Archive for the Reptiles & The Law Category
Originally Posted: 7/18/2012
Later this year someone is going to break into your house while you are sleeping. They are there to take things that do not belong to them; things you worked for, things you earned. Awakened by the noise they are making you confront them and are stunned to find that the thief is someone you had thought to be a friend. You toss him a loaded gun and scream, “Please don’t shoot me!” A few minutes later, as you lie bleeding on the floor, your precious possessions gone, you cry out, “I was always so nice to him. I can’t believe he shot me.” For reasons unknown it never computes that you put the gun in the thief’s hand. It was you that armed him with the weapon he used to wound you.
Who did you vote for in the last congressional election? How about the last presidential election? Who will you vote for in November? More to the point: why did you vote for them? I can venture a few guesses. They include:
- You always vote [Democrat | Republican | Independent]. The candidate doesn’t matter.
- You vote for whoever is [Pro-Choice | Pro-Life].
- You vote for whoever is [for | against] amnesty for illegal aliens.
- You vote for whoever is [black | white | hispanic | asian].
- You vote for whoever is [male | female].
- You vote for whoever is [for | against] gun control.
- You vote for whoever is [for | against] stronger environmental controls.
- You vote for whoever is [for | against] unions.
I’m willing to bet that many people who read this voted the way they did because of their candidates position on as few as just one of these items/issues. Some issues are so important to us that they act as blinders to everything else going on around us. The pro-life/pro-choice debate is as good an example as any. I know many women who want to know one and only one thing when deciding for whom to vote: who is the pro-choice candidate. Done. Vote cast. This is not a blanket statement, of course. I know several women who vote for pro-life candidates, too. What is important to understand is that the system in the United States is effectively a 2-party system; republican and democrat. We can pretty safely categorize the republican and democratic tickets by the answers to all of the ‘for|against’ questions listed above. But in the United States we do not vote on issues, we vote for candidates. And in our current culture the elected candidates almost always vote along party lines. This means that a vote for the pro-choice candidate is also a vote for the candidate who supports a larger, more powerful government, more entitlement programs, less individual accountability, amnesty for illegals, stronger gun control, more environmental regulations and stronger unions. A decision made to only support the pro-life candidate is a vote for smaller government, more personal accountability, no amnesty for illegals, less gun control, fewer environmental regulations and no unions. How do you feel about those other issues? Did your vote for one issue just help to elect someone who does not reflect your position on the others? Oops.
If you know how your candidate will vote when it comes to abortion, amnesty, gun control or unions ask yourself one more question: will he or she vote for or against more controls (or bans) on the ownership of reptiles? And is that position important enough to you to change the way you vote? That’s a tough one, isn’t it? If you are a snake breeder/keeper that feels that unions are a good thing and vote for the pro-union candidate you should only do so with full knowledge that you also just voted away your right to keep reptiles. In our current culture of party-line voting you can’t have one without the other. The decision to cast your vote based on a single issue may mean that you end up supporting things you didn’t intend. It’s sad. But that makes it no less true.
So here we have our conundrum. “Leave us alone” we all shout. The reptile community does not need regulation. We don’t need the federal government telling us what kind of pets we can keep and we are sick of the continuous assault on the rights of responsible keepers. But then about half of us vote for a candidate that is going to support that exact end result. It’s a lot like giving a gun to the person who just broke into your home. You let them in, you gave them the weapon and you are still wondering why they used it to hurt you. Please wake up.
So let me cut to the chase and alienate about half of my readers: When you vote for a Democrat there is an incredibly strong chance that you simultaneously vote to put an end to reptile ownership in the United States. If you don’t believe me ask Congressman Bobby Scott (D), Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D), Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schulz (D) or Congressman Thomas Rooney (D). Animal extremism (which includes fear-based bans on exotic animals) is mostly a party-line issue. No, it’s not 100%, but it is heavily skewed toward Democrat support. The fact is that if you voted for Barack Obama in 2008 you supported the creation of the perfect storm that led to the amendment of the Lacey Act in 2012 and if you vote for him again in November 2012 you need to do so knowing that you are supporting four more years of ever-increasing loss of reptile owner rights. Barack Obama appointed Ken Salazar as the head of the Department of the Interior and it was Salazar that made the Lacey Act amendment happen. Don’t be naive and think that Salazar did that without Obama’s blessing. If re-elected I can assure you that Obama and Salazar are not done adding snakes to the Lacey Act and the HSUS is not done trying to use Congress to pass laws that strip you of your rights. For whatever reason Democrats tend to support the objectives and aims of animal extremist organizations like the Humane Society of the United States. If you don’t believe this please research which side of the aisle receives the bulk of campaign contributions from the HSUS. The HSUS doesn’t support candidates that won’t support their agenda.
