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VA Rescue law severely impacts VA Reptile Rescue

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Posted by VAReptileRescue on February 21, 2003 at 22:17:57:


This is Bonnie Keller from VA Reptile Rescue. As some of you know, I have been part of an active group fighting to amend last year's bill in the VA General Assembly that virtually shut down animal rescue. The amendment we sought would have removed provisions of last year's bill that regulated home-based rescuers as animal shelters, placing dangerous, costly and unnecessary provisions on those of us who volunteer our time and money to help rescue animals.

As the amendment came before the Senate, it was substituted by another bill that had some different provisions, and a compromise bill resulted that at least drastically reduced the most severe parts of last year's law. When the compromise reached the House, however, more changes were made that added back in some of the problems. Despite phone calls, e-mails, and letters, this new version of the law was accepted today by the Senate due to the House committee's refusal to back down. These people WILL BE REMEMBERED in November.

The most serious issue for me, at Virginia Reptile Rescue, is the poorly worded phrase:

"No foster home shall keep more than 50 companion animals on-site at one time."

This phrase makes no distinction between rescue animals and personal pets. While I would certainly agree that most people are not capable of caring for 50 dogs, cats, or some other pets, 50 reptiles is a low number. I have in my house right now 43 personal companion reptiles. Add to that my 5 cats and 2 dogs, and I am already at 50 companion animals. I attempted to educate the members of the House and Senate committees on this matter, and pointed out that 50 reptiles can take as little space as an aquarium (think of anole lizards). I have had as many as 96 reptiles at once. While it certainly depends on the species involved, 50 reptiles is not a terrible burden.

As a result of this bill, VA Reptile Rescue will probably be closing when this new law takes effect, UNLESS I CAN FIND FOSTER HOMES IN THE RICHMOND AREA. By finding foster homes that will house animals short-term, I can keep the numbers below this limit and stay legal. The foreseeable result will be that at least 50 reptile pets will not have an alternative this year, and owners unable to care for them any longer will have to make decisions on how to handle the situation. It had been anticipated that the numbers of reptiles I took in would rise this year in response to the many military members being shipped out due to the impended political situation overseas. Many will choose to release these animals into the wild, many will choose to take them back to the pet stores to be sold to other unprepared owners. Either way, the prospect for these animals is grim, at best.

I sincerely hope that those ill-informed, uneducated, and unresponsive lawmakers will reconsider their actions next year when the effects of this begin to come about. I am a Virginia citizen, and CHOSE to return to VA after a stay in another state. Obviously, my decision to come back home was a poor one, and once which I will reconsider at the nearest possible time.

An angry voter,

Bonnie Keller
VA Reptile Rescue

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