Florida’s pet trade has a momentary reprieve, following up on earlier concerns with Florida’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) proposals to restrict the importation of non-native animals to one of two highly-restrictive whitelists. In separate news, the pet trade nationwide is now facing the exact same proposals, again, at the Federal level.
We’re pleased to share a follow-up on the situation in Florida from Pet Advocacy Network and Nautilus Tropical Fish Wholesale.
Pet Care Community Supports Florida Commissioners’ Decision to Reevaluate Nonnative Fish and Wildlife Rulemaking
May 11th, 2023— “The responsible pet care community appreciates the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) sensible decision today to postpone their vote on an ill-advised rulemaking proposal that would have crippled growth and competitiveness for the state’s pet businesses without reducing the invasive species problem,” said Pet Advocacy Network President and CEO Mike Bober.
“As part of the FWC’s Technical Assistance Group, experts from the pet and animal exhibitor sectors have been working on solutions that will protect Florida’s delicate ecosystem while also safeguarding the pet businesses that support over 100K jobs and contribute nearly $800M in local and state tax revenue. These experts stand ready to collaborate with FWC staff to draft a new proposal that is based on experience and science.
“An option we support is a conditional list, if needed, of prohibited species, which would be a much smaller, manageable, and enforceable list than one that attempts to encompass all allowed species. We are dedicated to preserving the environment as we continue to help families in Florida and around the country experience the human-animal bond by connecting them with a wide variety of healthy pets.”
May 11th, 2023—Thank you! A sincere thank you to every person that signed the PAN petition, submitted comments to FWC, contacted the Governor and Florida legislators, and most especially thank you to everyone that showed up at the Fish & Wildlife Commission meeting yesterday.
We have a reprieve, and some hope going forward. Our commissioners were presented with two white-list options for trade, one of which would have crippled the industry, one of which would have immediately shut down the industry. FWC staff recommended the first option. Then the commissioners listened to public comment for the next two hours, nearly all in opposition to a whitelist. The commissioners then had the option to approve the draft rule suggested by staff, but declined to do so. At the end of the day, they decided to table the idea for now and continue our TAG meetings to work towards better options.
In very, very closely related news, our FWC has a new executive director. The previous acting director, Dr. Eason, is the author of the statement “If it can live in Florida we don’t want anyone to have it in Florida.” The new director, Colonel Young, is from the law enforcement side of the agency. The commissioners were kind enough to not dump this mess in his lap before he is even officially on the job.
Colonel Young has stated that he will be attending the next TAG meeting (something we’ve never had from Dr. Eason or Eric Sutton, the previous director). Colonel Young also indicated that he is interested in developing a better working relationship with members of the pet trade. I think all of us in Florida are a little cautious and want to see him follow through with this before we get too excited, but we are all cautiously optimistic. We have a chance for a new start, with a new director, and maybe we can get back to a cooperative relationship with our regulators. I think all of us in Florida are breathing a sigh of relief too, even if it’s only temporary.
On a personal note, I can’t express how draining and depressing this whole process has been, and how much it’s impacted my mental health. Lots of us in Florida feel the same way. It might not last, but it’s fantastic to get at least a couple of months where I don’t have to worry about whether or not I have a job. For the last year plus, especially the last several months, I’m wondering if I can learn how to sell pharmaceuticals, or if I can get a job in the industry outside of Florida, if we can set up Nautilus of Dallas, or Nautilus of Chicago. I made sure my resume was up to date. Had regrets about buying acreage and a house last year, with plenty of plans for birds and turtles and lizards that were on hold because we had no idea if any of that would be allowed going forward.
Lots and lots of people need to be thanked for this, and not just fish people. I believe there’s a very real chance that if we hadn’t packed the room with people yesterday we might have a very different situation today. And we packed the room because we were united as an industry. If we only had fish people there, or if we only had reptile people there, then I don’t think we would have had the same impact.
Pretty sure I’m going to break some kind of cardinal rule of sales by mentioning some competitors here, but this is such a big issue that I want everyone to know how many people helped out. Phil Goss and Daniel Parker from USARK and USARK-FL have been indispensable in this fight. Alyssa Miller and Ashley Brinkman from PAN have spent plenty of time in Florida and spoke at the meeting. They’ve done such a good job I can think of PAN as Pet Advocacy Network instead of “ex-PIJAC”. Thanks to Bob Likins, Mike Bober, Gwyn Donohue, and I’m sure more people there than I’m aware of that helped out. From the Florida aquatics industry, thank you for speaking at the meeting to Ryan Schelb, Jason Diaz, Baron Kalmeyer, Jeremiah Grafsgaard, Mike Drawdy, Jeff Turner, Arthur Frayler, and Arjan de Zwart. Geno Evans of the Florida Aquaculture Association and Paul Zajicek of the National Aquaculture Association not only spoke at the meeting but used all the resources of their organizations to oppose the whitelist. Sandy Moore of Segrest also spoke and you’ve probably seen has been working tirelessly to raise awareness of this issue through all the Segrest companies. Other people from the pet trade that spoke include Art Parola, Eugene Bessette, Michael Cole, Elizabeth Wisneski, Marc Cantos, Brad Thomas, Bodie Cole, Jordan Spring, Manny Hernandez, Joe Fauci, and David Garcia. Some other people that were there in support include Laif DeMason, Mark Bell, Kim Bell, Arie de Zwart, Eric Russell, Chris Nettles, Ivan Alfonso, Mike Barrera, Chris Buerner, Dustin Dorton, Kevin Hannon, Amir Soleymani, Howard Fluker, and lots more. I also have to mention Stephan Tanner and Matt Pedersen from Amazonas Magazine for their help in getting the word out.
If you’re interested in watching the staff’s presentation and the public comments there are about three hours of it here on the Florida channel. The ‘items not agenda’ are also of interest to the industry but that hasn’t been posted yet.
Thank you all for your help. Let’s hope my legal updates are a lot more brief and a lot more reasonable in the future.