The decision to vote for a democrat is yours to make, of course. But if you do please do me a favor: be quiet about reptile-keeper’s rights. Stop lamenting the increase in government control over pet ownership. You condoned it at the ballot box. Please stop supporting the fight for reptile keeper’s rights. Do not contribute your money, your words or your time to the cause. Please do not give money to USARK, PIJAC or any other organization that claims to support the rights of exotic animal owners. You are wasting either your money or your vote with your dichotomous actions. If you vote democrat, please send your money to the HSUS or to Defenders of Wildlife instead. You are supporting them with your vote so please have the courage of your convictions and support them with your dollars. And yes, I am being sarcastic when I suggest making a financial contribution to the HSUS. Every reptile keeper should have both a negative visceral and intellectual reaction at the suggestion to give them a single dollar. So I can only wonder why the same reaction is not felt when you check the box to elect the candidate who is going support taking your snakes away from you.
Originally Posted: 11/29/2011
As an American I am chronically aware that many of my fellow citizens don’t pay much attention to what is going on in other countries. By no means is that an across-the-board statement; it’s just something I have made note of in my interactions with others as I travel about the country. It’s not unusual for Americans to be so unabashedly and ignorantly ethnocentric that they don’t have the slightest idea of what is going in the rest of the world. Who am I kidding? Many don’t even know what is going on in this country. Jay Leno is good at pointing this out from time-to-time in his late night talk show antics. Most Americans know that something is going in in Iraq but many don’t realize that Iran is different than Iraq and they certainly don’t know why Israel is so despised by them. Most of us know that Princess Diana died a while back
Originally Posted: 6/4/2011
The Humane Society of the United States has at least one (that I know of) full-time employee whose sole function is to communicate the organization’s message using social media. That’s it! Be an evangelist for the cause using the constantly evolving Internet as a tool. The existence of that job represents their commitment to reaching out to a whole new generation of people. They also have an entire division (attorney’s included) focused exclusively on advancing their agenda through the courts. Now think about how many people work for your favorite pet owner advocacy group. I’ll guess ten. A dozen, maybe. Fifty, tops. I often wonder how many hats people in those organizations must have to wear and how effective they can be when constantly switching back and forth between roles.
Originally Posted: 5/31/2011
As I type my 40th birthday is barely two years away. And I don’t know if it’s my age combined with the times or if it’s the times by themselves but over the past few years I have become keenly aware of a rapidly increasing divide between the people of the United States. I know, I know, every generation laments the passing of the ‘good ol’ days’ and things were always better yesteryear. Time has that sort of scrubbing effect; it distorts the very perception of our own hindsight. But I sense that what is happening now is something more dark and angry. The happy-go-lucky naivety of my youth has passed.
The current state of affairs is that we can break the thinking people in our society into two general groups of people: liberals and conservatives (some people may prefer ‘statist’ and ‘libertarian’).
Originally Posted: 11/16/2010
Fellow reptile enthusiast,
I am not too unlike you, I suspect. I have received the emails, read the blogs, followed the forum threads and participated in the related chatter. Been there. Done that. And yes, I even got a t-shirt.
Like many of you I have repeatedly railed against the unrelenting stream of assaults on reptile ownership. My passion for my position has, to my knowledge, not swayed a single opponent or politician. As is so often the case parties on opposite sides of a debate are uninterested in truly listening to and understanding the differing view. But that makes sense, doesn’t it?
As I type my daughter is a few months into her third year. As is often the case with parents I put nothing else on this planet before her. She is everything. Every parent wants to protect their children from as many bad things as possible in this world. To that end we often turn to professionals for advice on when it is OK to do certain things. Take peanuts for example. The prevailing medical wisdom says that if nobody in your family has a history of allergies then you should wait until your child turns one year old before exposing them to peanuts. If you have a history of allergies you should wait until the child is at least three. Because neither my wife nor I have any known allergies we treated the arrival of our daughter’s first taste of peanut butter with an unusual amount of excitement. Well, I did. Peanuts, peanut butter in particular, are a big deal to me. I find peanut butter delicious and combining chocolate with peanut butter is next-level stuff. The peanut butter cup is a triumph of taste and I am sure that achieving nirvana involves peanut butter at some point.
A few days after my daughter’s first birthday my wife and I decided to give her a peanut butter cracker. We had waited the required amount of time recommended by the pediatrician and it was time for her to learn about another wonderful part of being alive. About 9 or 10 hours later when we left the emergency room we knew that peanuts and my beloved peanut butter would no longer be welcome in our home. After taking a bite of a peanut butter cracker our daughter had gone into anaphylactic shock.
In the two years since that scary day we have learned from allergists that she is allergic to several different types of nuts; peanuts, cashews, almonds, the list goes on. They also told us that she is not likely to outgrow the allergy as some children seem to do. C’mon. Really? Seriously? Cashews are better than peanuts!!! My daughter is never going to get to eat warm cashews. That’s criminal.
And she will also never enjoy a peanut butter cup…
Imagine a life without peanut butter cups. Barring advances in medicine my daughter is faced with that reality. It’s not something she was able to decide for herself, of course. How and why she is allergic to peanuts is a question I doubt she will ever have answered. But that’s life and we all know about the fairness it lacks.
