|Date of publishing:||September 23, 2011|
|Also available in the following languages:||Dutch, French|
The EU Association of Reptile Keepers (EU–ARK) is a science, animal welfare and education based advocacy for the responsible ownership of, and trade and exchange in herps and related species. We endorse caging standards, sound husbandry, escape prevention protocols, and an integrated approach to vital conservation issues. Our goal is to facilitate cooperation between government agencies, the scientific community, and the private sector in order to produce policy proposals that will effectively address important animal welfare, husbandry and conservation issues. The health of these animals, public safety, and maintaining ecological integrity are our primary concerns.
Education, animal welfare and Conservation
Over the past 40 years, the occurrence of reptiles & amphibians (herps) in captivity has steadily increased. The numbers of herps are increasing; the variety and diversity of herps successfully maintained is increasing; the numbers of participating keepers also are increasing. Today it is statistically probable that within the circle of friends, relatives and acquaintances of every citizen of the European Union there are people who maintain reptiles & amphibians.
During this period of time there have been extraordinary advances regarding successful husbandry and propagation techniques of herps. Thousands of species have been bred in captivity. Today the majority of herps maintained in captivity in this country are produced from captive breeding.
All levels of herp keeping, from the casual owner of a single reptile or amphibian to the incorporated businesses that annually propagate tens of thousands of herps are today recognized as the Reptile Industry. This multi-faceted heterogeneous conglomeration of interests and businesses annually contributes many millions of dollars to the economy.
A growing awareness of the general public to the numbers of herps of in captivity has generated an unprecedented acceptance of and interest in reptiles. Reptiles are increasingly visible in television, movies and advertising. The majority of pet stores in the European Union now feature reptiles and equipment, food and dry goods marketed for reptiles. The reptile exhibits in zoos are typically among the most visited areas in each zoo.
While individuals, regional and national herpetological organizations have made laudable efforts to provide information and education about herps both in nature and in captivity, neither a european wide organized program to provide information and education to the general public, nor any attempt to lobby to the governmental agencies and legislative bodies that regulate such activities have been undertaken. At the same time, at the national and european level there is a vocal and an increasingly organized attempt by the Animal Rights Movement to arrange and create a perceived need for what amounts to the banishment of all animals in captivity, reptiles in particular.
The European Association of Reptile Keepers (EU – ARK) believes that every attempt be made to inform and educate the public and involved government agencies about the importance and value of reptile keeping, herpetoculture, and the value and importance of the existence of viable self-sustaining captive populations of reptiles. Thus, the initial aims of the Science and Research initiative of EU – ARK are three-fold.
Education: First and foremost, EU – ARK will strive to advance the current understanding regarding topics that may threaten the Reptile Industry. EU – ARK recognizes that education is a fundamental issue for our industry’s survival.
Certainly there remains among the general population a segment with generally unfavorable views of reptiles - old beliefs and prejudices die hard - and a larger segment with unformed opinions. We believe that is it of paramount importance to design and implement proactive measures to communicate with this demographic. It’s not a matter of educating the public about reptiles; rather it is a matter of educating the public about the existence and activities of the Reptile Industry. We need to provide a positive and realistic profile of the Reptile Industry to the public at large and to regulatory governmental agencies.
It is equally important that we be able to react to the various attacks that will be mounted against the Reptile Industry.
In similar future circumstances, EU – ARK must be prepared and positioned to quickly disseminate information that both illustrates and interprets biased and false reports and information. EU – ARK must position itself as a source of information to where both the media and the public can turn to for non-sensational interpretation of events.
Animal welfare: is the physical and psychological well-being of non-human animals. The term animal welfare can also mean human concern for animal welfare or a position in a debate on animal ethics and animal rights.
We as keepers and breeders of all kind of herps are the real specialist for mandating the needs and definitions of animal welfare for herps. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_welfare - cite_note-Francione-1
Interest in animal welfare continues to grow, with increasing attention being paid to it by the media, governmental and non-governmental organizations. The volume of scientific research on animal welfare has also increased significantly. Therfor it should be one of our major task to define and propagate the needs of how to keep and breed herps in a proper manner and by providing the necessary needs of each species.
