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USARK April 2014 Update: FWS Lawsuit Update, Bearded Dragon Salmonella Outbreak

USARK to Amend lawsuit, bearded dragon linked to salmonella outbreak, Illinois SB 902

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On 4/26/2014, the Court denied the Government's motion to dismiss and is allowing USARK the opportunity to file an amended complaint. In other words, the case will not be thrown out and will proceed: "Accordingly, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is hereby DENIED without prejudice." This filing can be viewed at www.usark.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Lawsuit-Update-4.26.14.pdf.

Our amended complaint must be filed by May 9, 214.We will announce further updates as they become available.


You may donate to the USARK Reptile Defense Fund at www.usark.org/reptile-defense-fund-2. We greatly appreciate your support of the herp community.

Illinois SB 902

This bill would move herps into their own area of the code and would take precedence over other Illinois laws and enforcement regarding herps. The bill has passed the Senate and is now in the House Rules Committee. The Illinois legislature has been in recess for the last two weeks and returns to session this week. A very similar "Herptiles-Herps Act" passed the Senate last year, but was defeated in the House.

Many provisions in the "Herptiles-Herps Act" are pro-herp, but the turtle provisions are significantly more restrictive than the language used in the 4" federal turtle regulation. USARK cannot fully support this bill with the current turtle provisions as we fight for all corners of the herp community. There is not reasonable justification for these regressive turtle provisions. We have been informed that amendments will be introduced early this week to address concerns from Illinois herpers. USARK will issue additional information once these amendments are presented.

Complete bill text can be found at www.ilga.gov/legislation/98/SB/09800SB0902sam001.htm.


Negative Aspects:

  • The language regarding turtles used in this bill is significantly more restrictive than the federal regulation.
  • The bill would allow for state-level enforcement of regulations that are more restrictive than the federal-level regulation for turtles under 4".
  • Tortoises would be exempt from some but not all of the turtle provisions.
  • This bill makes "turtle farming” illegal in Illinois. While this may not be intended to affect hobbyist breeders, the language used could be interpreted otherwise and harshly enforced.
  • Additionally, tortoises are not exempt from this "turtle farming" provision.
  • "Turtle farming" means the act of breeding, hatching, raising, selling turtles, or any combination commercially for the purpose of providing turtles, turtle eggs, or turtle parts to pet suppliers, exporters, and food industries.

Pro-herp/Other Aspects:

  • Currently, it is illegal to keep “life-threatening reptiles” and venomous reptiles in Illinois. This Act will allow some of those reptiles to be kept.
  • Certain native venomous reptiles could be kept with permits and by following certain requirements (see "Special Use Herptiles" below).
  • Minimum caging standards are established to address any public safety concerns.
  • Crocodilians, Crocodile monitors and Komodo Dragons could be kept with permits and following certain requirements (see "Special Use Herptiles" below).
  • A “Herpetoculture permit” is required for breeding and selling indigenous species.
  • Medically significant poisonous amphibians, including cane or marine toads (Bufo marinus), Colorado river toads (Bufo alvarius), or any other amphibian found to be medically significant, shall only be allowed for bona fide educational purposes or research purposes by exempted institutions.
  • This Act would remove the 15’ constrictor snake limit, as they are currently illegal in Illinois.
  • Poison dart frogs bred and raised in captivity will be exempt from the permit process.
  • Exemptions:

    • Public facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA);
    • licensed veterinarians or anyone operating under the authority of a licensed veterinarian;
    • wildlife sanctuaries (defined in bill);
    • accredited research or medical institutions;
    • licensed or accredited educational institutions;
    • circuses licensed and in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act and all rules adopted by the Department of Agriculture;
    • others listed under Article 110.
  • A new term, “special use herptiles,” would be applied to crocodilians, Komodo dragons, Crocodile monitors and allowed venomous snakes. To be kept, these animals would require:
  • Herptile Special Use permit;
  • Liability insurance;
  • 6 educational programs annually;
  • Inspection and approval of facility;
  • Those interested in keeping approved venomous species must have 250 documented hours of experience with venomous reptiles.

