Critics say Obama caving to 'snake lobby' in allowing sales of killer reptiles

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Barack Obama,Lobbying,Animals

An unusual group of liberal and conservative lawmakers, a former Olympian, and the Humane Society of the United States is demanding that the White House stop pandering to the “snake lobby” and ban the sale of exotic reptiles responsible for eating nearly every edible mammal in the Everglades.

“These snakes pose an unacceptable and preventable risk to the safety of the American people and threaten some of our nation's most treasured natural habitats,” said a bipartisan letter [below] to Obama’s budget office from 18 House members.

At issue is a 2012 administration decision to ban only four of nine dangerous snakes that the U.S. Geological Survey said are likely to become invasive. The U.S. and Wildlife Services proposed banning all nine under the Lacey Act, passed in 1900, which protects plants and wildlife.

Administration critics like the Humane Society said that a “snake lobby” made up of pet-store owners and reptile sellers complaining about lost sales forced the administration to allow the sale of the other five snake species, including boa constrictors, reticulated pythons and green anacondas.

A Boston University report noted that mouse and rat breeders would lose business if the big snakes were banned, while snake sellers worried about being unable to sell their stockpiles of reptiles.

Former congressman and Olympian Thomas McMillen wrote in the letter to the Office of Management and Budget — and provided to Secrets — that the five snakes are “a very small part of sales” in the industry, and that buyers would simply shift to other reptiles.

Lawmakers, especially those from Florida, claim that the big snakes are taking over the Everglades, eating 99 percent of all small- and medium-sized mammals. Florida spent $6 million fighting the snakes. They also warned the administration that the snakes have been responsible for killing children and babies.

Those pushing for a ban on all nine snake breeds believe they have the administration on the ropes, but have not achieved victory and may have to wait now that the “snake lobby” has sued over the initial snake ban.

“The administration needs to finish the job, partly to protect the immense national investment we as a nation have made in the Everglades and its protection and to stop this destructive trade in exotic pets,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.