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Congress Names Committee Members to Reconcile Bills That Contain Threat to Pet Businesses

One bill contains amendments that would affect importation of non-native species for companion animal purposes. The Pet Advocacy Network calls for pet businesses to join its campaign against these amendments.

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Congress Thursday announced the Members who will sit on the Conference Committee to reconcile the differences between H.R.4521 (COMPETES) and S.1260 (USICA). This brings the House version of the COMPETES Act, that contains a section with amendments to the Lacey Act that would cause harm to pet businesses and pet owners alike, one step closer to enactment. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office issued a list of the Democrats on the Committee, and U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell released a list of the Republicans.

After both chambers passed differing bills addressing the same topic — overcoming competition challenges from China — this legislative session, a conference committee has been assembled to reconcile the differences between the measures. When compared to the Senate’s version of the COMPETES Act (originally S.1260, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), the House version includes many added amendments that are unconnected to the original intent of the legislation.

While there are positive parts to H.R.4521 that are fully supported by the responsible pet care community, including pieces aimed at ocean shipping reform and preventing future pandemics, section 71102 of COMPETES contains provisions that would have a significant negative impact on thousands of pet businesses and millions of current and future pet owners.

These amendments would:

  • Prohibit animal species not previously imported in more than “minimal quantities” from being put on a new import-approved “whitelist” until reviewed. This would harm small pet businesses and their customers by imposing a costly and lengthy evaluation process on thousands of species that are sought as pets but don’t meet the minimal threshold.
  • Allow use of an “emergency designation” to unilaterally ban a species from import into the U.S. essentially overnight without due process, public input, hearings or advance notice for certain injurious listings.
  • Enable USFWS to regulate movement in the continental U.S. of species that are deemed injurious without consideration of their invasive threat risk in different climates or geographies. A species deemed injurious in any part of any state would be banned throughout the entire U.S. Federal oversight is redundant as state agencies already determine captive wildlife rules based on state-specific concerns.

If section 71102 were to remain and the bill is signed into law, it would stop importation of animals not on the federal government’s future “whitelist” of approved animals, shutting down small, mom-and-pop businesses like tropical fish and reptile specialty stores across all 50 states, and impacting tens of millions of current and future pet owners.

Responsible businesses in the pet care community are dependent on the importation of non-native species to provide the wide variety of birds, non-native mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians as captively raised companion animals.

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The Pet Advocacy Network, along with a large group of pet- and non-pet-related businesses and trade groups have been actively advocating with lawmakers to strike section 71102 from the final bill. It is critical that the responsible pet care community engage in this fight by contacting the Representatives and Senators on the conference committee and urge them to NOT include language from Section 71102 in the final bill.

The PetAdvocacy.org website’s advocacy campaign section has a simple online form here to use to quickly compose, personalize and send a message to the committee members.

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