Outbreak of Human Salmonella Linked to Bearded Dragons

On April 24, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an investigation of Salmonella Cotham infections linked to Bearded dragons. Both direct and indirect contact with infected animals can lead to human salmonellosis. USARK will provide additional information as it becomes available and we are engaged with this issue. View the release at www.cdc.gov/salmonella/cotham-04-14/index.html.


Infections may result from hand to mouth contact after directly handling animals, as well as after indirect contact through cleaning cages or bedding, handling food or food bowls, or touching other things in the area where the animal lives. Proper hygiene and child supervision will prevent disease transmission.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection, and illness duration is typically 4-7 days. In many patients, no treatment is needed. Medical treatment may be necessary for infections that spread from the digestive system to other parts of the body. Contact your health care provider for more information.


  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after touching a herp, their cage/food/bedding/husbandry equipment/water/etc. or anything in an area where they live or have contacted.
  • Use hand sanitizer until you are able to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
  • Transmission from pets to adults and then to children is possible. Adults must be sure to wash hands, and even change clothes and/or bathe if previously cleaning cages or excessively handling herps, before playing with children, preparing meals or doing anything that could transmit salmonella from yourself to others.
  • It's important not to wash herp food bowls, cages and other equipment in areas where human food is prepared, served or stored.
  • Children under 5, pregnant women, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems run a greater risk of infection.
  • Pets should always be kept away from human food preparation and eating areas.
  • Remember that salmonella may not be just on the herp itself, but also in bedding and caging accessories.
  • Wash any clothing the reptile or amphibian might have touched.
  • Disinfect any surfaces that have been in contact with herps.
  • Salmonella transmission from pets is preventable through proper hygiene and child supervision.
  • Don't bathe animals or clean their habitats in your kitchen sink, bathroom sink, or bathtub. 
  • If bathtubs or sinks are used for these purposes, they must be thoroughly disinfected afterward.

Other News

Freedom Breeder: A big thanks to Freedom Breeder who donated a mouse breeding rack following NARBC Tinley Park. Brian Potter hosted an online auction and the rack sold for $1200 and was picked up at the Chicago Reptile House.

OKC Elite Reptile Show: May 3-4 in Oklahoma City, OK. Thank you to the show promoters for supporting USARK. Get more information at www.okcelitereptileshow.com and www.facebook.com/events/254930164657115.


Reptiles Breeders Show: May 10-11 in Lodi, CA. More details at www.thereptilebreedersshow.com.

Cold Blooded Expos: Thank you to Cold Blooded Expos for allowing USARK volunteers to spread information to show attendees at their show in Broken Arrow, OK. Thanks to volunteers Chris Spencer, his wife and Amanda Coble-Welch. Get more show information at www.coldbloodedexpos.com.

Repticon Dallas: Another thank you to USARK volunteers Gillian and Dan for spending their weekend spreading awareness of USARK and TXARK, and to Repticon for providing a free table. Get more show information at www.repticon.com.

Snake Days: May 30, 31 & June 1 in Sanderson, Texas. Great educational lectures, field herping, photo contest, clean highways project and more. Get the details at www.facebook.com/events/690350000995984/ and www.snakedays.com.


Biology of The Pitvipers Symposium: June 4-7 in Tulsa, OK. Learn more at www.biologyofthepitvipers.com and www.facebook.com/BiologyOfThePitvipersSymposium.

Cin City Reptile Show: May 4th in Mason, OH. More details at www.cincityreptileshow.com.

Indiana Reptile Breeders' Expo: May 18th in Clarksville, IN. More details at www.irbexpo.com.

All Ohio Reptile Show: May 3rd and 31st in Columbus, OH. More details at www.allohioreptileshows.webs.com.

View this on our website at www.usark.org/uncategorized/lawsuit-update-illinois-bill-salmonella-4-27-14.