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Keep up with news and features of interest to the reptile and amphibian community on the kingsnake.com 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.
Sunday, November 20 2011
The Herpetological Community on borrowed time?
I'm writing this article to spark some conversation and open some thought. Whether you totally disagree with my sentiments or statements, feel free to comment and discuss. We need to get some open dialogue going, opinions and ideas formulated and a defense built up before it's too late:
City by city, state by state, legislation seems to sweeping the nation at an alarming rate. It seems that at least once a year, the exotic animal community is faced with at least one major situation which draws a lot of negative attention to its doorstep. Some of these issues are brought on by “exposes” from the Humane Society of the United States – aka – HSUS (not to be confused with your local pet shelter or humane society) and other animal rights movement organizations. However, more often than not, it is resulting from irresponsible behaviors within our own community, which get caught in the winds of news media outlets and spun out of control before the damage can be contained. The question now is, is it too late to stop the damage from spreading and more privileges being lost?
I don’t believe it is. I believe we can still save our community and what we are most passionate about. However, in order to do that, we need to come to reality and sit down with ourselves and have a heart to heart. I can’t think of one person that wants the government involved in the lives of herpetoculturists and telling us what we can and cannot have. However, as time progresses and more and more comes to light about our community, I don’t see it happening any other way unless we really slam the breaks and put it in reverse. The question we have to ask ourselves is who is the real enemy here? Is it the government? Is it HSUS, PETA and others? I’ll tell you who it is. It’s us. We are our own worst enemy. We have been practicing business methods that have been unsavory and unscrupulous for a long time now and it’s catching up and FAST.
It is first, very important that we all understand that what we have are not ‘rights’ to keep reptiles. It is a privilege. Consider driving a car, for example. Many think that they have a ‘right’ to drive a car. A ‘right’ is something that is afforded to you and cannot be taken away. Now, if that were true with driving a car, then that would mean that there should be no driving license requirement. There should be no insurance requirement. Failure to have those would result in…nothing. They can’t tell you to stop driving, because it’s a ‘right’. But, is that the case? If you’d like to test this theory, you’re welcomed to get drunk a couple times, get pulled over for various moving violations, and other assorted mindless acts and see how much longer you get to keep your driver’s license and be able to legally drive. Also, if you’re stupid enough to really put anything I just mentioned to the test, then I really don’t want you driving a car OR keeping a reptile. The same concept goes with reptiles. At one point in time in history, driver’s licenses and insurance weren’t even a thought. Drivers were fewer, roads were less crowded, and risks of accidents were practically nil. As time progresses, more people obtain motor vehicles, more conflicts occur and then the government has to step in, followed by driver’s licenses and insurance requirements. Get the idea? What you have is a privilege and it’s one you should hold dear.
It seems as if the reptile community has stepped away from our roots. We have completely forgotten some of the basic principles that made this community what it is. We have evolved over time in this community, some things have come available that are interesting and new. Morphs are bred, a great many new species available, habitat systems and vivarium technology have improved drastically, and our knowledge on the husbandry requirements of our charges has developed incredibly. But, it takes more than that to keep our community out of the legislative hot seat.
Responsibility is one of the key players in our community. Being sensible enough to make a proper judgment on what animals should be made easily available to the general public for sale, and the methods in which we make them available have a truly profound impact on how people relate to us as individuals and as a community. Unfortunately, we have a considerable number of bad apples that have decided that such practices are a waste of their time, and affect their wallet thickness. Some have decided that crocodilians (especially alligators), venomous snakes, and large constrictor snakes should be made easily available to anyone that wants them (whether you’re inexperienced, don’t have a proper home setup, or are entirely too young to provide a stable home environment). Now, keep in mind, it’s not everyone that does this. There are a great many responsible breeders and dealers out there, too. This isn’t meant to encompass everyone. However, there’s a significant enough number of these bad apples, that it’s worth mentioning and realizing that this is the source of our complications. Some might not understand what the primary issues with the 3 mentioned groups of animals. I’ll highlight those in future articles in the very near future for those who can’t figure it out.
