USARK said that reptiles are not “dangerous wild animals” and legislators listened. Thanks to USARK’s Rick Stanley, all reptiles have been removed from West Virginia’s DWA Act.
Shortly after 10:00 pm Saturday night (March 14), the WV Senate concurred in the House amendment passed earlier that week which removed venomous snakes and crocodilians from the DWA list. USARK authored the House amendment for SB 199, a bundled bill to finalize the proposed list of DWAs. The amendment was verbally supported by at least six legislators on the House floor before going to vote. Along with the amendment, USARK included a detailed list of reasons supporting the exclusion of these reptiles from the DWA Act, which was delivered by delegates Michael Folk and Kelli Sobonya during the session.
If you didn’t follow USARK’s work in West Virginia, at one stage the proposed DWA list consisted of over 12,000 species. It proposed entire genera and families of animals including turtles, toads, clawed frogs, tree frogs, large constrictor snakes, and even all salamanders. USARK made WV officials, legislators and state media aware of this absurdity to list nearly all non-native animals as DWAs, even common tropical fish species such as tetras and gobies. We discovered that hundreds of pages were excluded from the official record following an open public comment period and several other violations of due process. We made this very well known throughout the state, including television, radio and press coverage, and even filed affidavits for those with missing comments.
Following the pressure from USARK, officials eliminated all of the common pet species and other animals that could never be considered DWAs. USARK kept working and was also successful in getting all constrictor snakes removed, and even other exotic animal species, including servals. As is USARK’s mission, we kept pushing until all reptiles were removed. And we did it.
We certainly realize that all pets, even dogs and cats, are under attack by animal rights groups and will do all we can to help the entire pet community while protecting all corners of the herp community. We ask the herp world to realize that USARK is a national advocacy. When issues happen at the state and local levels, residents directly affected must step up and get involved. These battles may not be successful without efforts from citizens who can make their voices heard by legislators. Your legislators must hear from you!
Now that all reptiles have been removed from the West Virginia DWA Act, we must focus on critical issues, such as conservation and responsible ownership of reptiles and amphibians through the connections we have made within the state. USARK will keep everyone updated while we continue work with dedicated herpers, the DWA Board and West Virginia legislators. The Reptile Nation took home another win last week!
Thank you, Rick Stanley! This success would not have been possible without the tireless work and dedication from Rick. His commitment to USARK and the Reptile Nation have been tremendous. The herp community is fortunate to have him on our side.
We must thank a few West Virginia residents. Special thanks to Jennifer Phillips Ozzbourne, Michael and Melinda Meador, Beth Thaxton, Ron Lanham, Michael Welty, Patrick Bailey, Don Weaver, Hunter Armstead, Jamee Stover, Larry Cartmill, Phil Johnson, Jacqui Trump, Cheyenne Sanders, Greg Stephens, John Stosick, Aaron Crawford, Andrea Hughes, Todd Downey, Nellie Cooper, Joe Perdue, Kevin Saunders, Krissie Berry, Stephanie Lyons, Britny Bland and so many other who assisted USARK’s efforts and stepped up.