There are so many issues in the news every day that it is hard to keep up. As veterinarians, we try especially hard to pay attention to issues that relate to animals, but, with all the obligations we face every day in our jobs and with our families, some issues slip through the cracks. One issue, H.R. 669, the Non-native Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act, should not. It is too important. For those of you who have not heard about this proposed legislation, the underlying intent of this bill is, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) (and as published in The AVMA Advocate, 2009), to “establish a risk-assessment process to prevent the introduction into, and establishment in, the United States of non-native wildlife species that will cause or are likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to other animal species' health or human health.” This legislation would create 2 species lists for the United States: approved species and unapproved species. As the AVMA notes, “For species not already included on these 2 lists, H.R. 669 tries to account for this by providing a method to submit proposals for importation of a species. Upon submission of this request, the Secretary of the Interior, through the Fish and Wildlife Service, is required to determine if the species is (1) approved for importation and placed on the approved species list, (2) not approved for importation and placed on the unapproved species list, or (3) the Secretary has insufficient scientific and commercial information to make a determination.” Once species are classified, the breeding, sale, trade, and interstate transport of any species on the unapproved list would be prohibited. As the AVMA notes, what is unclear is what happens if there is insufficient scientific evidence to make a determination about a particular species. In addition, “H.R. 669 fails to take into consideration variations in climate, geology, hydrology and native species of a particular geographical region of the United States. With states as diverse as Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana and New Hampshire, it is difficult, if not impossible to legislate a one size fits all approach.”
H.R. 669 has ramifications for all exotic species and for all those who work with exotic species. Although the bill was defeated in the House of Representatives, the AVMA recently commented, “It is our understanding that H.R. 669 will be re-written to more appropriately address the issue of invasive species.” Consequently, it is something we should all be thinking about. To this end, I have invited 5 participants knowledgeable about H.R. 669 to share their thoughts about this potential legislation. The participants are Susan Clubb, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian Practice), Rainforest Clinic For Birds & Exotics, Inc, Loxahatchee, FL, USA; Robert Groskin, DVM, Englewood Animal Hospital, Englewood, NJ, USA; Tarah Hadley, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian Practice), Atlanta Hospital for Birds and Exotics Inc, Lithonia, GA, USA; James M. Harris, DVM, Mayfair Veterinary Clinic, Sandy Bay, Tasmania, Australia; and Bruce Nixon, DVM, Animal Emergency Hospital of North Texas, Grapevine, TX, USA. I hope that their comments will be enlightening, thought provoking, and motivating to each of us to voice our own opinions about this daunting issue.