USARK files suit against the U.S. Department of the Interior
The United States Association of Reptile Keepers filed suit in the U.S. Federal Court against the U.S. Department of the Interior, challenging the Lacey Act listing of four species of constrictor snakes as “injurious.” This is a powerful day for the Reptile Nation, as we fight to protect your rights to pursue your passion and defend your businesses against unwarranted and unnecessary government intrusion.
USARK has been planning and laying the legal groundwork for months to ensure the strongest case possible. Our key objective is to challenge the listing of four species of constrictor snakes as injurious under the Lacey Act and put the government on notice that we intend to challenge any additional listings, including Reticulated pythons and Boa constrictors. As an established trade association, USARK has the legal standing necessary to mount this challenge and provide the best advocacy and representation possible.
The decision to move forward was not made lightly, however, after extensive legal analysis and planning by the USARK Board and our legal team at Kelley Drye, USARK determined it was not in the best interests of our community to sit back and wait until a final determination is made on the “Constrictor Rule” and hope for the best. The challenge will be litigated by a team of Kelley Drye attorneys with extensive experience in regulatory challenges and administrative law. Kelley Drye is the most qualified team to tackle this and their documented success with animal-related issues is the reason they represent USARK.
Key elements of the suit include the government’s failure to respond to challenges to the underlying science relied on by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as well as the question of whether the Lacey Act can be used to restrict interstate commerce in listed species. USARK has invested heavily to establish a strong record to support this legal challenge, dating back to the initial challenge to FWS' inadequate economic impact analysis. USARK commissioned the Georgetown Economic Services (GES) study and brought our case to the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy and the Office of Management and Budget.
In April of 2013, USARK presented the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Department of the Interior (DOI) with a 30+ page detailed letter demonstrating the Service’s many failures to meet its legal duties under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other laws. The letter highlighted flaws and manipulation of the science used to list four species of snakes as injurious. No fair examination of the evidence can support a ban on these species based on their potential invasive nature. USARK’s letter served notice to FWS that it cannot continue with listing the remaining five snakes without reopening comment and considering new science and information.
This legal action demonstrates USARK’s commitment to follow through on our promises to fight for your rights. Whether you are a hobbyist, breeder, pet owner or business operator, and whether you deal in constrictor snakes, other reptiles and amphibians or herp-related products and services, this landmark legal challenge is important to you and your future.
This battle will be expensive and we must continue to secure funding. USARK appreciates all donations as this fight and our continued battle against anti-reptile legislation would not be possible without your support. Donations can be made directly on the USARK website at http://usark.org/reptile-defense-fund-2/.
You may also mail checks made out to USARK to:
USARK Reptile Defense Fund
3650 Sacramento Drive
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
USARK will keep you updated as information becomes available. Without your support since 2008, USARK and the herp community would not be capable or prepared to tackle this fight. We were treated unjustly and now we will prevail.
Brief Explanation of Action
Regulatory litigation begins by a plaintiff, here USARK, filing a “complaint.” The government denies the claims in its “answer” and subsequently produces the record on which the rule was based, including the rule, comments, analyses, and like materials. Parties establish a schedule for filing motions for “summary judgment” (briefs arguing the law and that facts favor their position) as well as briefs in response. The court usually hears argument lasting half an hour or more, but there is no trial in the commonly understood sense. Afterward, the case is “submitted” and decision rendered. There is no set timeframe for the judge to issue an opinion. It is also possible, due to the subject matter of this case, that other interested parties may seek to intervene or file “friend of the court” briefs in support of either side, which will also be considered in the decision.
At this time, we would like to recognize Jordan Russell and Myke Clarkson who organized an online auction at Reptile And Amphibian Charity Auctions (RAACA). They were able to collect 107 donations and raise over $41,000 to benefit the USARK Reptile Defense Fund. They also raised over $4,000 earlier in the year to benefit USARK and have held fundraisers for other non-profits such as Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary. Myke and Jordan are shining examples of people working to make the herp community stronger and united. They were aided in the last auction by Tammy Russell, Rebecca Clarkson, Mike Torosian and Linda Davison. Below is a list of donors to this auction and another auction may be scheduled in early 2014. Follow their page for updates. Huge thanks to all involved from USARK!
USARK appreciates all donations and fundraising to date. The herp community will be successful with similar ongoing efforts. We will continue to supply updates and recognition to as many contributors as possible. We understand that USARK and our fight against anti-pet groups is not possible without your support. Now, more than ever, it is important to strengthen your herp community.
RAACA Auction Donor list: Ty Park, Tom Crutchfield, Michael Cole of Ballroom Pythons South, Brian Potter of Chicago Reptile House/NARBC, Kristopher Brown of Vital Exotics, Russ Gurley of TTPG, Manny Frade of Perfect Predators, Sean Bradley of Exotics by Nature, Donnie and Michelle of PrimaReptilia, Nadilyn Beato – Wildlife Illustrator, Shane Castello of SCConstrictors, Christopher & John Link of Big Sexy Geckos, John Chang, Debbie Swiechowicz of JJ Reptiles, Dan Gilbides, Manuel Hernandez, Eric Nielsen of New Scale Herpetoculture, Anna Mcnamara Kropp, Ben Renick of Renick Reptiles, Kyle Frost of The Reptile Shop, Travis Kubes , Michael Wenninger DVM, Brad Chambers, Charlene & Austin Payne, Kasey Cabral, Leo Gonzalez, Jason Wilbur, Ralph Tran, Rick Gravely, Gecko Boa Reptiles, Susan Hardy of Hardy Reptiles, Jason Angel, Lindsay Stone of Noble Exotics, Jonathan Foote, Benjamin Marcotte, Josh Marki of Marki Reptiles, Joseph Lopez, Travis of Reptiles Inc., Matthew Schaefer of Reunion Reptiles, Mark Pollard, Jennifer Nicolaides Johnson, Jeff Hagen, Jordan Russell, Mike Torisian, Heather's Herps, Erik Keyster of Fascination Herpetoculture & Imports, Scott Austin Reptiles, Dennis Blankenship of Magical Geckos, Paul Kent, Protean Terrariums, GBU Enterprises, Lonnie Cornell, Michelle Verheyden, Twin Cities Reptiles, Winters Reptiles, Todd & Cindy McDannell of Gecko Haven, Michael Dee, Shannon Hammer, Ryan Vince Photography, Sam Garcia Jr. of Scālz Fine Art, Kris Haas – Photographer foreverwild, Amanda Rose Wanner, Kayla Reza and Dalton Ridgeway, Reptile AVE, John Cashman, Daniel Solis, Linda Davison of Sticky Tongue Farms, Phil Goss of Goss Reptiles, Michael Thathuvaswamy, Underground Reptiles, The Rodent Barn