The question is, what do we do from here? What’s our next course of action and how do we implement it? The thing that we have to understand is that legislation in some aspect is headed your way. You might be a keeper that doesn’t care to keep the above mentioned groups of animals, and keeping ball pythons and corn snakes might just be safe (for now). But, now, more than ever we have to work together. Here’s the kicker…in order to work together, we have to find a solution. It’s within finding the solution that we begin to argue and bicker and all of the conflicts arise. So what do we do? It’s simple…
A group that is dedicated to keeping these animals and does so for the right reasons and sees the value in sensible regulations (or self-regulation!!) will probably work together to formulate a plan that would hopefully result in a similar situation such as the AZA exemption for the parties involved. A lot of people don’t like the AZA. They don’t like them because they feel they threw private keepers under the bus and only look out for themselves. You’re damned right they do and they were smart to do it. Otherwise, they would be included with all of these roadside menageries and the like and would be swept up in regulations that would impact them as well. However, they can’t sit around and try to fight for us, simply because we can’t get our crap together. That’s up to US to do. That’s our job.
For those who don’t like ANY regulations at all, and prefer to go underground, that’s your choice. If you wish to take that risk and if you’re caught, get bit by your cobra, or whatever the case might be, you’re on your own. You dug your grave, now lie in it. But, as for the keepers that have established a rapport and a positive image, they will already have rules and guidelines to follow for safety of the general public, the welfare of the animals, and the education of those around them. Some will take a position stating something along the lines of, “Well, if they’re willing to do that, they’re throwing us all under the bus to save themselves.” There would be nothing further from the truth. You were offered to get on the same bus, but you preferred to remain standing at the bus stop.
For those willing to be proactive and make changes in our community for the better advancement of what we have to offer the world, conservation and education of our general public, rewards are there in the form of being able to keep and enjoy the animals that we love and admire. For those who wish to sit back, bicker and yell about how it’s “not fair”, they will be left to wallow in their bitterness. However, I do say that the doors to the bus will remain forever open, so long as you’re willing to step up to the plate as a responsible and dedicated member of a community that has so much to offer the world.
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Yeah, ill take advice from a dipshit. Don't think so. All chris does is bitch bitch bitch. Take your own advice.
Hi Chris. Great name, looks familiar. Here's a tip, though. The next time you want to run your mouth, grow some balls and use YOUR name. It holds more validity to your claims, otherwise, you're just another troll and your comments are discounted. Thanks.
Chris is absolutely right. (the guys with big mouths but no informed criticisms are idiots-disregard them. Also, name calling and throwing around meaningless platitudes is not informed debate, which we need here. The wild west isn't the wild west anymore (it died around 1890)because that sort of reckless behavior was no longer tolerated by the majority.I remember when there were no lease laws. Things change. We either bring our hobby into the 21st century or we risk losing it. I'd love it if people included their ages and experience (after age 18) with herps. I'm 51 and have 33 adult years with hots and non-not herps.
An excellent article that I agree with 110%. This is not only a U.S. problem, but, it is a problem in every country that allows the ownership of exotic animals (and even the usual, domestic 'pet' animals). Responsibility is the key to keeping our privileges, and if we can't unite and work together, we will lose everything, and we will only have ourselves to blame.
One bad apple in a box of good apples will result in many bad apples - we need to remove the bad apples to keep the good apples.
Yes folks, it's come to this. Time for us to grow up as a hobby, a community, and an industry. We truly will lose everything if we don't work together. Good one Chris!
I completely disagree. The problem is the premise that keeping reptiles is not a right, but a privilege. This way of thinking has to end. As long as you think like this (and it extends into other areas of life, not just reptiles), you are going to lose more and more until nothing is left.
What I would proposes is that the reptile community goes on the offense instead of continually playing defense. The ideology and motivation of the "animal rights" groups needs to be exposed, as well as the sensationalism and pseudo-science behind the news articles attacking our hobby/businesses.
First his REAL name is Chris Law and unfortunately he is correct...
