June 2013

June 2013 Newsletter

Reptile breeder prosecution discontinued

Doncaster council have discontinued their intended prosecution of reptile breeder Adam Wilford after months of legal action, thought to have cost in excess of £100,000. Mr Wilford was targeted during a crackdown by Doncaster council following pressure from animal rights groups opposed to the keeping of reptile pets.

The legal action focussed on an outdated piece of legislation within the Pet Animals Act originally intended to kerb the welfare issues caused by the selling of livestock by non-specialist outdoor market traders. Although the reptile shows of today bear no resemblance to the aim of the original legislation, the loophole is used by animal rights activists in their efforts to end the shows and breeders’ meetings. Mr Wilson is a well-known breeder with over 20 years of experience and has regularly attended reptile shows organised by the International Herpetological Society (IHS). Doncaster Borough Council decided that it would be more appropriate to issue Mr Wilford with a formal caution and discontinue the prosecution. No explanation was provided as to why it had taken ten months and two court hearings to come to this conclusion.

Doncaster borough council’s decision is the latest turn in an on-going saga, as animal rights groups push to end the trade and keeping of reptiles. In June 2012 Doncaster council lost a last minute Emergency High Court proceeding in an attempt to cancel the IHS Reptile Breeders' Meeting, despite hosting the bi-annual event at The Dome for nine years. The show went ahead after the court ruled that Doncaster Council did not have the right to cancel the show, awarding victory and legal costs to the organisers.

Council officials subsequently attended the show and initiated the prosecution of Mr Wilford. Following unexplained delays in issuing the summons Doncaster borough council took the unorthodox step of offering a Mr Wilford caution in return for ending the prosecution process on the day of the hearing. No explanation was given for the U-turn and caution plea bargain. Mr Wilford accepted the caution with no penalty, no costs and no criminal record, despite being adamant that no offence had been committed.

The Federation of British Herpetologists championed the case and funded the legal defence of Mr Wilford. FBH Chairman Chris Newman added some context to the proceedings. “The whole issue focusses on a defunct piece of legislation that outlaws commercial activity. The legislation was set for repeal by the last Labour government but has been pushed down the list of priorities since the coalition came to power. Only by licencing the shows will we put an end to this issue once and for all, allowing reptile keepers to go about their legitimate business under the regulation of the local authority.”

Mr Newman continued “There have never been any ethical concerns regarding modern reptile shows. Animal welfare is first rate, zoonotic disease transmission is not an issue, there is no illegal trade and tropical reptiles simply cannot make residence in Doncaster. Despite the facts, these fictional issues are used as propaganda by the animal rights groups to bully to the council to stop the shows. It’s rather a farce!”

“In this time of austerity it is obscene for a council to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds for absolutely no benefit to either itself, the public the reptile keeper or the animals. The only benefit is to the financial campaign of the animal rights fanatics who oppose pet keeping. I find the process obscene and only licencing will solve the problem”

Reptile shows are the only events to receive such attention with events for other taxa, such as pigeon and aquatic shows, operating commercially without such threats.

New Tortoise Law

New rules affecting new applications for the sale of tortoises came into effect from the 1st November 2012. Issued by Animal Health /DEFRA, the new rules state that CITES protected tortoises measuring 60mm or more must be micro-chipped, using one of the newly available ‘mini-microchips’ that are safe for use on smaller specimens of this size. Previously tortoises needed to be at least 100mm before they could be chipped using the larger old-style micro-chip.

The F.B.H. welcomes the changes following many years of highlighting the issues caused by the previous system. “These changes will hopefully clear up much of the ambiguity and unnecessary bureaucracy that tarnished the old system and hopefully this will mark the end of unfair prosecutions for store owners tripped up by red tape.” says Chris Newman – F.B.H. Chairman.

Tortoise checklist

The most commonly kept tortoise species requiring Article 10 paperwork are the Hermann tortoise (Testudo hermanni), Spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca), Marginated tortoise (Testudo marginata). See the tables below for a full list of tortoise species that require CITES paperwork and for a list of the commonly seen pet species.

• If you offer one of these species for sale which is smaller than 60mm it does not require any microchip or identification marking.
• Specimens over 60mm require identification using one of the new ‘mini micro-chips’.
• Tortoises which have already reached 100mm. in length at the time of the application can be marked with any type of microchip as long as it is fully compliant with the required ISO standards.
• The plastron length should be stated on every application for unmarked tortoises.
• This change applies only to new applications and all existing paperwork which contains the old condition regarding the 100mm limit is still valid.

Commonly kept tortoise species in the U.K. and other E.U. member states
• Hermann tortoise - Testudo hermanni - Annex A - Certificate required
• Spur-thighed tortoise - Testudo graeca - Annex A - Certificate required
• Marginated tortoise - Testudo marginata - Annex A - Certificate required
• Horsfield tortoise - Testudo horsfieldi - Annex B - Not required
• Leopard tortoise - Geochelone pardalis - Annex B - Not required
• Sulcata tortoise - Geochelone sulcata - Annex B - Not requiresd
• Indian star tortoise - Geochelone elegans - Annex B - Not required
• Red footed tortoise - Geochelone carbonaria - Annex B - Not required

Annexe A Tortoises requiring CITES paperwork (Article 10)
Galapagos Giant Tortoise (Geochelone nigra)
Radiated tortoise (Geochelone radiata)
Angonoka (Geochelone yniphora)
Bolson tortoise (Gopherus flavomarginatus)
Berger’s cape tortoise (Homopus bergeri)
Pancake tortoise (Malacochersus tornieri)
Geometric tortoise (Psammobates geometricus)
Madagascar flat-shelled tortoise (Pyxis planicauda)
Spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca)
Madagascar spider tortoise (Pyxis arachnoides)
Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni)
Egyptian tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni)
Marginated tortoise (Testudo marginata)
Negev tortoise (Testudo wernei)

Trade support for the FBH

The FBH is entirely funded by donations from private hobbyists, herp society affiliation and trade organisation contributions. The vast majority of this funding is used to defend the legal rights of private keepers, for example, in the case reported earlier in this newsletter.

So we are pleased to announce the ongoing contributions from Wild World Reptiles, a specialist retail herp store based in Bournemouth. World Wide Reptiles has committed to supporting the F.B.H. by donating a percentage of their total business turnover to the F.B.H. cause. Their ongoing quarterly donation will be a significant benefit to the work the organisation undertakes and we are enormously thankful to the owners for their kind and continuing support. We should mention too that Wide World Reptiles also supports the F.B.H. by helping to maintain and develop the our website. http://www.fbh.org.uk/

The owners of World Wide Reptiles are staunch supporters of the F.B.H. and we're unashamedly happy to recommend them. World Wide Reptiles offers a complete service to private reptile keepers through their retail shop, online store and nationwide livestock courier delivery service. You can find out more information about World Wide reptiles here.... http://www.wildworldreptileshop.co.uk/

If you would like to offer support or donations to the F.B.H. please get in touch with us at fbhcomms@live.co.uk

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