There is a new bill introduced to regulate non-native species in the House–but surprisingly little discussion seems to be happening about it.  The bill, the Non-Native Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act (H.R. 6311), would prohibit the import of a non-native species before a scientific assessment decides it isn’t a threat to the US economy or environment.

Currently, species may be imported unless declared “injurious” under the Lacey Act–which can only happen after an animal has caused demonstrable harm.

The bill is sponsored by a representative from Guam, an island particularly hard hit by exotics.
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission likes the bill (PDF); the US Fish and Wildlife Service seems to be generally in favor of the law, although they have not issued an official position statement:

The Service supports the intent of H.R. 6311 to develop a risk assessment process with scientifically credible procedures that will be transparent and efficient so that wildlife importers can obtain timely decisions and make investment decisions accordingly.  The Service does, however, have some concerns with the bill, including concerns related to duplication of existing authority, the cost and feasibility of implementation, possible overlap with other agencies, and the implications for international trade. We would like to work with the Subcommittee to address these issues.

Basically, because invasive species are regulated by a whole bunch of different agencies, including USDA and Homeland Security, USFW would like to make some parts of the bill clearer. (You can get a sense of just how tangled regulation on exotic pet species is in this post about praying mantids.)

USFW is also clearly concerned about having a new mandate that will stretch them even thinner, and the 2 year time-line established in the bill. In other words, they like it, but they want to make sure it’s something they can actually do.

Pet owners of exotics hate the bill, with [predictable] distraught tones:

A new bill … introduced into the United States House of Representatives may threaten to shut down the U.S. pet industry, according to Marshall Meyers, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the American Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC).

“Is the mere absence of biological data, because it does not exist, sufficient to compel the USFWS to ban a species that has been imported in the millions or farmed in this country for 30 to 50 years absent evidence of invasiveness?” he said. “Based on such a standard, common goldfish, many tropical fish and myriad common species of birds and reptiles would be banned from the entire United States …

Marine organisms would be banned in Kansas because they might become established in Hawaiian waters. A parakeet would be banned in Minnesota because it could survive in south Florida.”

They also indicate this bill will ban your domestic cat.

Um. No.

This is regulating new introductions. Not species that are already established here in the US. It also calls for a “white list” of introduced exotics that may be continued to be imported, since they are judged to not be harmful, or have potential to be harmful.

If that means I can’t own an orchid mantis, or an African civet cat, I’m totally OK with that.  In the words of the bill sponsor:

“Other industries — pharmaceuticals, food, medical devices — are required to demonstrate their products pose no threat before they can release them,” Bordallo said. “Why should it be different for the pet industry?”
–Subcommittee Chairwoman Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam)

If you’d like to know more about the costs and impacts of Invasive Species, The Ecological Society of America issued a position paper  in 2006 (PDF).
BTW, Pet Insects, as well as other pet exotics, can become pest species. Here’s an example with Stick Insects.

I encourage you to contact your Representatives and get this bill on the House floor and passed to the Senate.  Don’t let the pet industry reps kill it.

Oh, and how much is that pet industry worth? A Report on Trends in the Pet Industry estimates US spending annually at over 14 Billion.
With a B.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. Goldfish and many tropical fish HAVE proven to be invasive! I wrote an article about that for a tropical fish magazine 20 years ago. I’ll add that given the lackadaisical (to be kind) way people often care for their pets that reducing the numbers and kinds for sale would not be a bad thing.

  2. Absolutely! I am trying to get someone at work to stop putting goldfish in our ponds. Ugh.

  3. Exactly, Nuthatch. I’m totally bummed I can’t have a giant African land snail as a pet, but it’s not the government’s fault – it’s because of the people who released them into the wild when they got sick of them and caused all kinds of ecological damage that cost millions of dollars to clean up.

    And if this bill makes people stop dumping pets, I’m all for it.

  4. […] pets: more regulation needed I’ve written before about some legislation pending that would put tighter controls on the importation of non-native species as pets. And today, some […]

Comments are closed.