Bill Brant’s Reptile Call To Action

For today’s blog I’m going to do something a little different. I’m going to have a guest blogger, in a way, because this blog is comprised of a letter that Bill Brant recently sent out, and I thought you should read it. Bill Brant is the owner of The Gourmet Rodent, and he’s a long-time herpetoculturalist. He’s a well-respected figure in the pet industry.

Bill’s letter follows…

“I am writing this as a call to Action. I distinguish the word “action” from the word “involvement.” To me, the word involvement implies an interest in something, and a willingness to support it. The word action implies that one is doing something. I believe our industry/hobby is at a critical crossroads at this time in our relatively brief history, and Action is needed in order to preserve our industry as we have known it. Please bear with me while I explain.

“Our industry/hobby is being assaulted at the federal level and the state level simultaneously. You probably saw the judiciary subcommittee hearing on November 6, where the push was to include all nine species of Boas and Pythons discussed in the U.S. Geological Survey report written by Robert Reed and Gordon Rodda. This issue is not resolved and we need to be willing to take action whenever the next step is necessary.

“Next, I need to make a comment about the state of Florida. Hopefully I’m not going to upset people from other states when I say this, but I believe Florida is critical in the future of the entire reptile industry/hobby for these reasons: 1) A large percentage of the reptiles in our trade either pass through or are produced in Florida; 2) We are the home of the feral Burmese python; 3) Unfortunately, a Burmese Python was implicated in the death of a young Florida girl. For these reasons we have become the focus of national media articles and discussions. We all know that most of these articles are poorly researched, agenda-driven misrepresentations of truth and fact. For these reasons, even though you don’t live in Florida, I believe what happens here is going to have an impact on you.

“In the state of Florida, a significant number of changes are being considered. The regulations governing Reptiles of Concern (ROC) are being reviewed by the FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission). The FWC is establishing a Reptiles of Concern Technical Assistance Group (ROC TAG), with the first meeting being held in Orlando, Fla., on December 2 and 3 of this year. The ROC TAG will provide input to FWC regarding the Reptiles of Concern regulations in the state of Florida. The ROC TAG is composed of eight stakeholder representatives chosen by FWC that represent varying organizations having an interest in the outcome of any changes to the ROC regulations.

“Please be aware that some individuals and organizations are calling for an outright ban on all Reptiles of Concern, and want to broaden the list of reptiles on the list. For this reason, the ROC TAG meetings are critical. Let me give you a word of caution if you intend to attend (and hopefully many will). This is not a “town hall” type meeting where everyone can stand up and make public comment. For the most part the only people making comment will be the ones on the committee. This can be frustrating, but nonetheless your presence is extremely important. It let’s FWC know that the reptile industry/hobby is present, engaged, vigilant and willing to fight to preserve the endeavor that we are passionate about.

“The ROC TAG representatives chosen by FWC [and the areas they represent] are as follows:
Florida Reptile Breeder or Retailer: Eugene Bessette, Ophiological Services, Inc.
Reptile Hobbyists: Jim Peters, member and past president, Central Florida Herpetological Society
Pet Industry: Bill Brant
Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services: John R. Irby, DVM, Division of Animal Industry
South Florida Water Management District: LeRoy Rodgers, Vegetation Management Division
Universities/Research Community: Paul Moler, retired, FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
Animal Welfare Advocate: Jennifer Hobgood (or alternate), Humane Society of the United States
Non-governmental Organization: Kristina Serbesoff-King, The Nature Conservancy

“Just to emphasize my point about Action, yes I believe you should attend these meetings, even though you live in a state other than Florida. The outcome of these meetings will impact the reptile industry/hobby throughout the nation.

“On December 9, there will be a FWC Commission meeting in Clewiston, Fla. This is an extremely important meeting where ROC will most probably be discussed. If you care to speak on any topic at this meeting there is a time when you can do so. It is good for the Commissioners to hear from the public. I will give addresses and times in a later letter.

“If the ROC TAG meetings are not enough here in Florida, these same issues are hot topics on the legislative side. There are at least two pieces of legislation that will be seen in the 2010 Florida legislative session. One of them will stiffen penalties for violations of the ROC statutes and regulations. The other calls for an outright ban of Reptiles of Concern. Again, these bills have been prompted by all of the media attention given to Burmese python events in the state. Please listen to upcoming calls for Action as these bills work their way through the legislative process.

“I have been keeping reptiles for 57 years and advocating for the industry since 1992. In my opinion, the next six months are the most critical we have ever faced. Please take seriously the challenges our industry needs to meet. In a polite and respectful way, let regulators and legislators know that our hobby is a positive contribution to our society, that it starts many on the path to higher learning and accomplishment, and that many in the reptile community are real contributors to the welfare of all animals.

“Now is the time to take Action and Participate in the legislative and regulatory process. Your industry/hobby depends upon it.”

--Bill Brant
The Gourmet Rodent

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