COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 29, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Tuesday of this week, in what turned out to be a marathon hearing before the Senate Agriculture, Environment & Natural Resources Committee dozens turned out to voice their displeasure with SB 310, the exotic animal ban introduced by Senator Troy Balderson from Zanesville, Ohio. SB 310 would regulate the ownership of some exotic animals while banning others; in the case of reptiles it would amount to a de-facto ban due to prohibitive permitting requirements, including exorbitant amounts of liability insurance, and high permitting fees. Most hearing attendees wore "NO SB310" badges handed out to 135 supporters by the US Association of Reptile Keepers who led the charge against SB 310. Committee Chair Hite did his best to hold the hearing together through two recesses, time delays, and three venue changes. The hearing scheduled for 10:45am did not come to conclusion until after 5pm due to an unexpectedly heavy turnout of speakers testifying in opposition to the bill.
Senator Balderson, the bill sponsor, appeared to be frustrated at the numbers of individuals and organizations opposing his bill. The number of valid criticisms, with various counter proposals for amendments became more than tedious. In fairness, the bill appears to be more than the Senator really wanted, and he seems open to constructive changes. Critics ranged from school teachers, students and 'soccer moms', to private zoos and professional Herpetologists. The most outspoken of critics was Andrew Wyatt of the US Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK). Wyatt stated that 90% of the impact, and 90% of the opposition to SB 310 came from the Reptile Industry. "We provide animals and husbandry products for zoos, museums, research facilities, TV & Film, hobbyists and the pet trade. This is professional non-traditional agricultural known as Herpetoculture, the production of high quality, captive-bred reptiles; it is a $30 million annual trade in Ohio. Wyatt noted that the Columbus Zoo acquired their most popular exhibit, a reticulated python named Fluffy, from a USARK member. In his most pointed criticism Wyatt asserted, "A reasoned and rational argument cannot be made that working with ANY reptiles presents any more public safety risk than traditional livestock and pets for which we readily accept the limited risks".
At the end of a long day of testimony, many Committee Members may have felt that they heard more than they ever wanted to about this issue. The overwhelming sentiment was that it may be hard for the Committee to ignore the limited public safety risk posed by the Reptile Industry, especially when taken in the context of the much higher, but acceptable, risk posed by traditional pets and livestock. USARK opposes SB 310 and is requesting that all reptiles be removed from the bill. It appears likely that another Hearing will be held on April 17th and any changes deemed necessary by the Committee will be done prior to a vote.
SOURCE United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK)