The Lacey Act (And What To Do About It)

I want to keep this short and to the point. 

What is the Lacey Act? What can we do about it? And why does this matter to us?

The Lacey Act is an amendment that was put in, or better yet snuck in, with the America COMPETES Act. It threatens the pet keeping industry and, if passed, can keep us from being able to move, ship, or receive certain animals across state lines.

It doesn’t only affect reptiles. It spans to birds, fish, and almost any living thing that isn’t a cat or dog. For the purpose of this article, I’ll be focusing on the reptile community, but this information can apply to any of the animals’ affected by the Act.

Sybil, a rescue Leopard Gecko.

None of us want to lose the right to take our animals with us across state lines.  So what can we do about it?

  1. The first step is to get informed. I’ve been trying to hear from as many trusted sources as I can on the matter so I can learn what to do and know what this is. Some of the resources I found most helpful will be linked below and through this article. Getting informed will help us stop this act from being passed.
  1. Follow up on your knowledge and do something. Writing to the senate and being an active part of the conversation is key to keeping this act from reaching the president. We’re not anti COMPETES here, but we are looking to get the Lacey Act removed from COMPETES.
  1. Visit and learn about this legislation group that is protecting our reptiles. You can become a member of USARK for as little as $20 a year. I chose the bronze membership, $40 a year, so I can stay informed and support an organization that’s supporting us and our animals. Having more members behind USARK makes the organization stronger and is an easy way for us to support our reptile community and rights. They have fought legislation in the past to protect us and won. These are the people we want to be backing up right now.
  1. Like Bill Strand, from the Reptile Entrepreneur Podcast said, we should start a conversation about self regulation within our own community. This act isn’t asking for our opinions, it’s trying to control the community. If we want to show the world we aren’t a scary or dangerous community we should consider analyzing the flaws of our community and coming up with solutions to our issues internally. If we regulate ourselves the arguments to regulate us will look weak in comparison. There are always things we can improve in our own community and it’s better for us to figure things out on the inside than have someone who doesn’t understand our community do it for us.
Angel, a Leopard Gecko.

Why does this matter to us? What are some things this act could do if it’s passed? 

It can take our state mandated blacklist and turn it into a national whitelist.

The blacklist we have now allows certain states to ban certain species from their state. Florida can blacklist reticulated pythons for environmental purposes and North Carolina can keep them off the blacklist. So people can keep reticulated pythons in North Carolina and take them to other states where they’re legal, but they can’t bring the snake into Florida. This system makes some sense.

The whitelist system does not make sense.

The whitelist will require that someone writes down all the animals that they deem worthy of being allowed to cross all state lines. Any animal not on that list will not be allowed to cross any state lines, unless you want to become a felon. We will get no say over what animals end up on this list. Not to mention there are a lot of species to account for, so the odds that many species won’t be on the list, simply because the person who makes the list doesn’t know or care about them, is high.

Snakes are often the target of bad press and hate. One man decides to keep a venomous snake in unsafe conditions, it gets loose, and now everyone not in the community is against keeping any snake species. I’ve seen this happen in my own community. Last year I stayed home for a week because of a loose Cobra that was let out by an irresponsible owner that gave us all a bad name. Can you blame people for being afraid? My point is, if the people making this list give into fear mongering we will be out of luck for a lot of our sweet reptile friends making the list.

Fleur, a rescue Leopard Gecko.

Vet care is also a concern. 

If you don’t have an exotic vet in your state, or your preferred vet is across state lines, you may not be able to take your pet if they end up not being on the white list. Some owners do have local exotic vets, but need to go across state lines from time to time for specialist visits/ procedures. Either way, this will certainly cause issues with reptiles getting proper vet treatment. This will either cause a lot of issues for pets and keepers or rightfully turn people off from getting a reptile. 

This can also affect the business of buying and selling reptiles. 

Breeders will have a hard time sustaining their business if they can only sell their reptiles locally. This pulls their market opportunities down and it also makes it harder for people in certain states to buy the reptiles not on the white list. Even though this isn’t immediately taking our pets away, in the long run, this could make our growing community shrink and crumble.

All of this will inevitably lead to more issues for us down the road. 

Breeders often provide valuable care tips and information for us. If they can no longer make a living doing their reptile business, this information becomes less accessible. It’s a small example, but these snowball effects could pile up and really harm our community.

Let’s do this together. I’ve become an USARK member and messaged my senator. Will you join those of us trying to stop this?

Bendito, a rescue Budgie.

Action Items

Email the senate, join and promote USARK, and be a good example of what reptile owners are really like.

Make sure to represent us well and don’t post aggressively. Practice what you preach and make sure you’re safely keeping your reptiles and treating them well.

Below I have some resources that will give you templates to send to your Senators, and let you know which senators to send them to.

Stay Psyched about the reptile community,


USARK – Click here to find templates and your local senator.

Hope you enjoyed my Leo’s. I found Bendito outside one day and fostered him until him I met an awesome Budgie owner willing to take him in. Feel free to share your pets in the comments below too!

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