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111th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session                                                     111-693




 December 21, 2010.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on 
            the State of the Union and ordered to be printed


    Mr. Conyers, from the Committee on the Judiciary, submitted the 

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 2811]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

  The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the bill 
(H.R. 2811) to amend title 18, United States Code, to include 
constrictor snakes of the species Python genera as an injurious 
animal, having considered the same, report favorably thereon 
with an amendment and recommend that the bill as amended do 


The Amendment....................................................     2
Purpose and Summary..............................................     2
Background and Need for the Legislation..........................     2
Hearings.........................................................     5
Committee Consideration..........................................     5
Committee Votes..................................................     6
Committee Oversight Findings.....................................     6
New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures........................     6
Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate........................     6
Performance Goals and Objectives.................................     7
Constitutional Authority Statement...............................     8
Advisory on Earmarks.............................................     8
Section-by-Section Analysis......................................     8
Jurisdictional Letters...........................................     9
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported............    10

                             The Amendment

  The amendment is as follows:
  Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 


  Section 42(a)(1) of title 18, United States Code, is amended in the 
first sentence by inserting ``; of the Burmese Python of the species 
Python molurus bivittatus; of the African Rock Python of the species 
Python sebae'' after ``polymorpha''.

                          Purpose and Summary

    H.R. 2811, sponsored by Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL), adds the 
three largest species of the genus Python--the Burmese Python, 
as well as the two species of African Rock Python, the Northern 
African Python and the Southern African Python--to a list of 
injurious animals that are prohibited from importation and 
interstate transportation into and throughout the United States 
and its territories and possessions.

                Background and Need for the Legislation

    None of the three large python species addressed in the 
bill is native to the United States; they were initially 
imported for sale as pets. But they have become established in 
the wild, living and breeding in Everglades National Park and 
other parts of southern Florida. Hundreds were accidentally 
released in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew destroyed a breeding 
facility in Homestead, Florida, southwest of Miami and just 
east of the Everglades. In addition, undetermined numbers have 
been intentionally released into the Everglades over the years 
by pet owners overwhelmed by the size, appetite, and power of 
the snakes.
    Experts estimate the number of Burmese Pythons in the wild 
in that area to be in the tens of thousands. The African Rock 
Python\1\ has also been found in the wild there, in smaller 
numbers--there are indications of an active reproducing 
population of Northern African Pythons on the western 
boundaries of Miami.\2\ Meanwhile, pythons continue to be 
legally imported--more than 140,000 Burmese Pythons alone since 
2000, according to estimates.\3\
    \1\The Northern African Python (Python sebae) and the Southern 
African Python (Python natalensis) are commonly referred to together as 
the African Rock Python. The report uses all these terms.
    \2\While thus far there is no evidence of established populations 
of the Reticulated Python or any of the various anaconda species in the 
wild in Florida, individual snakes have been sighted or even captured 
    \3\Over the past 30 years, about one million snakes of the genus 
Python have been imported into the United States, and current domestic 
production of some species likely exceeds import levels.
    While the Southern Florida environment may be hospitable 
for the pythons, the pythons have become a dominant predator, 
wreaking havoc on the ecosystem. They have been known to grow 
to 23 feet, can weigh up to 200 pounds, and consume animals 
many times their size.

                           HARM TO ECOSYSTEM

    According to a report issued by the U.S. Geological Survey 
(USGS), several giant, non-native snake species would pose high 
risks to the health of ecosystems in the United States should 
they become more established.\4\ The report looked at the large 
constrictor snakes increasingly found in southern Florida, and 
examined the implications for the health of the environment, 
parks, and wildlife refuges. Assessments were made with respect 
to threats to ``at-risk'' species and to human safety, as well 
as the ability to control the growth of the snake populations 
and their spread to other areas of the country.
    \4\U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey Report, 
October 13, 2009, ``Giant Constrictors: Biological and Management 
Profiles and an Establishment Risk Assessment for Nine Large Species of 
Pythons, Anacondas, and the Boa Constrictor.''
    The USGS report details the risks of nine non-native 
species of large constrictor snakes that are invasive or 
potentially invasive in the United States: the Burmese Python, 
the North African Python, the Reticulated Python, the Green 
Anaconda, the South African Python, the Boa Constrictor, the 
Beni Anaconda, the Yellow Anaconda and the DeSchaunensee's 
Anaconda. All nine species share characteristics associated 
with greater ecological risks and represent a medium or high 
risk to our natural resources.
    The high-risk species identified by the USGS report include 
three of the species referenced in H.R. 2811--Burmese Python 
and the African Rock Python, also known as Northern and 
Southern African Pythons. The other two high-risk species 
include Boa Constrictors and Yellow Anacondas. All five are 
more common in trade and commerce than other species of snakes. 
Medium-risk species include the Reticulated Python, 
DeSchauensee's Anaconda, the Green Anaconda, and the Beni 
Anaconda. These four species constitute lesser but still 
potentially serious threats. The Reticulated Python, for 
example, is the world's longest snake, and the Green Anaconda 
is the heaviest snake. Both species have been found in the wild 
in southern Florida, although breeding populations are not yet 
    Compounding the risk to native species and ecosystems, 
these snakes mature early, produce large numbers of offspring, 
travel long distances, and are difficult to detect in the wild. 
They are also carriers of diseases and parasites that pose 
significant risks to agriculture or wildlife, and have broad 
diets that include most native birds, mammals, and other 
reptiles. Most of these snakes can inhabit a variety of 
habitats, and are tolerant of suburban and even urban areas.
    The USGS report notes that there currently are no control 
tools that are adequate for eradicating an established 
population of giant snakes once they have spread over a large 