All of this peanut pondering started the other night when I saw a commercial for Reese’s peanut butter cups. It was a reminder of my daughter’s situation and, as is so often the case, I found myself translating that situation into issues facing the reptile community. Peanut butter cups have been denied to my daughter by circumstances that were beyond her control. But what about snakes? What is her future with reptiles?
Just last week she told me that she wanted to go “snakey finding with [me]” and that she would “help me find Kaa.” Kaa, for those of you who were never young, is the snake from Jungle Book. Reptile-loving dad’s out there will immediately recognize the coolness of such a shared moment with your child. Her statement created interesting emotions for me. At three, my daughter is beginning to develop an appreciation for reptiles. She is at the very beginning of a life which promises the opportunity to one day allow her to own the pet of her own choosing. I like the idea that she will one day include reptiles as part of her life but I respect her right to decide not to. What’s more important to me than her choice of pet is her choice to have a pet. It is a decision that will be hers to make. But more and more each day I fear that my daughter is at the beginning of a life where people will eventually take that right away from her. As her father I can’t let that happen.
My need to fight for my daughter’s right to have the choice to one day be a responsible pet owner got me thinking about the “grassroots” efforts of the reptile community to fight all of this proposed legislation. Over the past few years there have seen several different pieces of proposed legislation, some federal and some state. One delegate in the House of Representatives described the grassroots response of the reptile community to HR 669 as a “buzz saw”, meaning we got their attention and our voice was loudly heard. Through each piece of proposed legislation (the federal one’s in particular) the community has become more aware and more organized. But are we also losing some steam? For my daughter’s sake, I hope not. Each time the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) launches its next assault we see our email in-boxes and the Internet forums light up with calls to action. Each time we are told “now is the time to act” and “this is the biggest threat the reptile community has ever faced”. We are asked to band together once again and call Senators and House delegates, to write letter and send emails. Unfortunately, the battle cry, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more”, will not invoke a reaction forever.
How many times can we go to the well and conjure a concerted reaction from the reptile community? How long before we lose interest in the fight? There is a finite number of times that people are going to be willing to get involved. Most of us are, after all, just pet owners. You just want to share your life with an animal that brings you joy. Being a pet owner isn’t supposed to require you to be a political activist. But more and more each day that is the way things seem to be heading. The assault on the rights of pet owners of all types is unrelenting, multi-faceted and hidden under the veil of false animal love. Nobody is going to fight for the rights of pet owners except pet owners. We can’t afford to lose sight of that.
We have all been thrown curves in life. My daughter picked the short straw when it comes to being allergic to a long list of nuts. The burden our family has to bear is that we must spend the rest of our lives being vigilant, doing everything we can to avoid accidental exposure to peanuts. That job wasn’t clearly defined in the job description of being a parent. I guess it falls into the category called “other duties as assigned” that we so often see in today’s job descriptions. And so it also goes for pet owners; our decision to own a pet means we are accepting a responsibility to also fight for that right for ourselves and for our children.
Dig deep, snake lover. Dig deep. The fight is never going to end …until the day YOU stop fighting.
For longer than I have been on this planet people have been keeping reptiles as pets. The original reptile keepers were mostly academics, scientists fascinated by their enigmatic subjects of study. As reptiles began to enter into the pet world they were most often the choice of young boys and other people who were more …colorful …than mainstream society typically allows. The keeping of reptiles was often tolerated by the parents of young children who wanted to humor their whims and foster a love of science and nature. Thirty years ago there wasn’t a large captive bred trade in reptiles, at least not compared to what it is today. It wasn’t unusual for specimens to be either imported or, in the case of native species, self-caught. What better way to get a pet snake than to go out and catch one yourself? Those young herpers are now grown and they brought their once unusual choice in pet along with them. They grew up to enter into every facet of society across all levels of industry and income. Their choice to own a reptile was likely viewed as an oddity by many of their friends, family and co-workers. In fact, it was probably not unusual for them to simply not mention they had a reptile as a pet. Because reptiles were not mainstream and were viewed as a quirky choice in pet it was often easier to simply leave it out of conversations. Fifteen years ago I can say for sure the none of my professional co-workers knew that I kept snakes (I worked for a bank in those days). My banking buddies and I exchanged dog and cat stories often but snakes never came up during discussions about pets. On the few occasions that snakes did come up in conversation I often got the typical reaction that comes from the uninformed: disgust, fear and general discomfort at the idea of creepy crawlies slithering around my house.
Another large group of people who have long kept reptiles frequently fit one of several stereotypes; rebellious, disenfranchised with mainstream America, unwilling and unable to conform to “The Man’s” definition of life and success. They are tattooed, gruff and intimidating looking folks with whom you avoid making eye contact. They know that bongs, like cars, have carburators and they wear black leather jackets, and ride big and loud motorcycles. Their homes smell of patchouli and you will likely hear Pantera or some other ear-pounding music blaring loudly from the speakers of their smoke-filled rooms. They like the wide berth their image affords them. And a snake fits perfectly into their image. The uneducated think snakes are dangerous and the rebel loves the added air of non-conformity that a snake brings them. A seemingly perfect match, huh?
