1.1 Ravenspirit on 2011-02-12 02:17 (Reply)
Unfortunately any time you open your mouth in a negative way when it concerns reptiles theres a animal wrights group ready to take up the cause against the sale or ownership.with all the thousands of reps. sold annually ,the problems concerning them are almost insignificant.when compared to the 4.7 million dog bites in the 2010 . 1000 emergency room visits per day .34 fatal attacks in 2010.300million paid out in home owners ins. total losses paid out exceed 1billion per year.hospitalization as a result of dog bites went up 86% in 2010.Now that sounds like a problem.Why isn't anybody screaming about that. most people try to do the the wright thing by contacting animal rescue groups ,and asking for help in placing unwanted animals.If an animal is unplaceable why not charge a small fee 5,10 bucks to euthanize the animal.problem solved .after all we already euthanize millions of dogs and cats each year.take a lesson from florida, they had no plan in place for unwanted reps,so people released ,now aprob. in everglades.I understand they now have a program ,that on a certain day of the month they have somewhere you can go and turn in unwanted animals. problem solved. by banning the sale of anything you only drive the sale of it underground.
#1.2 phil on 2011-02-12 09:46 (Reply)
If Rothacker hadn't decided that he needed to think for the rest of us, we wouldn't be dealing with this issue now. Aside from the fact that, in the north, female American Alligators can easily live in an 8 foot tank for life, it's just plain irritating hearing this guy whine because his cause is now out of control. Plenty of people, myself included, warned him about this type of thing happening, but in his arrogance, he disregarded the opinions of many more experienced croc people. Rothacker owns this mess.
#1.3 Steve Binnig on 2011-02-20 14:22 (Reply)
It wouldn't be news reporting if they didn't gut your dialogue and warp it to fit their agenda. However, I agree with you Jesse in regards to being able to give the animal the life it needs for the first few years of its life. And at the same time, it is disheartening to see an animal at a show that you know doesn't have a real chance of living its entire life to its full potential. And sure a lot of sentiments out there are that well if you give them gators, then they'll take more. And they are trying that already because they are trying to couple it with the gator ban. But at what point do people who don't want to lose their rights in this hobby to stand up and say we have to stop the wrong people from getting their hands on the animals? The problem is the herp industry has become a big money maker, and i think a lot of people treat it as that.

You take a look at a state like California, and they have put guidelines in place for animal dealers. Making a dealer charge tax and give receipts isn't necessarily a bad thing. It protects all parties. The problem with the hobby isn't that governing officials want to take rights away, but so many people display behavior in which they don't deserve those rights. So instead of blaming those officials for everything, why don't the leaders of the reptile hobby take more responsibility to educate people. Make education seminars part of reptile shows. Not just breeding talks, but try to steer people into the right direction of purchasing the RIGHT animal suited for them. I think too many times people try to make the most lucrative sale. But the truth of the matter is, if we want outsiders to take what we do seriously, then we need to step up and be more responsible by watching who we sell to and put an extra effort on educating people. That can even include deterring people from buying something when it is obvious they are not ready and/or capable of caring for it. Let's place more emphasis on education and responsibility - let's make reptile expos an EXPERIENCE, not just a market...
#2 Harvey on 2011-02-11 07:41 (Reply)
Pa. native amphibian and reptile law went overboard to the point where you can't even keep tiger salamanders in Pa. because they were once native to Pa. Now the alligator reg could go overboard and possibly ban all venomous snakes and alligators. This will put a major hurt on East coast reptile and amphibian keepers if it goes through. This legislation would be tough on the Hamburg show.

This is a prime example of legislators going overboard on reptile and amphibian regulations. Jesse got it started. I hope he can get it stopped.
#3 M. Shrom on 2011-02-19 17:14 (Reply)
Hello. And Bye.
#4 Nendesotots on 2011-03-01 12:38 (Reply)

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