January 1, 2005 a new law took effect prohibiting a number of species of reptiles (and other exotics that were formerly legal to own, either outright or with permits). The DEC has 180 days to complete the actual regulations, but the law appears to be the strictest in the nation. Tom Hudak was instrumental in crafting the language for the reptile section. His work with assemblyman Tonko?s office greatly reduced the number of prohibited species and allowed educators to work with these prohibited reptile species. He was instrumental in keeping the family Boidae off the list, even after the NYS Senate reinserted it.
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Exotic Animal Ban Goes into Effect January 2005
State law ready to bare sharp teeth at pet owners with exotic beasties
(December 10, 2004) - By Jan. 1, New York state will have the toughest law in the country banning private ownership of venomous reptiles, constricting snakes, crocodiles, big cats and other exotic animals that could pose a danger to their owners.
The ban will exceed laws in 23 other states that require permits, and go well beyond the 26 states that require none.
Monroe County has no parallel law or permit requirement. But in 2000, Rochester passed a ban on most exotic pets, including the odd (hedgehogs, prairie dogs) and the unlikely (elephants, bighorn sheep). City officials were acting on complaints about people attending public festivals with their pet venomous snakes.
Under the new state law, some businesses will take a hit. Regulators, meanwhile, are scrambling to deal with new registration requirements. Experts are divided on the law's value.
The law will be hard to enforce, some experts say, and also will restrict personal liberties. "The conscientious people may be more affected than the ones you want to control," said Tom Hudak, a Rochester wildlife educator who helped shape the final language of the law.
On the other hand, he said, "maybe everybody out there shouldn't get a black mamba," a soon-to-be-banned snake that is fast, agile and packs a fatal bite. On the prohibited list: big monitor lizards, large constricting snakes (still legal in Rochester), big cats, bears and certain primates. The coming ban reflects a general fear that these animals can bite, claw, inject venom or act as vectors for disease.
by the state Department of Environmental Conservation did not drive the
state law. There are only "a few to none" annually in each DEC
region, said agency spokeswoman Maureen Wren.
It protects people, she said, as well as exotic animals with exacting requirements for food and environments controlled for temperature and humidity. The law "doesn't restrict average people from owning a snake," she said. "They just can't have a cobra or a python."
Current owners of the animals can keep them but have to register them with the DEC within 60 days after Jan. 1. DEC officials in Albany are working out details, and they plan to enforce the law, said Wren.
Registration will include an agreement not to breed the animals and to provide veterinary care. Two-year permits will cost no more than $80 per animal; exact fees have not been set yet. "Not everybody should have a 15-foot boa constrictor," agreed Bob Krantz of Buffalo, education director of the Western New York Herpetological Society. "And you don't want to break into a house and find a gorilla there," he said, referring to a 2003 state law that requires registering dangerous pets to protect such first responders as fire, ambulance and police officials.
But Krantz said the law would be impossible to enforce, would cost taxpayers more money than registration fees bring in, covers too many animals and restricts private owners who "serve nature" by breeding species of animals endangered in the wild. Worst, "there's going to be an underground" of exotic pets, he said, "and that's a shame."
Krantz, vice president of the society and a Buffalo Zoo docent, said ferrets were banned in New York City in 1999 - but merchants there still sell 10,000 pounds of ferret food a week. The new law exempts licensed wildlife rehabilitators, veterinarians, exhibitors, zoos, researchers and educators.
Hudak keeps at least 25 venomous reptiles and an assortment of other soon-to-be-banned animals in an East Main Street warehouse. He specializes in reptiles and trains people who may encounter the dangerous ones: police and conservation officers, as well as soldiers headed overseas.
What will it mean?
The banned creatures are not big sellers, so most retailers won't get hurt, said Sally Reaves, of Wildlife Educational Encounters in Marion, Wayne County. She also owns the Kritter Korner pet store, in Canandaigua, Ontario County.
But money isn't the point, said Angelo DiPasquale, owner of Reptile Showcase in Rochester. DiPasquale called the law "ill-advised" and ignorant of the risk exotic animals actually pose. Exotics seized by or surrendered to the DEC would be turned over to appropriate zoos, sanctuaries "or shall be humanely euthanized," the law reads.
Giving away such animals as a result of the law would not be easy, said Christopher Fitzgerald, director of animal services for Rochester. The city's Verona Street shelter takes in dogs and cats.
Lollipop Farm will take exotics, but it warns owners that the pets will be euthanized. The Seneca Park Zoo doesn't take animals from private citizens.
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