Thanks for the feedback and thoughts. Firstly, I'd like to say that I agree with nearly everything you said. AR groups need to be exposed for their ideologies and sound scientific evidence needs to be put into motion when exposing their claims. News media sensationalism needs to be attacked harshly (much like we did with the 'under cover' reporter who 'exposed' how easy it is to obtain an Egyptian Cobra in PA.
However, we can sit back and deliberate about whether or not we have 'rights' or 'privileges'. Either way, they ARE freedoms at this point. Unfortunately, there is nothing that states that these are 'rights'. Our closest defense is in the Declaration of Indepence, in the line stating that we have a right to life, liberty and PURSUIT of happiness. That doesn't mean that you are guaranteed anything and everything so long as it will make you 'happy.' The more we grasp reality, the better defense we will have. But, in our situation, I agree we definitely need offense, but that doesn't mean we don't come prepared with a good defense as well. Thanks for commenting!
It seems like more elitist segregation (which the aza has promoted for years). If it wasn't for roadside non aza credited menageries such as Dean ripas serpertarium or clyde peelings place (and many others) the aza wouldn't have ever had the.privilege of exhibiting some of the rarer species that they do (and furthermore look at all the aza escapes that did make press, not to mention one that didn't).That's what the herp community needs more separation and finger pointing ( unlike the well aligned equine community who despite fatalities can successfully defend against all parties, cause they stick together!). I mean divide and conquer seems the easiest way to break up and destroy a community doesn't it? Really seems like an attempt to continue the separate and destroy mentality geared towards the private community. My. 2
I really wish things were that simple, and theoretically, you have a point. However, here's where the issue comes into play. The AZA still has standards. So, when they have an accident, there can be a punishment recourse (losing AZA accreditation and then being subsequently subject to the state's current laws in place, lawsuits, etc). When it comes to people or facilities with no rules to abide by and no punishment recourse, then what happens?
The equine community is certainly more together than we are in many ways. But, even they have rules and guidelines that are often developed by the state for the proper and safe keeping of the horses (minimum acreage, fencing requirements, etc). Just a thought.
Nothing's going to be an easy answer. Obviously, we want to get away with as little government influence as we can. But, if those who are causing many of our issues don't want to step up to the plate and start rectifying their poor choices that put us in these situations, then we're constantly going to be battling and eventually, we will lose it all.
"I completely disagree. The problem is the premise that keeping reptiles is not a right, but a privilege. This way of thinking has to end. As long as you think like this (and it extends into other areas of life, not just reptiles), you are going to lose more and more until nothing is left."
Where in the Constitution does it specifically protect owning reptiles? Or that one has the "right" to own any animal, property, or possession? It doesn't.
And that's the problem.
"Where in the Constitution does it specifically protect owning reptiles? Or that one has the "right" to own any animal, property, or possession? It doesn't."
I'm sorry but you have it backwards. The constitution isn't intended to list specifically what rights we have as individuals (it leaves that to the states), but instead limits the federal government's authority. The point is that there is nothing in there giving the government the authority to restrict private property, which would include my, or anyone else's reptile collection.
Chris my point isn't theoretical. Without certain private keepers and institutions ( many private zoos are Far better and more equipped than aza) certain animals would not be around. Parviocula, mangs, blackhead bushmasters etc. Every institution has rules and half the time aza doesn't even abide by there own. For years elitist in aza have tried to quash the more than competitive private community and this just seems like another attempt. I have worked aza and not and Both have pros n cons. But to separate the community it again seems like aza trying to gain an upper hand. Aza pays who will take the wage, not necessarily the most qualified parties.
You're technically correct in this regard. But, what would you suppose we do, then? Obviously we have issues that need to be addressed. What's currently happening isn't working. All we're doing is crying 'Victim' without trying to step up and make any changes. What would you suggest?
I do feel that the reptile community should at least start holding itself to higher standards. Perhaps start an organization with specific husbandry and handling regulations and a modest entry fee to certify herp owners. Make it so that isn't impossible to join, but you DO have to follow certain rules, as well as any state rules, and any violations are dealt with within the organization itself.