Stereotypes don’t become stereotypes without having some basis in truth. But they are always unfair to apply to everyone of a particular group. But using stereotypes is a convenient way to absolve yourself of the responsibility of having to learn about individuals who are different from you. And one of the many reasons that snakes have long been unacceptable to the average person is their negative stereotype associations. The non-conformist proudly sports their snake as a symbol of their non-compliance with society’s rules while the clean-cut white collar professional who sits smack in the middle of mainstream America keeps their pet reptile an accidental secret. The general notion is that “normal” people don’t keep snakes as pets. It’s only the outskirts of society that want them. Every single reptile breeder knows this to be completely false. The diversity of our customers is all the evidence we need.
It happens every day that I am behind someone in traffic who has a sticker on their rear window that breaks down all the members in their family. There is an avatar for each family member including the pets. I regularly see dog and cat avatars but to date have never seen a snake (or other reptile) sitting next to the other family members. And why not? I know it’s not because people aren’t keeping reptiles. Reptiles are kept as pets by multiple millions of Americans. Is it because reptile owners don’t view their ectothermic friends as members of the family? I doubt it. Is it because putting stickers on the back of your car advertising the size, age and gender of all of your family members is stupid? Quite possibly. Or is it a subtle symbol of middle America’s unwillingness to proudly profess that reptiles are an important part of their lives? I think it may very well be. The long-terms success of reptiles being kept as pets means we can’t continue to do this. It’s time to bask.
Reptiles are no longer pets on the fringe of the world of companion animals. They are truly mainstream. Of course they are not as prevalent as dogs and cats but they are a rapidly growing part of the pet trade. It is way past time for reptile owners to start proudly advertising their reptilian family members. I am not advocating that you inflict your choice of pet on your neighbors. Never take your snakes out in public unless it is safe and appropriate to do so. I’m advocating being proud of being a reptile owner and educating people who are not in the know. I do not support perpetuating fear by forcing people uncomfortable with reptiles to have to be around them. Know the laws of the community in which you reside and always be in compliance. The more of us that come out into the open and responsibly share our passion with the misinformed masses they more reptiles will be accepted as pets, even by people who choose to not keep one of their own.
The fight for the rights of reptile owners has to be fought on many fronts. Organizations like NatPet (the National Pet Association), USARK and PIJAC are actively addressing the current special interest group (HSUS, Nature Conservancy, etc.) and political opposition to reptile ownership but it is just as important for the millions of reptile owners out there to make themselves known. Our friends, neighbors and politicians need to become much more aware of the fact that the stereotypes surrounding reptile ownership are false and that we are a numerous and diverse group of people.
Back in high school I sat through more than one government class. In my freshman year of college I went through the motions during a year-long course on the history of the United States. While sitting in those classrooms I wasn’t really investing in the information, I was enduring it. I memorized facts, names and dates that would need to later be regurgitated on an exam. Despite the quality of my schooling I must admit that I failed to process the information as anything other than raw data. True internalization of the information didn’t really happen for me. Part of the reason I missed so much was (honestly) a general lack of interest. For no good reason I found the history of places like Persia and Greece to be much more intriguing than that of my own country. History is often presented by academia as a string of names, dates, documents and military conflicts, each of which is summed up in a few paraphrased and often opinionated paragraphs. The impacts and long-term meanings of the events are not often taught in a way that encourages students to understand the information as it relates to their own lives. The end result is that many of us fail to fully connect the dots on how the events that occurred before our birth actually impact our existence. Teaching is an art form and most educators who have the ability to regurgitate facts lack the talent to make it relevant and interesting. As a result many students frequently purge the information after its usefulness on a test is complete. I do not fault my teachers for this. I take responsibility for my own actions, including the concerned attention I did not pay to my own nation’s history. During my earlier years I never fully took the opportunity to explore how the decisions of the founding fathers were supposed to impact the life I am living more than two hundred years later. The past several years, however, have changed all of that in a way I never expected. If someone had told me many years ago that it would be pythons and boas that suddenly caused the processes of government to be immensely relevant I would have rolled my eyes and wandered off.
I’m not a complete noob, mind you. I have long understood the electoral college, the functions of the three branches of government, the importance of “checks and balances” and the general processes involved in making a bill into law. But there was a long period of my life when I openly stated that it didn’t matter which individuals were in which positions in the state and federal government, that they had no direct impact on my day-to-day life. Because it was instilled in me to do so from a young age I have always voted in the elections; local, state and federal. I wanted my candidates to win but never really expected my life to go one direction instead of another if the results didn’t go my way. I was naive. I was wrong. My eyes, today, are wide open and what I am seeing leaves me horrified, disappointed, disenfranchised and angry.
