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Tarrant county’s new exotic law.....Herps are next.

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Posted by Johneod on August 30, 2001 at 10:29:32:

I saw a teaser on the news last night about some new law about exotics in Tarrant county, but missed the report. Today I went to CBS’s WebPages found the transcript of the report which I will post below, but just to call attention to the important parts. They seem to be planning to amend the bill to include “Pythons, other deadly snakes” Large Monitors and other herps won’t be far behind. Also “Tarrant County officials have adopted an immediate ban, and Dallas County and others are expected to follow suit.” Dallas is next folks what if anything are we planning to do before they ban our pets from us? I am posting this in all the DFW forums on kingsnake as well as the herp law forum and Texas law forum. I don’t want to start any fights with the local herp societies as I am not a member but am willing to become one if action is being planned, but is any action being planned? As of now the law has no herps on the list but it won’t be long, WE CAN NOT IGNORE THIS because most of us don’t have a lion or tiger in our back yard but we do have what we all know is next, reptiles.


Here’s the transcript

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Texas is one of a handful of states that don't regulate dangerous wild animals, but a new state law that takes effect Saturday gives cities and counties the right to regulate or ban many of the beasts.

According to a recent legislative report, the state is home to as many as 2,300 captive tigers, which would rank Texas second only to India. Three Texans were severely mauled by big cats in 1999, and a 10-year-old San Antonio girl was killed by a tiger kept as a pet.

Most major Texas cities, including Fort Worth, Dallas and Arlington, already prohibit wild animals. But the law will have more teeth, giving authorities the power to fine owners of such animals. Tarrant County officials have adopted an immediate ban, and Dallas County and others are expected to follow suit.

"We need to protect our citizens," said Chester Vaughn, assistant director of environmental health for Dallas County, who is urging a ban.

The new law may also lead to the prohibition of more animals in some cities, such as Arlington.

The law, sponsored by Rep. Toby Goodman and Sen. Chris Harris, both R-Arlington, makes possessing the animals a Class C misdemeanor. It restricts 19 species, including lions, tigers, cougars, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, bobcats, baboons, bears and gorillas. Exceptions are made for zoos, veterinarians, research facilities, private owners with federal permits, film companies, some traveling circuses and college mascots, such as the Baylor University bear cub seen at football games.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department used to regulate wild animals but stopped doing so four years ago because of a lack of staff.

"They abdicated their responsibility," said Mark Mendez, an Austin lobbyist for Tarrant County. "They pushed it off on local government."

Goodman tried three times to pass a wild-animal control bill, which he said is "desperately needed." Similar bills were defeated in 1997 and 1999.

Opponents, including some exotic-animal groups, testified that such a law would have interfered with property rights.

"If the animal control officer doesn't believe that wild animals should be kept in captivity, then nothing is going to please them," said Doug Terranova, a Kaufman County resident who said he carries $2 million in liability insurance on his animals.

But backers asserted that public safety outweighs such concerns.

"You shouldn't be afraid someone's cast-off panther is going to attack you," said Pam Burney, environmental director for the city of North Richland Hills, who also represented the Texas Association of Humane Societies. People often buy young exotic animals as pets thinking they are unique or cute, she said, but when the animals get older and more aggressive, they can viciously attack people.

"You still have those incidents happening," said Darren Whitehurst, legislative director for Harris.

"He got tired of reading in the papers where a child got mauled by a lion, tiger or bear."

Pythons, other deadly snakes and wolves are not among the 19 species covered by the law. Police recently scoured an east Fort Worth neighborhood for a missing wolf hybrid, a breed that has been tied to fatal attacks and maulings of small children.

"I'm not sure why they left those off the list, but as far as we're concerned, those are wild animals, too," Vaughn said. "We would do whatever we could to remove them from the area."

The law gives cities and counties the option of banning wild animals entirely or allowing them to be kept if the owners follow restrictions, such as special insurance and inspections.

Violations will be enforced by local officials, such as animal control agencies or sheriffs.

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