This not only shows "Hey, we're policing ourselves so that everyone stays safe, we're being responsible about what we're doing" to people in general, but anyone wanting to buy from a breeder in said organization is pretty much garunteed to get a healthy animal, and any complaints (like what goes on the BOI now) would be forwarded to the organization so that they can deal with the person in question.
I know it's probably not an ideal solution, and there are a LOT of kinks to be ironed out, but it would be a start. I'd rather be proactive, be able to show that I'm a certified, responsible owner and breeder, and know that I have a bunch of people at my back should the wolves come knocking at the door to try and take away my reptiles. This wouldn't just be a way of policing ourselves, it would be a way to support each other, and weed out the bad eggs.
The government already says I cannot have a cannon. It doesn't say I cannot have a hand cannon. So the 'private property' issue is out the window here. The fact that the Bill of Rights states I can own a firearm and the government does say I cannot have an anti-aircraft machine gun mounted on my roof is perfect example of how they can legally regulate even a clearly defined right.
Some of us have seen this community grow tremendously in the past 10-15 years. With quick expansive growth comes growing pains. We caught the attention of animal rights extremists. We have to deal with that accordingly.
Mr Law is right here. Fortunately majority has the sense to support proactive and pre-emptive attempts to save our lifestyle. Any who sees to undermine those attempts and call themselves responsible keepers are dragging us down. If you are not a part of the solution you are part of the problem. Get on board with someone with some kind of plan or just get the hell out of the way. You're impeding progress.
Until I see a better plan than the USARK model legislation here in NC, that doesn't infringe on privacy or ban account and is a responsible common sense practice; I'm backing that as an industry standard.
I am relatively new to the reptile community, and I only have a few smaller snakes ball pythons, sand boas, and a few imverts, but I have seen some questionable behavior - people being able to buy animals via facebook actions, pet stores selling bad or sick animals..ect...
my question is how do we start to police the people that are causing the issues?
I do not buy and try to encourage friends to stay away from bad dealers.
And how can we know who will be responsible with the animal they get? Some people just lie.
I really love this hobby and I do think it is a exciting time to be getting it to it. I want to help the hobby, I think we need some positive publicity. when i was a kid I had Steve Irwin on the animal planet, now they just show show after show on animal hoarders that die... I really wish Steve Irwin was still around
A lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of ANY licensing process--myself included, because I do think that if you give the government a Burmese, it takes a ball. (No pun intended.)But I keep coming back to the model of falconry when I consider giant snakes, crocodilians, and hot species.
A falconer has to complete a course of training, enter an apprenticeship program with a master falconer, familiarize himself with the captive needs of birds of prey, show that he can provide for his bird, and then AND ONLY THEN is allowed to obtain one. This seems like a lot of nonsense, but does it weed out the idiots? You bet. Someone not fully committed to becoming a falconer will not commit to the training process.
The true giants, the crocodilians and the dangerously venomous snakes (elapids, viperids and about three genera of rear-fangs) by their very nature, make demands of a keeper which most people are not up to dealing with. Many of us may admire these animals and love them, but realize that for whatever reason, they're not for us. Others of us are willing to go to the appropriate lengths to ensure that these demanding captives are properly housed and cared for, and are justifiably concerned that all our hard work will be for nothing and we'll lose our animals anyway.
The problem is that we all know people who get these animals for the wrong reasons and give us all a bad name. And something needs to be done to ensure--for the sakes of the animals and the hobby and every legitimate hobbyist out there--that these wonderful, demanding and potentially dangerous creatures wind up with only the most dedicated of owners. I know that if coursework to get certification for keeping giant snakes or hot species were in place, I'd pay to take it: I think the overwhelming majority of people who are serious and care about the hobby and the animals would. As to how many critters you could keep, or who would administer it, or a dozen other questions--hey, I don't have all the answers, and I'd welcome constructive suggestions from anyone who could suggest how this rough idea could be improved.
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