Buried within the 2,912 pages of the America COMPETES Act of 2022 lie Lacey Act amendments that affect all non-domesticated pet/animal (i.e. all animals except dogs, cats, and traditional farm animals) owners. COMPETES is an acronym for Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength. The stated purpose of the Act is to strengthen America’s economic and national security but obviously, this was slipped into the massive bill in hopes to go unnoticed.
The amendments 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) that could affect millions of pet owners, as well as pet businesses. Could your pet or species of interest (not just reptiles) potentially survive in southern Florida or any other location in the U.S.? Then it could be listed as injurious for just that reason! If this passes and your species of interest, even your pet, is listed as injurious, then it cannot be transported across state lines. That means you could not even take a pet with you if you moved to another state or needed veterinary care across a state border. This does not just ban sales but prohibits all interstate transportation and importation into the U.S. This will trickle down to hundreds or thousands of common pet species.
The America COMPETES Act may pass in the House next week. If passed in the House, it will then be sent to the Senate to be reconciled with an innovation policy package called the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, or USICA, that passed in the Senate last year. The America COMPETES Act is the House Democrats’ response to USICA (which does not contain the Lacey Act Amendment). The House Rules Committee will hear the America COMPETES Act on February 1, 2022. It may go to a House floor vote the next day. This is the same language we saw introduced by Florida Senator Marco Rubio as Senate Bill 626 in 2021.
Briefly, the amendments will:
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The effective date would be one year after the enactment of this Act.
Read the relevant amendment text (these are pages 1661-1665) at https://usark.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/2022-HR4521-excerpt.pdf.
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.
What To Do
Through Feb. 2, contact the House Rules Committee and your federal Representatives. Remember to be civil and professional at all times. Please personalize/edit your letters, if possible. If the bill passes the House with the amendments, then attention must turn to the Senate.
1. Call your Representatives’ offices (link below) and the Rules Committee at (202)-225-9091;
2. Email Representatives (link below);
3. Fax letters to (202)-226-9191 and your Representatives;
4. SHARE this and encourage others to complete the Alert!!!
Find your U.S. Representative: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
- Simply go to the link above and enter your zip code. Your Representative will appear. Just click on his/her name to send them emails through their websites. You will simply complete the contact form and copy your version of the sample letter below.
- The America COMPETES Act was referred to the House Rules Committee on Ways and Means. You can find those members at https://rules.house.gov/about/rules-committee-members. If your Representative is on this Committee, be sure to contact them and tell them you are a negatively affected constituent.
NO to Lacey Act Amendments in America COMPETES Act
I implore you to remove the Lacey Act amendments found in the America COMPETES Act (pages 1661-1665) as your constituent, dedicated advocate for ecological conservation, and pet owner. The lack of forethought involved makes these amendments rife with unintended consequences and government overreach.
Not only would these amendments be devastating to thousands of businesses of all sizes (which is absolutely contrary to the purpose of the COMPETES Act), but millions of pet owners would be harmed. As seen previously when listing species as injurious under the Lacey Act, a heavy-handed brush is used to paint species as injurious that may only be an issue for one or two states, and hardly any large percentage of the U.S. While a concern for only one state, all other states feel the unjust implications and restrictions. For example, even after Florida had addressed injurious threats from certain snakes, the federal government still listed them as injurious and harmed thousands of owners and businesses across the U.S. where the snakes could not possibly have an impact. And now, while Florida has completely banned these species, herpetoculturists in all other states would suffer from the overreaching government action should these amendments pass into law. Even though peer-reviewed science found that these species risks to the continental U.S. were isolated to southern Florida and possibly a small spot in Texas (both states that had already regulated these species), the federal government felt compelled to take tyrannical action.
If these amendments pass, the Lacey Act will leave pet owners everywhere unable to move across state lines with their family pets. This restriction would include prohibitions of interstate travel for veterinary care, for educational programs, and for relocation of family. The impact will be disproportionately felt by military service members, who are often relocated multiple times during a pet’s lifetime.
The federal and appellate courts have already decided that a ban on interstate transportation with injurious species is not based on the original intent of Congress, but a gradual overreach by the federal agency. This upholds that banning interstate transportation is overreaching and that only the localities, or states, with range matches should consider regulations regarding these species. Incorporating interstate movements into the Lacey Act will turn law-abiding pet owners into potential criminals.
Regulation of wildlife has traditionally been a matter reserved to the states. State borders are already secure from injurious and invasive species as those states have the authority to regulate them. States continue to take measures regarding such species and since the climate varies so greatly across the U.S., the states should decide which species need to be addressed, not the federal government which must consider the entirety of the U.S. as only one climate zone. I cannot elaborate enough on the need to regulate injurious species at the state and local levels, not nationwide by a federal agency.
The interstate transport ban under the Lacey Act is not my only concern. The bill’s section titled Presumptive Prohibition on Importation is especially alarming. This section would allow for every non-native species to be treated as injurious, even if not listed as such. This language creates a white list (accepted) that produces a black list (banned) by default. The opportunity for injustice and oppressiveness is disturbing!
Rather than this new knee-jerk and supreme authority provided to the federal agency, any expansion of the Lacey Act to create interstate movement bans and a ‘white list/black list’ scenario should include reforms to the injurious listing process, including proof of widespread impact based on sound, peer-reviewed science, and definitely not the biased, pseudo-science witnessed previously. I also believe that the role of the States should be preserved in matters related to the regulation of wildlife within their borders or through regional agreements. Individual states are best positioned to assess local threats and balance the relative costs and benefits of prohibiting species.
These Lacey Act amendments are far-reaching and, frankly, un-American. Thank you for your time and consideration on this matter. Please realize that the Lacey Act amendments found within the America COMPETES Act are illogical and unjust. Have a good day.
Reposted from https://usark.org/2022lacey/