                        POTENTIAL HARM TO HUMANS

    Since 1980, 12 people have been killed in the United States 
by pet pythons, the most recent being a 2-year-old girl in 
Florida who was killed by her family's 8-foot-long pet Burmese 
Python. In 1999, another couple's 7.5-foot African Rock Python 
escaped from an enclosure and killed their 3-year-old son.\5\
    \5\A Virginia Beach woman found dead by asphyxiation in October 
2008 is believed to have been killed by a 13-foot-long pet Reticulted 
Python owned by her and her husband.
    Some species of constrictors pose a small risk to people, 
because they would not be large enough to consider a person as 
suitable prey. However, mature snakes of the largest species--
Burmese, Reticulated, and Northern and Southern African 
Pythons--have been documented as attacking and killing people 
in the wild in their native range. While the snake most 
associated with unprovoked human fatalities in the wild is the 
Reticulated Python, recent articles in the National Geographic 
News and The Christian Science Monitor also describe the 
Northern and Southern African Pythons as having a ``meaner'' 
disposition and not likely to ever ``tame down.''\6\
    \6\Christian Science Monitor, September 14, 2009, ``Scientists 
Worry That Two Species of Nonnative Pythons Now Near the Everglades 
Could Breed, Yielding More Aggressive Offspring;'' National Geographic 
News, September 14, 2009, `Python `Nightmare': New Giant Species 
Invading Florida.''


    USGS researchers used the best available science to 
forecast areas of the country most at risk of invasion by these 
giant snakes. Based on climate alone, many of the species would 
be limited to the warmest areas of the United States, including 
parts of Florida, extreme south Texas, Hawaii, and America's 
tropical islands, such as Puerto Rico and Guam. For a few 
species, however, larger areas of the continental United States 
appear to exhibit suitable climatic conditions. For example, 
much of the southern U.S. climatic conditions are similar to 
those experienced by the Burmese Python in its native range. 
However, many factors other than climate alone can influence 
whether a species can establish a population in a particular 
    The Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service 
will use the report to assist in further development of 
management actions concerning the snakes when and where these 
species appear in the wild. In addition, the risk assessment 
will provide current, science-based information for management 
authorities to evaluate prospective regulations that might 
prevent further colonization by these snakes.

                            THE SNAKE TRADE

    In response to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Notice of 
Inquiry entitled, ``Injurious Wildlife Species: Review of 
Information Concerning Constrictor Snakes from Python, Boa, and 
Eunectes (Anaconda) Genera,'' the Pet Industry Joint Advisory 
Council (PIJAC) estimates that in the U.S. there are 
approximately 10 importers, 50 distributers, 5,100 retailers, 
25 hobbyist show promoters hosting 350-400 reptile shows in the 
U.S. annually, and 2,500-5,000 individual hobbyists that sell 
Pythons, Boas, and Anacondas. PIJAC was unable to provide 
annual sales figures for these three species, but indicates 
prices ranging from approximately $100 to upwards of $25,000 
per snake, depending on particular colors and locality-specific 
    The exotic snake trade is further compounded by the variety 
of dealers. Dealers can be wholesale or retail, can deal in 
imported or U.S.-bred snakes, and can be established commercial 
enterprises or private hobbyists who sell and trade for 
supplemental income.


