Just got this.

UPDATE: Florida

On September 9th 2009 USARK President Andrew Wyatt attended the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) meeting near Orlando with Bill Brant and Eugene Bessette.

On the agenda were two items impacting the Reptile Nation:

1. A Draft Resolution allowing the humane dispatch, by licensed hunters, of trapped Burmese Pythons on state lands.

2. A discussion of proposals issued by state legislators to regulate or BAN all Reptiles of Concern (ROC); specifically Burmese Pythons (P.molurus), African Rock Pythons (P. sebae), Reticulated Pythons (P. reticulatus), Amethystine Python (Morelia amethistina), Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus) & Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus).

There were 22 speakers signed up to speak on these issues. Andrew Wyatt spoke representing the thousands of Florida residents and stakeholders that make up USARK membership. Wyatt commended the FWC commissioners for their history and willingness to work with the reptile industry on finding equitable and effective ways to address issues. Wyatt further pointed out that the critics of FWCs ROC statute were ideologically driven to end all reptile ownership and he cautioned not to allow special interests to capitalize on recent media sensationalism as a tool to destroy the reptile industry. The ROC statute is a new statute that should not be discarded prior to allowing sufficient time to bring the majority of owners into compliance. To this end USARK offered assistance in raising awareness and promoting amnesty days.

Eugene Bessette offered ways to tighten loopholes and improve the ROC statute. Other speakers of note were Wayne Hill, Michael Cole, Marc Cantos and Terry Cullen.

Leading the Animal Rights (AR) effort to promote an across the board ban was the Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy (Authors of federal Ban proposal HR669).

Prior to the meeting USARK engineered a massive grass roots email campaign to reinforce our positions. Over 9,000 emails were generated. Our largest email campaign to date. The letter to FWC Commissioners was supportive of FWC policies and paved the way to further constructive conversations. It was copied to Florida Governor Crist. The Reptile Nation deserves big kudos for flexing a little grass roots muscle at precisely the right time. Thank you to all who participated!!

The combination of leadership and grass roots support proved favorable with the FWC tabling the issue of the ban on ROC's. They left all options on the table and USARK is optimistic and encouraged by FWC's measured response.

Click here to view the FWC notes on the meeting


Protecting Florida Reptiles and responsible Reptile Keepers, from AR extremists who are bent on destroying the captive bred reptile industry, may be a costly affair. What happens in Florida will have a ripple effect across the Reptile Nation. It is up to Florida residents, stakeholders and the Reptile Nation to help raise funds for this effort. In keeping with our pledge of assistance, USARK will soon roll out a new public relations campaign to bring more citizens into compliance with ROC statutes while preserving the ability of permitted individuals to continue to work with their charges. We need every-body's help, but especially Florida residents and stakeholders.

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