Madison Area Herpetological Society

How to Monitor Local Legislation & Ordinances in Your Area


MAHSUSARK
Monitoring Legislation
By Eric Roscoe

How do I know when an ordinance is being proposed for my area?

Unfortunately, legislation affecting the keeping of reptiles (and many other animals) is being proposed at all levels of government from federal and state, to county, municipality, or village and township. Oftentimes, some sort of publicized incident or escape of a reptile or other “exotic” animal is usually enough to initiate a response by local officials to consider an ordinance. Regardless of how commonplace they actually are, these types of incidents are very frequently reported on in local news media, but ordinances that come of them seldom are. Unfortunately, it is usually very difficult to monitor or catch everything which may be being proposed at the local level in every body of local government by unless there is someone who is diligent and has been paying attention in their local area. This is why we require the help and participation of everyone in tracking local ordinances. It is up to herpers to make their voices heard. Local and elected officials very seldom can be counted on to spend the time examining the implications of these types of ordinances themselves or to notify affected stakeholders. Oftentimes, it is simply a matter of educating them, just as with other members of the community (many, for example, may not even be aware that most pet stores now carry reptiles & their supplies, or that reptiles are now widespread pets in over 13 million households). Without hearing from their constituents, most elected officials will simply assume the ordinance will have no impact, or only a very small impact, and tend to pass them unopposed and undetected.
To Monitor for Local Ordinances in Your Community, check:
1. Local News Media Using a variety of the most commonly used key words in these issues to create weekly or daily Internet search engine or news station website email digests can often catch news reports of interest that may serve as a precursor to the creation of an ordinance.

2. City, County, or Municipality Agendas: Almost all have meeting agendas posted beforehand both at city/village halls, and online through the governing body’s respective website. This requires getting to know regular meeting schedules for the Common Council. Oftentimes, the process may be two pronged, with a preceding committee proposing, discussing, and making changes to an ordinance before it is presented to the Common Council. Both types of committees are typically open to the public. The exact committees that handle reptile and exotic animal ordinances vary from community to community, but in most cases, it is a public health, safety, licensing & ordinance, or similar committee. **Make a bookmark or desktop shortcut to your community’s upcoming city council and other useful committee meeting agendas. This way, they can be very quickly and easily accessed and remembered**. Unfortunately, unlike state legislatures or other state and federal agency websites, local governments usually do not have specific ordinance or legislation notification services, but may still have the option to sign up for email notifications for specific committee meetings and hearings. Local and municipal agendas and minutes are also often posted and updated regularly at your local city hall and other community centers as well.

3. State Legislature: Any state without Dangerous Wild Animal legislation and/or anti reptile legislation already in place can certainly be expected to be a target for anti pet organizations. Other states may still be subject to, or vulnerable to further legislation or rule changes as well. All state legislature websites have a variety of search options and features to find proposed legislation for current and past legislative sessions. Many states also have email and IM legislative notification and tracking services using keywords, subjects, bill numbers (once known), and others.

Secondary Sources
United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK): USARK is the only reliable national trade association organization representing pet owners, breeders, hobbyists, veterinarians, and many other sectors involved with reptiles and amphibians. Sign up for USARK’s free email list to stay up to date on news, information, and action items affecting herpetoculture on their website and on Facebook at www.usark.org

Local, State, and Regional Organizations: Many states have local, state, and/or regional herpetological societies or other state level organizations with the same or similar missions and functions as USARK. Sign up to become an active member and participant for one or more of these organizations that may be in your area.

 

Other Things to Consider:

-All of these secondary aggregator sources rely on, and need *YOUR* help in monitoring for, and fighting local and state ordinances. They can’t do it all themselves or monitor for legislation in every city, county, or municipality.

-Don’t assume that someone else is already aware, that someone else is taking care of it, or that the species you keep or have an interest in will not be affected. Chances are, none of these will be the case! Remember, each one of us is USARK.

-Before raising the alarm, be sure the source of information is reliable and accurate. Reliable sources include a news article with mention of a proposed ordinance, a post or form of proposed legislation or ordinance on a government website, or personal contact/communication with legislators or local officials.

-Once an ordinance or bill is confirmed, spread the word by informing USARK and/or another secondary source listed above with as much information as possible.