Reptile industry concerned about proposed snake ban

Lawmakers want more restrictions to save Florida's ecosystem

CREATED Jan. 30, 2014

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Reptile advocates are raising concerns about a letter sent by 18 congressmen, asking the Obama administration to place a nationwide ban on five species of constrictor snakes.  

Proponents of the ban say it will keep the snakes - often intiallly bought as pets then released - from invading Florida's delicate ecosystem and destroying native animals and plants. 

Southwest Florida congressmen Tom Rooney (R-District 17 which includes Charlotte county) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-District 25 which includes part of Collier county) are among the congressmen asking for the reticulated python, the DeSchauensee's anaconda, the green anaconda, the Beni anaconda and the boa constrictor to be listed as injurious species under the Lacey Act. 

The congressmen claim the snakes "pose an unacceptable and preventable risk to the safety of the American people."

Rooney says the reptiles need to be banned to protect the Everglades and other ecosystems. 

Steve Masek is among those raising concerns about the ban.

He's the animal coordinator at Calusa Nature Center where he cares for dozens of snakes.  

He said he has concerns about the effects of such a widespread ban. 

"People are always going to have them anyways, so what you're doing is just making eople go undergroudn with them," Masek says. 

He thinks, instead of a ban, there should be better education for people looking to by the reptiles.

Often times, he says, people don't realize how big the snakes will get or how much will be required to care for them. 

"A lot of times it's just uneducated people that don't understand, you buy a snake as a baby in the pet store," he says. 

The US Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) strongly opposes the proposed ban, saying the issue should be handled by Florida officials and does not necessitate a nationwide ban. 

Joan Galvin, representative for USARK, said hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars would be lost if these five species of snakes were banned, because many people have survive off breeding the snakes. 

"These animals have been held in the pet trade for decades in the country and why, all of a sudden, there is some sense of urgency is a bit of a mystery to us," she said.