Conservation:It is paramount that conservation becomes a hallmark of the Reptile Industry. On national and local fronts, EU – ARK must support the establishment of strategies aimed at preventing the decline of native herp species. EU – ARK must cooperate and, when necessary, coordinate, with local, state, federal and eurooean conservation agencies on herpetological matters.
In light of the stark reality of worldwide extreme habitat loss, accelerating environmental disturbance and degradation, and a loss of both species diversity and density, captivity is increasingly viewed by conservationists as an acceptable and appropriate conservation measure for many species. Implemented examples include the captive programs for many Asian turtle species and the Amphibian Ark program.
EU – ARK needs to stress that each of the hundreds of herp species currently maintained in viable, self-sustaining captive populations by the Reptile Industry represents an excellent model for a successful, non-governmental, decentralized, economically driven, conservation project. EU – ARK must stress that with the support of the Reptile Industry, there are few herp species that cannot be successfully maintained in perpetuity in captivity.
At this time, the Reptile Industry is the most successful and experienced entity in the world at managing and maintaining an entire order of vertebrate animals.
In the future: We realize that EU – ARK will be required to address other issues. With this in mind, we realize that cooperation between ourselves, government agencies, the scientific community and the private sector is essential for the long-term viability of our hobby.
Support - Fair and responsible legislation supported by proven science to protect the environment, agriculture and public health from invasive species that has been proven to be a specific threat.
Oppose - Ideologically based legislation designed to exploit fear and misunderstanding in order to pass federal law to ban the import, purchase, sale, trade and breeding of many, many reptiles.
Occupational Hazard and Public Safety
There are two types of risk associated with livestock management - occupational risk and public safety. These are completely separate issues. In the case of the Reptile Industry, occupational risk is the risk posed to those individuals who work with and around reptiles (not the innocent public). Public safety risk is that posed to the general public outside of the reptile keeper’s facility.
Unusually large specimens of the five largest snake species, venomous snakes and crocodilians do present a moderate occupational risk to their keepers. However, by any objective measure, the risk is no greater than that associated with other traditional livestock or pets. In recent years the Animal Rights (AR) Movement has waged an aggressive and sensational campaign to paint this occupational risk as an eminent threat to public safety. This is a false claim, confusing occupational hazard and public safety.
The AR Movement has lobbied in a number of States to pass legislation that would designate many reptiles as "Inherently Dangerous", seeking to ban private ownership. The reality is that there are many other types of livestock and pets that have been demonstrated, statistically and historically, to be much more dangerous to both keepers and to the public than any reptiles. However, no proposal has been made to label other animals, including dogs, horses, and other livestock, with the designation of "Inherently Dangerous", even though annually they each injure and kill far more people than do any reptile species.
This is an example of the prejudice felt by segments of the public against reptiles. Some people are frightened of reptiles. There is no doubt that reptiles, particularly snakes, carry the baggage of cultural bias, irrational fear and misunderstanding. This is in spite of the fact that only about one person a year is killed in this country by a captive reptile as an occupational hazard, compared to, say, the average 90 people a year that are killed by horses. No members of the general public have been killed by either reptiles or horses in the US.
EU – ARK rejects the designation of "Inherently Dangerous" to describe to any reptile. We understand that there are occupational risks involved in the captive husbandry of the largest examples of five large snake species, and venomous reptiles. It is the position of EU – ARK that only experienced and serious keepers should work with these animals. However, it is important to consider that there is no evidence to suggest that these risks are any greater than those associated with working with other traditional types of livestock or pets - indeed, the measurable risk is significantly less. EU – ARK has developed model legislation that can be enacted at the state level to ensure that keepers working with potentially dangerous reptiles adhere to strict caging standards, safety protocols, escape prevention plans, registration and identification.
