Friday, February 12, 2010

Python Ban based on fear and misinformation

A bill sponsored by Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has been making its way through the legislative process--threatening to ban the import/export and interstate transport of nine species of pythons and boa constrictors. If senate bill S373 passes, reptile business would feel a significant blow with an estimated 1/3 of the 1 billion dollar-a-year industry at stake.

While supporters of the bill demand a solution to the feral pythons inhabiting the Florida Everglades, informed opponents of S373 and hr2811 believe the proposed legislation is far over-reaching and not the solution to the localized problem of non-native pythons breeding in the state's southern-most tip. That fact remains that the problem is entirely localized to one small area of Florida, yet many media outlets continue to use scare tactics, suggesting that the United States will be swarming with wild pythons from New Jersey all the way into California, if action isn't taken immediately--an absolutely absurd claim unsupported by science and based on little more than ignorance and fear.

Misinformed proponents of s373 and hr2811, such as the Humane Society of the United States and PETA, two organizations seeking to end the keeping of reptiles as pets, entirely, also cite the July 2009 incident, in which a child was killed by an escaped Burmese python in the Florida home of irresponsible owners. While this incident was quite tragic, it is fortunate that incidents such as these are few and far between. If legislation were to be passed to ban pet animals responsible for a significant number of deaths, each year, dogs and horses would surely be on the chopping block. When compared to deaths by these commonly kept mammals, accidents involving pet pythons are extremely insignificant.

Supporters of the proposed python & boa ban fail to take into consideration the significant economic impact such a ban would create. Revenue gained from private breeders, pet shops, supply companies, cage manufacturers, feeder suppliers, agricultural businesses, shipping companies, and countless other businesses directly and indirectly supported by the trade in the species in question, would be entirely lost. Perhaps the loss of tens of thousands of businesses throughout the United States, and the rise in unemployment that would occur, if this ban is passed, doesn't matter to supporters of these bills, but is should matter to the rest of us--whether we like snakes or not.

While much of this matter has now been handed over for review by US Fish & Wildlife Service to consider adding the Burmese python and the eight other species to the Injurious Wildlife list in the Lacey Act, much misinformation and fear continues to circulate in an effort to mislead the public into embracing a very bad idea.

Hopefully, in the end, good science will prevail, and a new better solution will be proposed to combat the ecological imbalances that may be plaguing Florida's Everglades. Until then, it is my hope that public education efforts will go a long way into creating a well informed community that will see through the fear-mongering and encourage law makers to make the right decisions.

Please, write your senators and representatives and encourage them to oppose s373 and hr2811, "The Python Ban".

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