Pet Immigration Laws – HR 669

on April 16, 2009
Posted in News

Is your pet an immigrant to the United States of America? You may not think so, but, is your pet’s species native to the USA? If not, your pet could be considered an illegal immigrant if a new Bill is passed soon.

On 23 April 2009, a hearing will be held for the Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act (HR 669). If passed, it will then be illegal to own or breed pet birds, fish, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, ferrets, and almost every kind of amphibian and reptile species.

This Bill will also impact the transportation, exportation and importation of every bird, mammal, reptile and fish that are currently being sold by private breeders and pet stores as well as being owned by private citizens in the USA.

The Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act (H.R. 669) was introduced by Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), who is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Under the current law, called the Lacey Act (which covers conservation, possession, transportation and sales of wildlife), the Fish and Wildlife Service has to prove that a species should be considered harmful to the health and welfare of humans, the interests of agriculture, horticulture or forestry, and the welfare and survival of wildlife resources within the United States.

However, if HR 669 is approved, the Fish and Wildlife Service will be forced to create two different types of lists: an Approved List and an Unapproved List.

In order for a species to be listed on the Approved List, there has to be proof that the species has not, or is not likely to, cause harm anywhere in the US, which actually forces the proving of a negative and the species will end up on the Unapproved List.

The creation of the Approved List, which should be accomplished within 36 months of the Bill being passed, would include a risk assessment by the Fish and Wildlife Service on each species subject to the following criteria:

*Species identified to species level, and if possible information to subspecies level;
*Native range of the species (which may or not be fully known);
*Whether species has established, spread, or caused harm to the economy, the environment, or other animal species or human health in ecosystems in or ecosystems similar to those in the US;
*Environmental conditions exist in the US that suitable for establishment of the species;
*Likelihood of establishment in the US;
*Likelihood of speared in the US;
*Likelihood species would harm wildlife resources of the US;
*Likelihood the species would harm native species that are ‘rare’ (not defined) or listed under Endangered Species Act;
*Likelihood species would harm habitats or ecosystems of the US; *Likelihood ‘pathogenic species or parasitic species may accompany the species proposed for importation’;
*Other factors ‘important to assessing the risk associated with the species’.

Those species that are listed on the Unapproved List will be banned from the USA in that they will not be allowed to be owned, bred, exported, imported or even transported across state lines.
According to the preliminary Approved List, the only non-native animals allowed are: dogs, cats, cattle/oxen, horses, domestic pigs, sheep, chickens, domestic ducks and geese, goats, llamas, donkeys, mules, domestic rabbits and goldfish.

As you can see, H.R. 669 would eliminate virtually every type of pet species currently owned and bred in the United States. However, H.R. 669 also states that a provision should be made for animals to be included on the Approved List that could have potentially harmful effects but that “are already are so widespread in the United States that it is clear to the Secretary that any import prohibitions or restrictions would have no practical utility…”.

This Bill did start out with the best of intentions: to prohibit people from breeding or importing a species that is non-native to the USA without regard to any harm that it could do to native species or to itself. But it has now avalanched into the pet world and does not take into consideration that most of the non-native species that exist in the pet trade, have been in the United States for decades without causing any type of serious environmental problem. Keep in mind that an animal that is considered harmful to Hawai’i may not be harmful in New York.

If you are wondering how this Bill would impact your current ownership of pet species that are considered part of the Unapproved List, this is what the Bill states:

ANIMALS OWNED LAWFULLY PRIOR TO PROHIBTION OF IMPORTATION. – This Act and regulations issued under this Act shall not interfere with the ability of any person to possess an individual animal of any species if such individual animal was legally owned by the person before the risk assessment is begun pursuant to subsection (e)(3), even if such species is later prohibited from being imported under the regulations issued under this Act.

Basically you will be able to continue to keep your pet only if you can prove that you obtained ownership of your pet prior to H.R. 669 coming into effect. But there are no rules as to what is acceptable proof!

Remember too that if this Bill is passed, businesses such as pet shops, breeder’s, feed stores, farm supply stores, food suppliers, pet product manufacturers, distributors, importers, wholesalers, and their supporting businesses and as well as their employees. Consider also that there will be a huge loss of tax revenue that is usually derived from all these businesses and their employees.

If you disapprove of H.R. 669, contact your Representative and the Members of the Sub-committee and let them know how you feel about this Bill. Explain to them how this Bill would affect your family, or your business.

Photo Credit: Lee Nachtigal

Read also: New Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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