More than 200 years ago (in 1787) the Founding Fathers of our nation came together to rewrite the original Articles of Confederation, the result of which was the creation of our Constitution and what we all know to be the United States of America. Many of the original authors of the Constitution were strongly motivated by a seemingly simple theme: limit the size, scope and power of the federal government, leaving the majority of the power in the hands of individual sovereign states. Embracing the concept of federalism, our founding fathers recognized the need for a central government in addition to each state’s autonomous government. There was (and is) a lot of debate over how much power the federal government should have. The United States, by Constitutional design, is a federation of states. This means that each states governs itself in addition to the presence of a federal government. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution defines the scope of the federal government. More specifically, it and the Bill of Rights are designed to limit the scope of the federal government’s power over the states. That which is not the defined in the Constitution falls to the individual states to decide. Placing strong limitations on the power of the federal government was intentionally done by the people who founded this nation. The control the federal government was supposed to exert over the lives of citizens day-to-day activities was, by design, limited. That power was intended to remain with the individual states. However, largely due to two clauses in Article I, Section 8 (the so-called Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause) the federal government has piled up a long history of overstepping its Constitutional authority and increasing its power over the states. This has been happening for a long time (since the end of the Civil War) and has been progressing very quickly since the mid-1930’s. This accumulation of power by the federal government has been happening for so long that the overwhelming majority of us simply take it as normal. Why would we question it? It has always been this way, hasn’t it? But understand this very clearly: it is not supposed to be this way. The federal government should not be making decisions that the states are Constitutionally obliged to make on their own. I believe pet (reptile) ownership and invasive species law are excellent examples.
The 10th amendment to the Constitution should have sealed the deal on the where the bulk of the power in our federation resides. It states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” To summarize, Article I, Section 8 and 9 define the scope of power for the federal government and the 10th Amendment ensures that power not specifically given to the federal government is in the hands of the states. Take a minute and read Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution and the 10th Amendment. It will take less time than it has taken you to read this far in my post. Unfortunately, several of the clauses in Article I, Section 8 are sufficiently vague that they have been twisted and mangled by both Congress and the courts in order to seize more and more power at the federal level. Reptile owners are experiencing the result of this first-hand.
Each of the fifty states is an entity that embodies the needs and priorities of the individuals who live in them. They are wonderfully diverse in geography, climate, natural resources and population. Each state is unique and the needs of one are not the same as the needs of the next. Because of their diversity it is not possible for the federal government to appreciate the impact of its decisions on individuals and communities within a state. In fact, it is not the job of the federal government to make such decisions. I direct you once again to Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. The question of whether or not certain pythons and boas are a danger to the environment of a certain state is a state decision, not a federal one. I suggest that the federal government’s decision to involve itself is an overstepping of its authority. Unfortunately, through more than a hunderd years of power grabbing (the creation of the Department of the Interior and two of its agencies, US Fish & Wildlife and the US Geological Survey) the federal government has given itself the power to control the states in this matter.
One of the most simple and interesting aspects of federalism that I have come to embrace is the concept of mobility. Because the power is supposed to reside in the hands of the state governments it is a citizen’s right to simply move somewhere else if the state enacts laws that are incongruous with their personal goals and/or beliefs. Put more simply, if you don’t like what your state is doing, leave. You can move to a state that is more closely aligned with your needs as a citizen. However, when the federal government oversteps its authority and enacts federal law it leaves citizens with nowhere to go. Because federal law is an umbrella that casts its shadow of control over all the states we are, in a very real sense, trapped. There is nowhere to go to be free of the decisions of the federal government. This should infuriate python owners in Vermont and South Dakota. Their liberty is at risk because of a perceived problem almost two-thousand miles away in the southernmost portions of Florida. For the python-loving residents of South Dakota the only way to rid themselves of such federal tyranny is to leave the country. While moving from Florida to Virginia is readily do-able for most of the population, moving from Florida to Italy is not. For me, this is the part I fear the most. If laws banning pythons and boas are enacted at a federal level there is literally nowhere to go. Mobility, which is a mechanism to free myself from the decisions of an individual state, will have been stolen from me.
The desire to increase the size, scope and power of the federal government is viewed as a positive by those who embrace statism. Statists, whose actions and philosophies are most frequently aligned with what today is the far-left Democratic party, seek to increase power of the federal government in virtually all aspects of a citizen’s life. It can be seen in large scale events like the government taking an ownership stake in corporations, government run health-care and social security. It is also evidenced on a smaller scale in the desire for the federal government to impose a national ban on the importation and inter-state trade of pythons. Why does the federal government need to impose rules on states who have no capacity to be affected by the suggested spread of the Burmese python (North Dakota, for instance)? Why does the federal government simply not leave these decisions in the hands of states that deem themselves at risk? This was the intent of the Constitution, was it not? The answer can be summed up in one word: power. For statists, the acquisition of power at a federal level is taken at every opportunity in order to create a larger, stronger and more powerful central government.
As a side note: The acknowledgment that pythons may one day have the ability to spread into the lower 1/3 of the United States is one piece in the highly political argument over global warming. If the federal government concludes that the Burmese python will spread because of warming trends predicted by the USGS then it is yet one more piece of evidence that global warming is a real, human-caused, condition. Such proof will be used to support future environmental legislation. Do not think for a moment that this issue is just about pythons. The trickery engaged in by people with political agendas takes on incredibly veiled forms.
