United States Association of Reptile Keepers, Florida

News

  • Saturday, October 02, 2021 12:51 PM | USARK FL (Administrator)

    Earn cash prizes and help USARK FL design their next t-shirt!


  • Friday, July 02, 2021 9:26 PM | USARK FL (Administrator)

    Judge Cooper held a hearing today regarding the motion for injunctive relief filed by USARK FL and our plaintiffs. This hearing only concerned our request for an injunction. This means no ruling was made on the merits of our case and that hearing will be held later.

    The hearing was scheduled to last only two hours as Judge Cooper graciously made time to hear this before the enforcement date of July 29, 2021, even though he already had a packed caseload and schedule. It did last beyond that time, beginning at 9:30 and not ending until nearly 2:30 (inclusive of 70 minutes of break time).

    For a longer hearing, we would have been required to wait until well after the July 29 date which makes winning an injunction nearly impossible. Meeting the bar to receive injunctive relief is high enough when heard before any enforcement date, and many argue that winning an injunction requires a higher bar than winning a case on the merits.

    USARK FL and the plaintiffs were awarded injunctive relief but with a limited scope. While we argued for all of our members and responsible stakeholders, Judge Cooper awarded injunctive relief to the listed plaintiffs that hold permits (Class III and/or Conditional Species Permits) that expire after the enforcement date. Essentially, named plaintiffs will have until the expiration of their licenses before FWC can enforce the new rules.

    Please understand that USARK FL will always fight for all responsible herpetoculturists. We do not dictate how any court or judge may rule. This is how Judge Cooper ruled. We should have the filing explaining the terms of the injunction next week. Judge Cooper did make his oral ruling from the bench but we still must wait for the formal document.

    We appreciate everyone who has supported us and made this fight possible. USARK FL and Florida herpetoculture absolutely could not have better attorneys working on this case than our team from Holland & Knight. It seems this fight with FWC may just be the beginning as we already know that FWC is preparing to list and either heavily regulate or prohibit more reptile species.  We cannot overstate the crucial importance of USARK FL as an organized industry advocacy group moving forward. Without an organized front, the entirety of herpetoculture would be eliminated from Florida very soon.

  • Friday, May 28, 2021 2:42 PM | USARK FL (Administrator)

    USARK FL and Florida Business Owners Sue Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Over Due Process Violations

    Today (May 28, 2021), the United States Association of Reptile Keepers, Florida (USARK FL), along with several Florida business owners, filed a lawsuit in state court challenging the adoption of new rules by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) that ban the ownership and commercial breeding of 16 reptile species, with extremely narrow and temporary exemptions for only tegus and green iguanas, notwithstanding the success of the prior regulations which had authorized that conduct for more than a decade.

    The lawsuit contends that FWC did not follow its own due process procedures when banning the commercial pet trade of these reptiles. Specifically, FWC “failed to afford Plaintiffs [a] requested draw-out proceeding”—an administrative hearing “specifically designed to ensure credible, scientific data supports [FWC’s] classification of species; failed to prepare a statement of estimated regulatory costs that complies with [FWC’s] own due process procedures; [and] failed to consider and adopt less costly regulatory alternatives that would accomplish [FWC’s] objectives” without destroying an entire industry, among other failures.

    Currently, the reptile industry in Florida generates approximately $160 million in revenue to the state. These new rules will force hundreds of Florida reptile businesses to either shutter their doors or leave the state, and in some instances require individuals to give up animals they have raised from birth and consider as pets.   

    Phil Goss, President of the national USARK organization, said, “Common sense walked off a cliff with this latest action by FWC. It has been proven for over a decade that the Conditional Species program, not the Prohibited listing, does in fact ‘close the barn door’ for species listed as Conditional. However, this Prohibited Species proposal is uncharted territory for species commonly found in trade and has a much greater chance of creating problems, including a new black market and planned releases, rather than stopping them.”

    “Many of our members came to Florida because of the business-friendly environment the Governor and legislative leaders have cultivated,” stated Elizabeth Wisneski, President of USARK FL. “These new rules by the FWC, which eliminated a successful and highly-regulated permit program for these reptiles and implemented an outright ban, will have devastating consequences for small mom-and-pop businesses in our industry, at a time when we are just getting back on our feet.” 

