United States Association of Reptile Keepers, Florida

News

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  • Friday, April 22, 2022 5:21 PM | Christina Williams

    We don't want this Blanket ban 


    It's Not the right thing to do & will make the Bad people do more like smuggle and sell  and other bad stuff



    SAY NO TO THE BLANKET BAN

    Please

  • Monday, April 11, 2022 10:00 AM | USARK FL (Administrator)

    Do you have a license to keep reptiles? The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is seeking to regulate reptile businesses beyond the scope of their constitutional authority.  In effect, you will not have the same due process and private property rights as other small businesses in Florida. Speak your mind to FWC at the public hearing for rule 68A-6.003 on April 11th, 2022.  

     

    FWC Hearing on rule 68A-6.003 

    Monday, April 11, 2022 

    10:00am-5:00pm 

    Hilton UF Conference Center  

    1714 SW 34th St 

    Gainesville, FL 32607 

     


    You must arrive by 10:00am to sign up to speak. Even if you do not plan to speak, your presence and that of anyone you are able to bring will be important. Please bring your family and friends. This hearing could mark a turning point in our struggle to continue to keep reptiles and other animals in Florida.  We know it is on a Monday.  It is worth clearing your calendar to attend. 

     

    Background 

     

    FWC appears to have recently ramped up the denial and revocation of captive wildlife licenses. Their actions seem to demonstrate a strategy of denying licenses based on paperwork errors and other technical violations not related to the actual care or well-being of animals.  


    While FWC maintains that they do not anticipate a dramatic increase in revocations, they do admit that the number would increase, even if "violations" were for only paperwork or other trivial matters. It is difficult to deny that the addition of pages of new captive wildlife regulations in recent years will produce an increase in violations due to the difficulty of complying with these complex rules. FWC says that they anticipate a cost savings for the agency because they won’t have to inspect facilities that have had their permits revoked. 

     

    What does FWC rule 68A-6.003 do? 

     

    • This rule deprives small business owners involved in the keeping of reptiles and other animals of due process rights and private property rights. 

     

    • It makes it easier for FWC to revoke or deny licenses and confiscate animals.  

     

    • It punishes associates of reptile keepers for violations committed by other people.  

     

    • Under this rule, a business owner’s license could be revoked because of a violation by an employee.

     

    • A family member’s freedom to keep animals may be infringed because of a violation by another family member. This is like everyone in a household losing their driver’s licenses because one member of the family had his license suspended.

     

    The history and text of the rule may be found at this link: 

    https://www.flrules.org/gateway/ruleno.asp?id=68A-6.003 

     

  • Wednesday, March 02, 2022 8:00 AM | USARK FL (Administrator)

    This Wednesday, March 2nd and Thursday, March 3rd will be the next FWC commission meeting at the Tampa Convention Center, Ballroom D, 333 S. Franklin Street, Tampa 33602.

    USARK FL would like to encourage everyone to attend this event and invite your friends. 

    On Wednesday, staff will be proposing rules relating to nonnative species and on Thursday everyone will have an opportunity to speak on items not on the agenda. If you can not attend both days, we recommend you attend Thursday for "items not on the agenda". 

    Why is it important? This is YOUR opportunity to voice your concerns directly to the commissioners. Although staff makes recommendations for proposed rules to the commissioners, the commissioners have to vote and pass ALL proposed rules. If you don't share your concerns they will never know. 

    There is power in numbers! Let's show this commission how powerful we are!

  • Saturday, February 26, 2022 4:00 PM | USARK FL (Administrator)

    Come out and support USARK Florida and have a great time!

  • Thursday, February 24, 2022 11:43 AM | USARK FL (Administrator)

    Lacey-handout fl.pdf

    Please see this attached file and get the information out!

  • Tuesday, January 18, 2022 10:00 AM | USARK FL (Administrator)

    The judge in the yellow anaconda case has ordered the parties to mediate the case.  That mediation will be held virtually via Zoom on Tuesday, January 18, 2021, starting at 10:00 a.m. ET, and all plaintiffs must attend.  The Zoom link has been sent out to those plaintiffs. On the Zoom you’ll have representatives from Holland & Knight, USARK Florida President Elizabeth Wisneski, the mediator and other FWC’s representatives.

  • Saturday, November 13, 2021 12:00 PM | USARK FL (Administrator)


  • 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

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