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Staying Updated on Laws Affecting Pet Ownership and Animal Welfare

Dog in a ShelterRecent concerns over animal hoarding, introduced species and animal attacks have resulted in a confusing maze of new laws.  Many are legitimate attempts to address serious problems, while others seem over-reactions based on poor research.  I’m an attorney as well as a biologist, and yet even with this background I find it difficult to keep up with all the changes.  However, I’ve found several organizations that track pending legislation and provide links to actions that can be taken…I hope the following helpful information is useful.

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council

PIJAC does a fine job of promoting responsible pet care by providing information to animal owners and industry leaders.  I especially favor their policy of offering expert testimony to lawmakers.

The PIJAC website actively solicits the opinions of the general public, and provides a simple means for users to contact lawmakers and voice concerns.  PIJAC’s efforts were instrumental in revising a recent law that might have had drastic consequences for reptile breeders and owners (please see article below).

The Humane Society of the United States

A long-established animal welfare advocate, HSUS posts a status report on pending state laws affecting captive wild and domestic animals and provides a simple tool that allows people to submit petitions and contact politicians.

The laws tracked by HSUS cover every conceivable animal welfare issue, from circus elephant care and cock fighting to dog shelter operation.

The Sierra Club

Emerald BoaThis conservation organization’s Legislative Tracker is a valuable tool that monitors all pending federal bills related to the environment.  While not specifically pet-related, the topics covered will be of interest to those who keep “non-typical” pets, and for all who are concerned about the health of natural habitats.

Users are provided with background information and status reports, and are able to register their opinions with the lawmakers.  Recently tracked bills involved sustainable electricity sources and the fate of the Saguaro National Park.

The Center for Biological Diversity

The actions of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and related federal agencies are the main focus of this organization’s activities.  Native and exotic animals that appear in the pet trade are frequent subjects of the laws tracked by CBD.

Website visitors are provided with detailed information concerning pending regulations and “Action Toolboxes” that enable one to register opinions with the government and take other steps to help ensure responsible action on behalf of native wildlife and habitats.


Baby Guinea PigI’ve provided testimony on pending legislation several times over the years, and try to remain current through contacts I’ve established.  I also post blog articles on law-related subjects that may be of interest to pet owners, such as this recent one on Animal Abuse.  Please feel free to post questions or to email me directly.

Laws and related topics affecting captive and wild reptiles, birds and fishes are also posted on ThatReptileBlog, ThatBirdBlog and ThatFishBlog (please see article below for an example).

Further Reading

May Hatchling Red-Eared Sliders be Legally Bought and Sold?

PIJAC Position on an Act Limiting Snake Ownership.
Dog in Shelter image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Nhandler
Baby Guinea Pig image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Sandos

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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