    The Lacey Act bans importation and interstate transport of 
certain animal species determined to be injurious to humans or 
to agriculture, horticulture, forestry, or wildlife, in order 
to prevent their introduction and establishment in the United 
States.\7\ The statute specifically lists a number of species, 
and gives the Secretary of the Interior authority to add others 
by regulation. H.R. 2811 would add three python species to the 
statutory list.\8\
    \7\18 U.S.C. Sec. 42.
    \8\As introduced, H.R. 2811 would have extended the statutory ban 
to the entire genus Python, which includes 47 species. During full 
Committee markup, in consultation with Congressman Meek, the sponsor, 
an amendment offered by Congressman Tom Rooney (R-FL) was adopted to 
narrow the focus to the three species.
    The law, however, is not an outright ban on all 
importation. 18 U.S.C. Sec. 42(a)(3) provides that the 
Secretary of the Interior, upon ``a showing of responsibility 
and continued protection of the public interest and health, 
shall permit the importation for zoological, educational, 
medical and scientific purposes of any mammals, birds, fish 
(including mollusks and crustacea), amphibia, and reptiles, or 
the offspring or eggs thereof, where such importation would be 
prohibited otherwise by or pursuant to this Act, and this Act 
shall not restrict importations by Federal agencies for their 
own use.''


    The Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and 
Homeland Security held hearings on H.R. 2811 on November 6, 
2009. Testimony was received from Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL). 
Testimony was also received from Dan Ashe, Deputy Director of 
the United States Fish and Wildlife Service; Andrew Wyatt, 
President, United States Association of Reptile Keepers; Dr. 
Elliot Jacobson, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of 
Florida; Nancy Perry, Vice President, Government Affairs, The 
Humane Society of the United States; and George Horne, Deputy 
Executive Director, Operations and Maintenance, South Florida 
Water Management District. Statements have been received from 
Dr. Kenneth L. Krysko, Florida Museum of Natural History, 
University of Florida, in support of the bill, and the Pet 
Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) in opposition to the 
bill. Ten herpetologists submitted a joint letter expressing 
their reservations regarding the U. S. Geological Survey's 
report. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail 
Federation, and the Gourmet Rodent oppose H.R. 2811 in its 
original, unamended form. A joint letter of suppport for H.R. 
2811 was submitted by ten organizations: The Animal Welfare 
Institute, Born Free USA, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Lakes 
United, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Humane Society of the 
United States, National Environmental Coalition on Invasive 
Species, Natural Areas Association, Natural Resources Defense 
Council, Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, and the Union of 
Concerned Scientists.

                        Committee Consideration

    On July 28, 2009, the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and 
Homeland Security met in open session and ordered the bill H.R. 
2811 favorably reported, without amendment, by voice vote, a 
quorum being present. On July 29, 2009, the Committee met in 
open session and ordered bill H.R. 2811 favorably reported with 
an amendment, by voice vote, a quorum being present.

                            Committee Votes

    In compliance with 3(b) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the Committee advises that there were 
no recorded votes during the Committee's consideration of H.R. 

                      Committee Oversight Findings

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee advises that the 
findings and recommendations of the Committee, based on 
oversight activities under clause 2(b)(1) of rule X of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives, are incorporated in the 
descriptive portions of this report.

               New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures

    Clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives is inapplicable because this legislation does 
not provide new budgetary authority or increased tax 

               Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee sets forth, with 
respect to the bill, H.R. 2811, the following estimate and 
comparison prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office under section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act of 

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                   Washington, DC, October 9, 2009.
Hon. John Conyers, Jr., Chairman,
Committee on the Judiciary,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 2811, a bill to 
amend title 18, United States Code, to include constrictor 
snakes of the species Python genera as an injurious animal.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Mark 
                                      Douglas W. Elmendorf,


