Florida's Giant Snake Problem
An editorial in yesterday’s Columbus Dispatch called on Ohio lawmakers to crack down on the trade in dangerous exotic pets, referencing not only the problems in their own backyard but also the problems 1,000 miles away—as Burmese pythons, Nile monitor lizards, and other imported species interfere with Florida’s ecosystems. While Ohio politicians have failed to pass common-sense policies and the state ranks among the lowest in the nation on animal protection laws, Florida and federal policymakers are doing their part to tackle this animal welfare, public safety, and ecological threat.
Last week Florida lawmakers took action to prohibit private possession of species considered “reptiles of concern” in the state. These species—Burmese pythons, Northern and Southern African pythons, reticulated pythons, amethystine pythons, green anacondas and Nile monitor lizards—are or have the potential to become invasive and prey on native wildlife. They also can pose dangers to people, as evidenced by the two-year-old toddler who was killed in Florida when a Burmese python escaped from an aquarium in her home.
The Florida legislature unanimously passed a bill to stop new acquisitions of these animals as pets. Existing, legally owned animals would be grandfathered in under the new law, but the procurement of new large snakes would be barred. We urge Governor Charlie Crist to sign this bipartisan bill into law to protect people, Florida’s treasured ecosystems, and the welfare of the animals who suffer in the exotic pet trade.
In addition, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved draft rules that essentially accomplish the same purpose and will consider final rule-approval in June.
At the federal level, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed important new rules to list nine species of large constrictor snakes as “injurious,” which will stop importation and interstate commerce in these animals as pets. The species were chosen based on a comprehensive report by the U.S. Geological Survey that found they all pose high or medium risk to the environment; none are low risk.
When you add in the threat to humans, and the suffering that the snakes themselves endure in the trade, then the case for a trade ban for all nine species of large constrictor snakes is overwhelming. We are grateful for the leadership of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in advancing this critical policy reform.
Comments on the proposed federal rules are due May 11. You can submit a comment directly here, or if you use our form before May 5 to make a supportive comment we will print and deliver it for you. Thank you for taking action to stop the trade in giant snakes.