The passing of Florida’s S.B. 318 effectively bans six types of reptiles from Florida.
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Burmese python by David Northcott.
Last week, Florida Governor Charlie Crist approved S.B. 318, a bill that will have long-standing repercussions in the reptile industry. The text of the bill can be read here, but I thought I’d provide a brief explanation of what this means to the reptile community. I’ve seen questions from people on ReptileChannel, as well as REPTILES
First, let’s review the “reptiles of concern” that the bill addresses. They are the Burmese, reticulated, rock and amethystine pythons; anacondas; and the Nile monitor. Some people, a bit confused between this state bill and the proposed federal rule change we’ve also reported on, have asked if the boa constrictor is part of the Florida bill. The boa constrictor is not a Florida reptile of concern, and it is not affected by this law. It is being considered for addition to the Lacey Act’s list of injurious species, a proposed rule change that is a federal issue. Florida S.B. 318 is a state bill, pertaining only to Florida.
So Burmese, retics, anacondas, rock pythons, Nile monitors and amethystine pythons are the only reptiles that the new law affects (for now anyway…the bill also hints that other reptiles could be added to the list in the future). Some people who currently keep these species are now wondering if their pets are illegal due to the new law. That depends. Up until now, to keep these animals in Florida has required a permit. If you are already keeping pets of these species legally, in that you already have a permit to keep them, then they will remain legal to keep for the rest of their lives. If you don’t have a permit to keep them – in which case you are keeping them illegally — you have until July 1 to get one. This, too, will allow you to keep your pets legally until they die.
Come July 2, it will no longer be possible to get permits to keep the reptiles of concern. If you have a pet Burmese, retic, amethystine or rock python, or any anaconda other than a green (people who own green anacondas are being given until October 1 to get their permits), or a Nile monitor, and you don’t have a permit to keep it, then that pet will be forever illegal to keep (unless the law ends up being repealed someday, of course). No more permits means no more legal keeping of any of the reptiles of concern.
People have asked about stores, and whether or not they will still be able to sell the animals. The answer to that is no. To quote the law directly: “No person, firm, or corporation shall keep, possess, import into the state, sell, barter, trade, or breed the following species for personal use or for sale for personal use” and then it goes on to list the reptiles of concern. Note the part that says, “import into the state.” This also means that out-of-state breeders will no longer be able to ship specimens of these species to Florida. That’s one whole state locked out of this portion of the reptile trade. It’s a considerable amount of commerce the state of Florida has decided to cut itself off from, as well as stemming some cash flow that would benefit other states where the snake breeders are located. In that regard, it’s definitely not just Florida that has been affected by the adoption of this law.
I’ve been asked how this law may affect the Daytona reptile show, the country’s largest that is held every August. The show will go on. The ball python, the number one pet python these days, is not a reptile of concern and therefore people selling them are not affected by the new law. I’m sure ball pythons will remain a prominent species available at the show. The law also doesn’t affect hognose snakes, boa constrictors, Children’s pythons, womas, kingsnakes, milk snakes, corn snakes, any of the other rat snakes, or many other snake species. I imagine there will still be plenty of snakes for sale at the Daytona and other Florida reptile shows. Just don’t go there expecting to be able to buy Burmese pythons, reticulated pythons, rock pythons, amethystine pythons, anacondas (though maybe there would be some greens available, since you have until October 1 to get a permit to be able to keep those legally in Florida) or Nile monitors.
So if you have permits now, you’re OK. If you don’t, and you keep any of the reptiles of concern, you now know the deadlines by when you can still get permits for them to keep them legally. If you don’t have permits, and don’t get any by the deadline, you will be keeping the animals illegally. What exactly does that mean? Well, you would get in trouble if state authorities found out you were keeping the animals illegally. You could be fined. How exactly do they intend to enforce this new law? I have no idea. Pet stores and breeder facilities may be hassled or inspected occasionally, but private pet owners? Not that I would ever advise anyone to keep animals illegally – I would not advise that – but I doubt that any stormtroopers will be bashing down any doors anytime soon.
Even though it will be possible to keep some specimens of the reptiles of concern legally for awhile, once those die off, that’s it. Those with permits now or that receive permits by the deadline will be the last of those species that Florida residents will be allowed to keep. That’s sad. And will any of this matter in regard to Burmese pythons in the Everglades, the primary catalyst for this whole scenario? That remains to be seen, but I tend to doubt it. The snakes in the Everglades may eventually dwindle on their own, as many died during the winter, or they may multiply on their own, as well. We’ll see if the state of Florida’s efforts, backed by the usual host of anti-reptilekeeping organizations such as HSUS, amount to anything other than a decrease in revenue for Florida and other states in a time of great economic need, as well as making it even harder for some people living in decidedly depressing times to enjoy themselves.