Through their own local politicians the states have contributed to the increase of the power of the federal government by accepting the federal govenrment’s money to fund in-state projects. It’s a nasty behavior, really. By getting federal funding for state initiatives the states are getting their funding from all American taxpayers even though there is no benefit to the other states. This smacks of abuse of power and should ring loud in the ears of reptile owners as Senator Bill Nelson of Florida (a Democrat) and House Representative Dennis Meek of Florida (also a Democrat) both introduced federal legislation to ban the importation and interstate transport of pythons (S373 and HR2811) in an effort to acquire federal tax dollars to fund the restoration efforts in the Florida Everglades. There are also added fringe benefits for both of them. Had the legislation passed their next election campaign would have heralded them as the “candidtate that saved the Everglades from the scourge of the Burmese python”. Another shining example of this is the recent deal made by Senate Democrats with Ben Nelson (Democrat from Nebraska) to get the other 49 states to pay for the Medicaid expansion costs in Nebraska …forever! The taxpayers of Virginia should be venomously opposed to the idea of paying for hospitals in Nebraska. If you’re not, check the mirror for your lobotomy scar.
As states accept more and more federal funding they give more and more power to the federal government. Over time they have become dependent upon the flow of money and, as a result, are often held hostage because of it. For example, in 1974 the federal government enacted the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act which federally mandated the speed limit on the nation’s highways to 55 mph. In 1986 Nevada changed the speed limit to a 3-mile stretch of highway to 70 mph. Within a few hours of doing so the federal government revoked their highway funding. The state changed the limit back to 55. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Maximum_Speed_Law).
In the end none of this talk about the abuse of federal power really matters. And that saddens and frustrates me. The federal government has acquired the power to determine the fate of pythons and boas in the pet trade. Right or wrong the power is there. Nothing in the near future is going to change that. If the unthinkable happens and pythons and boas are added to the Lacey Act as injurious species you can rest assured that there will be legal challenges that play out over a span of years. But the fight over the fate of pythons and boas is not about science. It’s about politics. Are Burmese pythons truly a threat to the lower 1/3 of the United States? In the end it doesn’t really matter. This is about special interest groups, campaign contributions, pet projects, and government power. Pythons are being sold as creatures with the power to completely destroy ecosystems, hunt humans and spread disease. None of it is true. But facts don’t matter …and that is a shame.
Pull any breeder aside and they will tell you that there is no better way to build an excellent reptile collection than to produce your own babies and raise them. The problem is that it usually takes forever to build a collection worthy of note when you do it this way. Producing new morphs of your own is an incredibly gratifying accomplishment, though. It’s a big part of the reason that so many of us are in this business. Pretty much every breeder holds back a few animals each year but it’s often a tough call to to determine which ones and how many to set aside. Producing something cool and deciding to keep it means your pocket is ultimately missing some cash. Sell it and your collection is not as cool the following year. It’s a constant battle. Unless you are financially well-to-do from other sources you do, at some point, have to take the money. But that point is different for each of us. People who know me know that I am a notorious ball python hoarder. I hold back a lot of production each year. It is an addiction for which I am unable to find a cure.
The next best way to build a great ball python collection is to buy babies from other breeders and raise them. Other people always have something you don’t and there are tons of animals out there just dying to fit perfectly into your collection. Bring your wallet (or purse, as the case may be) and be prepared to spend. Building a nice, high-end ball python collection is not for the financially feint of heart. Buying a baby pastel genetic stripe is definitely faster than taking the six or so years it would take you to make them from scratch for yourself. The premium you pay on such an impressive animal is, in part, compensation for the fact that the person from whom you are buying the animal has already paid the six-year price to produce it. That investment of time and the risks associated with it are worth money. And we all must pay for it. Now that you have this wonderful animal in your collection you are still stuck waiting for it to grow up. If you’re lucky you can get your male up to breeding size in less than a year. Females are going to take no less than 18 months, most likely 24-36 months before you’ll be able to do anything with them. Once again you have to hurry up and wait for your collection get to the next level.
Being patient sure is hard sometimes…
Don’t want to raise babies? Want a shorter path to being a baller in the ball python business? Simple enough: buy adults or subabults from someone. That shaves the time down to less than a year in many cases. Or does it? Before you drop cash on an adult ball python you need to seriously ask yourself why the person is selling it. There are many legit reasons, of course. But a huge number of ball python adults that get sold are animals that have problems of some sort. I’m not suggesting that they are sick, though. The problems I’m speaking of are more subtle. When you buy these adults you may be unknowingly paying someone else for their problem.
