New congressional bill potentially restricting exotic pet rescue options

Published: Feb. 12, 2022 at 9:44 PM CST
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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - It was an animal lovers dream in Oshkosh today, February 12, at the exotic pet surrender event. Two dozen exotic animals were taken in at the event hosted by J&R Aquatic Animal Rescue.

However, exotic pet owners and rescuers are worried that a new congressional bill could make events like these more difficult.

“Recently, I had somebody that was looking to surrender a turtle and they came all the way up from Illinois,” John Moyles, director of J&R Aquatic Animal Rescue, shared. “So, with the way that [the bill is] written now that would be completely illegal and they wouldn’t be able to do things like that.”

The America COMPETES Act of 2022 just passed in the U.S. Congressional House. Posing major potential change for the pet industry and being able to take animals across state lines.

“If it passes through the Senate the way it’s written now it could completely shut down the pet trade,” Moyles emphasized. “We wouldn’t be able to take any rescues from out of state. We wouldn’t be able to place animals into homes out of state. We’ve adopted animals to aquariums around the country.”

The bill contains amendments to the current Lacey Act which is a conservation law aimed at combating illegal trafficking of wildlife, fish, and plants. The amendments could make it more difficult to keep exotic pets considered to be “injurious.” Particularly when taking them across state lines for veterinary care or when a family moves. Chris Acy, aquatic invasive species coordinator at Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance, said if it becomes more difficult exotic pet owners might look to other options.

“Across the country you see stories of goldfish taking over ponds that maybe one or two got dumped and then they have a big effect on our ecosystem,” Acy said. “It’s really important that we’re wanting to help prevent that spread before it becomes an issue.”

That’s why Acy says events like Saturday’s exotic pet surrender are so important. It gives adoption agencies a chance to step-in. Since February of 2020, J&R Aquatic Animal Rescue has taken in about 2,000 exotic animals to help them to find new homes.

“We never charge anything to surrender a pet,” Moyles highlighted. “We just don’t want there to be any additional barriers to already a hard decision.”

Exotic animal surrender events are held monthly but Moyles can help at any time. Just call (920) 419-8839 or email if you have an exotic pet that you want to pass along to an adoption agency.

“The craziest animals we ever got were chickens which surprises a lot of people because I can’t keep chickens at my house in Menasha,” Moyles shared. “I had to really scramble and figure out what to do.”

Moyles currently houses 300 animals in his basement as they wait to be adopted. He takes mostly fish but also turtles and other animals whose owners can’t care for them anymore.

“[Some pets] live 30 or 40 years and you might not be interested anymore,” Moyles said. “We’ve had a lot of people pass away due to COVID and what do you do with your pets or your mom’s pet or your dad’s pet or your husband’s pet and you just want to move on? That’s kind of why we’re here.”

Leading to positive environmental help in our waterways.

“A lot of the animals and plants that live there are working with each other or competing with each other for food and resources,” Acy said. “But, all of a sudden when a new animal or a new plant gets in, that tips that balance. All of a sudden we get a big wave effect happening in our watershed.”

The next exotic animal surrender event will be in Eau Claire on March 19. You can keep up with all of the J&R Aquatic Animal Rescue events by visiting their Facebook page.

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