ZOO WARS~ Update on Stake Holders Meeting-Texas Legislature Update
Texas Legislative Update-USZA Report as follows:
On Thursday, Jan. 22, at the request of Rep Ryan Guillen, and a USZA member who graciously paid for my travel expenses, I traveled to Austin for a “stakeholders meeting” on a piece of animal legislation he intends to propose. For those that are not aware, a stakeholder is anyone that has an interest in the outcome of the bill.
Both animal activists and animal owners were well represented, along with three Texas Agencies. The attendees included 2 HSUS members, Nicole Paquette from DC and Katie Jarl, Texas State Director, and their lobbyist, Joe Garcia one HSUS/Black Beauty Ranch officer, Noelle Almrud. Four Texas Humane Legislative Network (THLN) members Headed up by Robert “Skip” Trimble,and a lobbyist for a primate rescue group, Michael Murray, that was opposed to private ownership. The animal owners were represented by The president of Waste Management, who is an exotic animal breeder, Tiger Missing Link Foundation director of Animal Care, Brian Werner, “All things Wild” staff member Marcus Cook, ZAA lobbyist Robert Saunders, Texas Primate Owners United (TPOU) President Margaret Hosseini, David Browder, private primate owner, Michelle Smith, representing her facility of mainly primates, and Myself representing the United States Zoological Association (USZA).
Representing the interests of their respective departments were William Kuntz, Executive Director and Brian Francis, Deputy Executive Director of the TX. Dept. Of Licensing and Regulation, Rick Thompson, Legislative Laison, from the Texas Association of Counties and both Major Larry Young and Assistant Commander Kevin Davis of the Texas Parks and Wildlife. I missed the name of the lobbyist representing the Veterinarians and Primarily Primates.
The meeting started off with Rep Guillen stating that there are an overabundance of exotics in Texas and we needed to know where they were. In July we were given a figure of over 3300 big cats in Texas. Our research showed that there were only 572. The activists claimed the rest were unregulated. TX Dept.Of licensing and Registration had done a survey and came up with a grand total of 72 dangerous wild animals in Texas that were unregulated..only 14 were tigers. Their testimony was that there is no need for this in a “less government” minded administration. Score one for us!
Texas Parks and Wildlife gave up exotics in 1997 and stated they had no intention of taking them back on now. They testified that they have no knowledge or expertise in that area. Score again!
The Counties are tasked with registering now and, according to the man that wrote the Dangerous Wild Animal Act, “Skip” Trimble, they aren’t doing it so we need a new law! When I asked him who would write it he said he would to which I then reminded him he just said the last one he wrote didn’t work. Rep Guillen wants a State wide registry for Dangerous Wild Animals (DWA) because the counties aren’t doing it. Even though it’s not necessary I agreed to support it (since we already register anyway) IF they took ALL exemptions off the table and AZA zoos as well as Sanctuaries and colleges had to register as well. HSUS agreed to that. I believe the Sanctuaries and zoos will balk and kill any chance of this passing anyway. Rep Guillen said he would look at reducing the number of animals on the list as a way of making this a smaller scale registration. Smaller primates would not be affected, and hopefully wolf hybrids and smaller felines (Servals, etc.) would be removed. I am all for that. I DO worry that they will come back at a later date and try to start adding species.
In the end HSUS started talking about an Urban Ban. Banning them from areas of over 150,000. That wipes out the bigger zoos, I said. Then the EXEMPTION word popped up again. There was much resistance from our end of the table. Brian Francis, from TX Dept of Licensing and Regulations said we could exempt all existing facilities and commercial operations.. he had no idea the attack he would get from the HSUS side! Skip Trimble jumped in telling Parks and Wildlife they needed to step up and take this back over as they had Law Enforcement Authority and Katie Jarl chimed in about how frustrating they were being! Gotta love when they attack an agency they want to do something! I told Rep Guillen that I would support an Urban Ban as long as EVERYONE currently in place when this law takes effect was allowed to continue not only their existence but be allowed to perpetually operate in the manner they are doing now. When Margaret Hosseini asked what was prompting all of this BOTH Rep Guillen AND HSUS at the same time said OHIO. She pointed out that IF you believe he did that, registration wouldn’t have stopped him.
Since no agency wants to take on the registration and enforcement of this Brian Werner suggested setting up a Registration Agency, incorporate it as a 501(c)3 and appoint two from each side of the table to the board, along with a neutral chair. It would be funded through the registration fees. HSUS VP of Wildlife Protection, Nicole Paquette, jumped out of her chair and stated there was no such model anywhere in the US and it couldn’t work. I said “Then Texas can lead the nation”. The State Agencies loved it! In the end Rep Guillen left us with the understanding that he would do as much research into that scenario as possible, put something together and share it with us all before he introduced it. He has his work cut out for him! On a final not PLEASE people, this is not cheap and no one person can afford to fight this. PLEASE consider donating to USZA, The Cavalry Group, and TPOU. So that we can continue to fight for your rights to own these animal!
Bloggers Note: THLN is the sister organization for HSUS in Texas
Link of Interest: https://topcatsroar.wordpress.com/2015/01/page/2/