What are some of the legitimate reasons that adult ball pythons get sold?:
- The breeder is decreasing the size of his/her collection. This is often done because large collections are very expensive and very time consuming to maintain. Scaling back from 1,000 breeder females to 750 means that there are going to be 250 perfectly good girls coming into the marketplace. It is, however, almost an industry standard that these girls get dumped into the marketplace shortly after laying eggs. This means their weight is down greatly from its norm and if you don’t get them early enough in the season you are going to be hard pressed to get them to lay eggs again the following season. If someone sells you a 2,100 gram het pied female you might be thinking, “Sweet!”. But what you don’t know is that she weighed 3,000 grams 5 months ago, laid eggs a month ago and has only had 2 meals since laying. Females that were 3,000 grams last year aren’t often going to lay eggs the following year when you only get them back to 2,700 grams. The seller of the animal is not obligated to tell you this, of course. It would be nice if they did rather than letting you have unrealistic expectations for the coming season.
- The seller is having some sort of financial crisis/hardship. They don’t want to sell the animal but they need money for some imminent need. You can often get some nice animals this way. But keep in mind that when the going gets tough breeders aren’t going to go through their collection and pull out the best animals to sell. They are going to pull those that were not quite as good as the others. Maybe they are often reluctant feeders or have laid eggs each year for the past three years. The chances of going (laying eggs) four years in a row are lower than they are for going three years in a row, aren’t they? The first adults someone is going to sell are going to be the least cool their collection has to offer. Don’t get me wrong, though. This won’t always be bad. Selling the worst animals in an awesome collection may still mean that you are getting some exceptional creatures.
- The animals have been upgraded. I have an outstanding male spider het albino that I raised from a baby. He is a fantastic feeder, a great breeder and doesn’t have even the slightest head wobble that many spiders often have. He aggressively courts and breeds multiple females each year and has produced several albino spiders for me. I held back the first albino spiders males I produced, of course. They are now adults. Why do I need a spider het albino when I have multiples of the real deal? I don’t. So it’s time to offer him for sale, let him go to work for someone else. I’m not getting rid of a problem animal. Quite the contrary. He is a rockstar but my collection has moved on. These are nice animals to find when they come along.
- Proven hets are being replaced with the homozygous form. A breeder may have 50 adult albino het females. It makes sense to replace them with albino females (at the very least). Once the breeder has raised up the replacement albinos he/she will often look to sell the hets. He is managing the size of his collection to a consistent and stable size while increasing its genetic quality. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the albino het females; they were good enough to be the breeders for several years but now its time for them to move on to make room for a new crop of albino females. While these are good animals to add to you collection be sure to keep in mind that they are likely to only hit the market just after laying eggs (as discussed earlier).
- A breeder bought an entire collection from another breeder who is getting out of the hobby and they are liquidating it to make money or they are getting rid of the animals that they don’t want to add to their own collection. This happens a lot. Like many business ventures, many wanna-be breeders just don’t make it. A large number of people get big into reptile husbandry with dreams of an easy and large payday. And they are frequently ready to get out of the business in less than two years. Because of this, entire collections get bought and sold on a regular basis. I have purchased entire collections more than once. When I do it I usually have my eye on a few choice animals in the collection and sell off everything else at a profit. Doing so helps to offset the cost of the animals I want to keep. In many circumstances you reclaim all (or more) of you investment and still have the animals you wanted to keep. Having it work out this way is not a slam dunk, though. Collection flipping requires a little bit of skill and is logistically a lot of work. Not everybody is good at it. I’ve seen people get completely burned doing it. I have made my share of mistakes, too.
What about the illegitimate and hidden reasons many adult ball pythons get sold?
- The snake is a poor feeder. Maybe it only eats once per month. Better still, maybe it only eats mice. A 2,500 gram female ball python will need to eat mice like Pez in order to get them to a good weight for breeding. One medium rat can easily weigh as much as 6-8 adult mice. Not only is it a chore to feed that many food items it is also comparatively expensive. Eight mice will cost you about $4 on the low end. A single medium rat is more in the $1.75 range (depending on how you get supplied). Mouse feeders will more than double your food cost in addition to the time and energy spent. Heaven help you if you are buying your food items from a pet store.
- It prefers gerbils or African soft-furred mice. Just what you need; a snake on a special diet. Not only do gerbils and ASF mice tend to be quite a bit more expensive they are both notoriously more aggressive than typical lab rats (and mice). There is a stronger need to chaperone the feeding event when the predator is at increased risk of becoming the prey.
- She’s a 3,000 gram girl, nice and big. She has laid eggs two out of the last three years. Sound good, right? Problem is she only laid 4 eggs each year. Big girls who don’t lay lot of eggs get farmed out quick. They are genetically weak and have a low return on investment. The best decision is to move them out and replace them with new animals that produce larger clutches. It’s simple math on behalf of the breeder.
- A beautiful adult male comes up for sale. He appears to be a great shortcut to breeding success. The only problem is that he’s a crappy breeder. He shows absolutely no interest in females. I know several breeders who have gone through multiple males before they found one that was a good breeder. What happened to the seemingly gay males? They disappeared into the collection of some other aspiring breeder, of course. I can guarantee you that the ad listing them for sale didn’t read, “Beautiful Adult Male Pastel Lesser – Crappy Breeder”. How can you tell the difference between this male and the great breeder who is being replaced by a better animal? You can’t. The only thing you can do is trust the seller.