        Honorable Lamar S. Smith.
        Ranking Member
H.R. 2811--A bill to amend title 18, United States Code, to include 
        constrictor snakes of the species Python genera as an injurious 
    CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 2811 would have no 
significant cost to the Federal Government. Enacting the bill 
could affect direct spending and revenues, but CBO estimates 
that any such effects would not be significant.
    H.R. 2811 would make it a Federal crime to import or ship 
certain snakes into the United States. Because the bill would 
establish a new offense, the government would be able to pursue 
cases that it otherwise would not be able to prosecute. We 
expect that H.R. 2811 would apply to a relatively small number 
of offenders, so any increase in costs for law enforcement, 
court proceedings, or prison operations would not be 
significant. Any such costs would be subject to the 
availability of appropriated funds.
    Because those prosecuted and convicted under H.R. 2811 
could be subject to criminal fines, the Federal Government 
might collect additional fines if the legislation is enacted. 
Criminal fines are recorded as revenues, deposited in the Crime 
Victims Fund, and later spent. CBO expects that any additional 
revenues and direct spending would not be significant because 
of the small number of cases likely to be affected.
    Under H.R. 2811, entities such as zoos would need permits 
to import or transport the affected species of snakes. Based on 
information provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(USFWS), which issues permits for such activities, CBO 
estimates that enacting the bill could result in an increase in 
offsetting collections (for permits) and associated spending. 
We estimate that such increases would be minimal, however, and 
would offset each other in most years, resulting in no 
significant net cost.
    By prohibiting the importation and interstate transport of 
certain snakes without a permit, the bill would impose 
intergovernmental and private-sector mandates as defined in the 
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA).
    The cost to public and private entities eligible for 
permits, such as zoos or research centers, would be the expense 
of obtaining those permits. (USFWS regulations prohibit the 
agency from charging permit fees to State, local, or tribal 
entities. Fees for private entities would be $25 or $100 
depending on the activity being authorized.) The cost of the 
mandate to those ineligible for a permit, including private 
importers, breeders, retailers, shippers, and owners of those 
snakes, would be the forgone net income from no longer being 
able to sell or transport the animals across State lines. 
(According to the USFWS, exportation of the animals would be 
allowed only from coastal or border States.)
    Based on information about the cost of permits from the 
USFWS, and information gathered from industry professionals 
about the value of shipments, sales, and imports of snakes, CBO 
estimates that the costs of the mandates would fall below the 
annual thresholds established in UMRA for intergovernmental and 
private-sector mandates ($69 million and $139 million in 2009, 
respectively, adjusted annually for inflation).
    The CBO staff contacts for this estimate are Mark Grabowicz 
(for costs to the Federal justice system), Deborah Reis (for 
USFWS), Melissa Merrell (for the impact on State, local, and 
tribal governments), and Marin Randall (for the impact on the 
private sector). The estimate was approved by Theresa Gullo, 
Deputy Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                    Performance Goals and Objectives

    The Committee states that pursuant to clause 3(c)(4) of 
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, H.R. 
2811 is designed to restrict the importation and interstate 
transportation of pythons unless specifically authorized by the 
Secretary of the Interior for zoological, educational, medical, 
or scientific purposes, or imported by Federal agencies for 
their own use.

                   Constitutional Authority Statement

    Pursuant to clause 3(d)(1) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the Committee finds the authority for 
this legislation in article I, section 8, clauses 3 and 18 of 
the Constitution.

                          Advisory on Earmarks

    In accordance with clause 9 of rule XXI of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, H.R. 2811 does not contain any 
congressional earmarks, limited tax benefits, or limited tariff 
benefits as defined in clause 9 of Rule XXI.

                      Section-by-Section Analysis

    Section 1. Importation or Shipment of Injurious Species.--
This section amends the first sentence of 18 U.S.C. 
Sec. 42(a)(1) to include ``constrictor snakes of the species 
Python genera'' among the species for which importation into 
the United States and its territories and possessions is 
specifically prohibited.

                         Jurisdictional Letters

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

  In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (new matter is 
printed in italic and existing law in which no change is 
proposed is shown in roman):

                      TITLE 18, UNITED STATES CODE

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Sec. 42. Importation or shipment of injurious mammals, birds, fish 
                    (including mollusks and crustacea), amphibia, and 
                    reptiles; permits, specimens for museums; 

    (a)(1) The importation into the United States, any 
territory of the United States, the District of Columbia, the 
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any possession of the United 
States, or any shipment between the continental United States, 
the District of Columbia, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of Puerto 
Rico, or any possession of the United States, of the mongoose 
of the species Herpestes auropunctatus; of the species of so-
called ``flying foxes'' or fruit bats of the genus Pteropus; of 
the zebra mussel of the species Dreissena polymorpha; of the 
Burmese Python of the species Python molurus bivittatus; of the 
African Rock Python of the species Python sebae; and such other 
species of wild mammals, wild birds, fish (including mollusks 
and crustacea), amphibians, reptiles, brown tree snakes, or the 
offspring or eggs of any of the foregoing which the Secretary 
of the Interior may prescribe by regulation to be injurious to 
human beings, to the interests of agriculture, horticulture, 
forestry, or to wildlife or the wildlife resources of the 
United States, is hereby prohibited. All such prohibited 
mammals, birds, fish (including mollusks and crustacea), 
amphibians, and reptiles, and the eggs or offspring therefrom, 
shall be promptly exported or destroyed at the expense of the 
importer or consignee. Nothing in this section shall be 
construed to repeal or modify any provision of the Public 
Health Service Act or Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. 
Also, this section shall not authorize any action with respect 
to the importation of any plant pest as defined in the Federal 
Plant Pest Act, insofar as such importation is subject to 
regulation under that Act.

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