    Two plaintiffs, Michelle Watts and John McHugh, said, “We relocated to Florida just last year and came into compliance with the restrictive FWC regulations. Now we are forced to move again, as we will not surrender or euthanize our animals. These animals are both our lives and our business, and now FWC has forced our family to suffer extreme emotional and financial duress without any attempt to discuss or consider the effects of the new rules on us.”

    USARK FL Government Affairs Director Eugene Bessette remembers far different times in Florida. “All we asked for was a fair shake and we did not get it. I have owned a reptile business for over 40 years in Florida. FWC historically collaborated with us responsible businesses but those days are gone. Rather than the teamwork that once existed to allow sensible dialogue, we now have a shift to unreasonable rules and an unwillingness to consider those affected. As disappointed as we are, it must be clear that we are not against regulation but we do oppose government overreach We will always offer our expertise to collaborate with FWC to do what is best for Florida and our environment.”

    A copy of the complaint is available HERE.

    A copy of the motion for temporary injunction is available HERE.

    What can you do?

    Currently, we need donations! This lawsuit will be expensive and we have retained one of Florida's top law firms, Holland & Knight, who prevailed on our lawsuit in 2020 to repeal the legislation that passed as Senate Bill 1414. We could not have a better firm and team representing us!

    How to donate:

    1. via our website at USARK FL - Donate

    2. mail checks made out to USARK FL to:

    USARK FL

    4525 S Florida Ave. #22

    Lakeland, FL 33813

  • Monday, March 29, 2021 4:45 PM | USARK FL (Administrator)

    Enter Today and you could win a captive born pair of Boelen's Pythons each with a complete custom Enclosure!

    You've got a chance to win a pair of well started, Indonesian captive born Mountain Forest Boelen’s Python hatchlings with two custom C Serpents enclosures to keep them in and a Zoo Med Environmental Control Center, ReptiTemp Digital Infrared Thermometer, ReptiFogger, Forest Floor Bedding, 2 ReptiRock Corner Water Dish and 2 large Spider Woods.

    The Boelen's Python has long been considered the Holy Grail of snake keeping in the United States and around the world. These snakes start out a rich maroon color and go through a ontogenetic color change, maturing into a black and white/yellow snake. Boelen's Pythons tend to be fairly easy going and easy to work with and handle. They are rarely seen in private collections.

    Proceeds go to USARK FLORIDA to fight for reptile owners rights.


  • Monday, March 29, 2021 4:42 PM | USARK FL (Administrator)

    From USARK National:

    U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) has introduced Senate Bill 626 (S626). This is a bill that would reverse the USARK federal lawsuit victory by reinstating the ban on interstate transportation of species listed as injurious under the Lacey Act. The bill would also create a “white list” (see #2 below). This goes far beyond large constrictor snakes. This will trickle down to hundreds or thousands of common pet species.  Also note this does not pertain only to non-native species. FWS has already listed U.S. native species of salamanders as injurious.

    Briefly, S626 will:

    1. Provide that the Lacey Act bans the interstate transport of species listed as injurious. Specifically, it replaces Lacey’s current language ‘‘shipment between the continental United States’’ with ‘‘transport between the States”;
    2. Create a “white list” of species that can be imported. This means that any animal (reptile, amphibian, fish, bird, mammal, invertebrate) that is not on the white list is by default treated as an injurious species and is banned from importation.
    3. Create a new authority allowing FWS to use an “emergency designation” that becomes effective immediately after being published in the Federal Register unless an extension of no more than 60 days is allowed. That means no due process, public input, hearings, advanced notice, etc. for injurious listings;
    4. Permit FWS to not allow importation if a species has not been imported in “minimal quantities” (to be defined) in the year prior to the enactment of this Act.
    5. The effective date would be one year after the enactment of this Act.

    Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) is a co-sponsor. S626 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

    Read the S626 text at https://usark.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/2021-S626-Lacey-Act.pdf.

    We will provide more details on actions to take.

    In our landmark court decision, four federal judges agreed that USARK was correct and that the Lacey Act (Title 18 Section 42 of the U.S. Code) did not ban interstate transportation of injurious species based on the original language of the Lacey Act and the intent of Congress. As a result of this fight for our members and the herpetocultural community, this meant animals domestically bred under human care could be moved and sold across state lines (within the continental United States). For herpetoculturists’ concerns, this included some species of constrictor snakes and 201 species of salamanders.


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