- It’s stolen. I’m always amazed how many ball pythons get stolen. They get stolen at trade shows and they get stolen right out of people’s collections. It happens with some regularity. I suppose there may be nothing physically wrong with the animal; you’re just getting it at the expense of someone else. You have no way of knowing this, of course. At trade shows where I am a vendor I am often offered animals for oddly low prices. I know what the animals sold for two years ago and now they are offering me what appears to be a healthy animal for a price that is way below what they would have paid for it and certainly less than it is currently worth. How can I not wonder about its origins? Wouldn’t you? If I buy it and post if for sale on-line am I going to get an email from someone telling me that the snake was stolen from them? That has never happened to me but it has happened to others. In an industry that is largely based on personal reputations I’d like to avoid ever being wrapped up in a situation like that.
The moral of the story is that there is no substitute for starting with babies, investing the time and earning good results with quality animals. The temptation to take the short path and buy adults is too much for speculative breeders to avoid. Unless you personally know the seller and have detailed and accurate knowledge about the origins of the animal you are doing little more than buying a scratcher lottery ticket when you decide to buy and adult ball python. You might win big. You may also get screwed and come to realize that you actually paid someone to take their problem off their hands. Fortunately, I think it’s true that you won’t lose the majority of the time. Most ball pythons are perfectly good animals. All I suggest is that you take the time to question and prod. Does the story being offered with the sale make sense? Can you handle the result of the animal not being a producer for you? If so, speculate your heart out. If not …buy babies and invest the time.
“Liberty, once seized, is seldom reclaimed.” -Mark Levin
Many reptiles owners who are concerned about HR2811 and S373 may not realize it but these bills are positioned almost 100% along party lines. Democrats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate are in favor of it. Republicans oppose it. Republicans do not oppose these bills because they love pythons. They oppose the bills because they seek to bypass normal processes that have been in place for a long number of years, a point USARK has been trying to make.
The fundamental nature of the Democratic party is to seize the liberty of individuals in order to provide for the perceived benefit of the masses. According to Democrats, the impacts on individuals are secondary to the needs of the many. The way that state-minded Democrats (state as in “statism”) endeavor to do this by taking steps to give government more and more control over the lives of individuals. Easy examples include Social Security, the current health care debacle and the huge ownership stake government has recently taken in both the automotive and financial services industry. Bailouts were given and control was taken to protect the masses. The result: a larger government with reach yet further into the lives of individuals.
Fellow snake owner, you are now poised to be on the receiving end of that same seizure of liberty so often employed by the Democratic party. They want to take away your right to own the snake of your choosing for the betterment of the masses. It is a decidedly Democrat thing to do. What makes it worse is that all of you know that the reasons offered for why your rights are about to be seized are not even based on facts.
Remember this the next time you go to the polls and have to choose Republican or Democrat. Many people in this country are single-issue voters. In our last round of elections many chose to vote Democrat solely because it wasn’t “voting for Bush”. The result of those elections are that we now have a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, a Democrat-controlled Senate and a Socialist, er, Democrat President. The Humane Society of the United States swooped into action as soon as that criteria was met (Democrats all-around). The result to the reptile community is the pain we are all feeling today. Never forget that.
P.S. – Mid-term elections are about a year away. If we can survive this round we can fix our problems (the reptile problem, that is) at the ballot box next year.
Note: I opened this up to discussion on the ball-pythons.net forum but they moved it to their “Quarantine Room” that is not visible to the general public. I guess it was more direct and to the point than what they like on their site. It’s their site, their call. Someone on that site suggested that I was unfairly trying to make this into a partisan issue. Uh, I’m not trying to make it a partisan issue, IT IS A PARTISAN ISSUE. This isn’t a secret. Pretty much across the board Democrats appear to be lined up to vote in favor of it and Republicans will oppose it. That is a fact and not a politically motivated attack on the democratic party. It is what it is.
- In June 2008 HR6311 was introduced by a Democrat. This bill had the same aims as HR669. Despite being introduced in a democrat-controlled House, HR6311 never even made it out of committee. Nobody fought too hard for (or against) this bill because George Bush was in office and he would have vetoed it.
- On January 26th, 2009, less than a week after Obama was sworn into office and the Democrat hat-trick was complete, HR669 was introduced by a Democrat. The reptile community had its first unified and loud reaction. The House sub-committee backed off in response.
- On June 10, 2009, HR2811 was introduced by a Democrat. This bill seeks to perform an end-around on the legislative process by adding large constrictors to the Lacey Act.
- On February 3, 2009, barely 2 weeks after Obama’s inaguration, S373 was introduced by a Democrat. This is the Senate version of HR2811. This bill also seeks to perform the same end-around on the legislative process by adding large constrictors to the Lacey Act.
There are two themes at work in the timeline above: 1) There have been repeated efforts to take away the rights of pet owners and 2) they have always been introduced by HSUS-sympathetic Democrats.