No member of the public, no emergency responder, no innocent bystander has ever been seriously injured or killed by a captive reptile in the European Union.
Support - Legislation for responsible regulation of large snake species, venomous reptiles and crocodilians as outlined by EU – ARK.
Oppose - Legislation designating any reptiles as Dangerous or Inherently Dangerous; or banning the private ownership and trade in any reptiles based on unsubstantiated and false claims of public safety risk.
It has been estimated that 1.4 million cases of non-typhoidal salmonellosis occur annually within the European Union. In fact, only around 40,000 cases are annually reported. Most cases are not investigated as to the strain of salmonella involved or the source of the infection. When investigations are undertaken, it is evident that the majority of cases of salmonellosis result from the consumption of raw or under-cooked eggs, incorrectly handled or prepared poultry, pork and meat, and infected milk. At the most, no more than three percent of salmonella cases are estimated to have resulted from exposure to reptiles. Infections from snakes are essentially unknown. Never-the-less, sensationalized reports often capture the attention of public health officials, members of the medical profession, legislators, and the media, adding unqualified strength to bills that could inevitably prohibit the possession and sale of reptiles within the EU..
Not only do reptiles represent a potential source for salmonella exposure, so do dogs, cats, tropical fish, ferrets, mice, goats, birds, horses, and other animals. The possibility of infection can be dramatically reduced by following simple hygiene practices while handling and cleaning all animals and their enclosures. EU – ARK believes it is critical that accurate education be provided not only to new reptile keepers, but also to veterinarians, herpetoculturists, hobbyists, and the pet trade. EU – ARK can act as a portal for the dissemination of such vital information to the Reptile Industry. Working closely with industry representatives and the herpetological community, we support efforts to reduce the risk of animal-related salmonellosis.
Support - educate the public and endorse simple hygiene protocols to reduce the already minimal number of reptile-related salmonellosis cases.
Oppose - Sensational anecdotal accounts depicting reptiles as a serious salmonella risk.
Domestic and International (CITES) Trade of Reptiles
EU – ARK advocates regulations and policies that protect and facilitate the legal trade of reptiles domestically and internationally. There is also bias’ in the domestic shipping market that inhibits the ready shipping of reptiles that doesn’t apply to traditional animals. EU – ARK advocates the following:
1) Develop education programs for the Reptile Industry that clarifies all wildlife regulations and safe shipping practices applicable when shipping domestically or internationally.
2) Promote ongoing relationships between freight companies and the Reptile Industry so that shipping regulations and standards are developed and followed in order to maximize the safe and convenient transportation of reptiles.
3) Work in conjunction with national agencies order to streamline the CITES Export Permit process in order to encourage international trade.
Support - Expedite the CITES permitting process in order to improve the ability of European breeders to compete in the rapidly growing international trade in high quality captive bred reptiles. Foster understanding and working relationships with domestic shippers.
Oppose - Burdensome government bureaucratic processes that impede the legal trade in reptiles, putting European producers at an unfair trade disadvantage to international competitors.
Support - Responsible and sustainable harvest of reptiles and amphibians that is not scientifically demonstrable to be threatened or endangered.
Oppose - Bans or restrictions on the responsible and sustainable harvest of reptiles or amphibians that have no clear, demonstrable basis in science to be labeled as threatened or endangered.
Potential dialogue partners for EU-ARK
- Industry for example Zoo Med - Lucky Reptile - Exo Terra
- Wholesale dealers in Amphibiens and Reptiles
- Wholesale Company's in "reptile related" products
- Proffesional breeders of live food
- Retail trade
- Trade – unions
- Proffesional terrarium- and aquariumbuilding company's
- Organisers of reptile and amphibien fairs
- Publishing firms of herpetological books unf magazine's
- Digital magazine's or other media
Herpetological, Entomological, Arachnological clubs and associations
- Specialized at specific animalgroups
- NGO with herpetological interest
- All kind of public and private institute's concerning Terrarium and Aquarium