Photo of Albino Green Iguana by Travis deLagerheim
A judge is allowing the United States Association of Reptile Keepers Florida (USARK FL) to argue that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) lacks the constitutional authority to regulate captive animals under the facts presented in case number 2021-CA-977 in Leon County Circuit Court. USARK FL is challenging FWC's "Prohibited Species" rules, which they say have been detrimental to pet keepers and small businesses dealing with species such as iguanas and tegus. USARK FL says that FWC's enforcement of these rules has led to the confiscation and euthanasia of animals, as well as reptile breeders moving out of the state as economic refugees. Judge John C. Cooper granted the motion requesting permission to add this claim at a hearing held August 15, 2022. USARK FL expects a written order to that effect to be entered soon.
An excerpt from the filing is included below:
"Since the filing of their original complaint, Plaintiffs have conducted substantial discovery and learned additional facts that require them to amend and clarify the claims and issues to be tried. Plaintiffs have learned additional information regarding the basis (or lack thereof) for Defendant Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (the “Commission”) promulgation of the challenged rules. Article IV, section 9 of the Florida Constitution grants to the Commission the “regulatory and executive powers of the state with respect to wild animal life.” Art. IV, § 9, Fla. Const. (emphasis added). It is on this basis that the Commission has promulgated the rules in question. The Florida Constitution does not define the term “wild animal life.” Through discovery, the Commission, via its agency representative, has taken the position that its jurisdiction over wild animal life extends to any species that is not domesticated. . . . Plaintiffs’ animals are commonly husbanded, multiple generations removed from the wild, often to yield “morphs” with attributes not found in the wild, but the Commission states these animals are subject to regulation regardless of actual impacts on animals in the wild. The risks that Defendants identify are purely speculative because they are not grounded in any known escapes. The purported risks are also misleading and overstated.
The Commission has even taken the position that it may shutter an entire industry on the basis of misleading and untested economic risks and human health and safety risks of Plaintiffs’ animals. . . . . But neither purported jurisdictional basis is mentioned in the Commission’s constitutional mandate. Consequently, Plaintiffs request leave to amend their complaint to add a new claim (Count III), which requests a declaratory judgment that the Commission lacks jurisdiction to promulgate the challenged rules on these facts."
The memorandum of law in support of the motion may be viewed at this link: Memorandum Of Law.pdf
The first amended initial complaint may be viewed at this link: First Amended Complaint.pdf
The full case docket as of August 16, 2022, may be viewed at this link: 2022.08.16 Docket Sheet 2021-CA-977.pdf
If you want to see the most up-to-date case docket, you can do so using the search function on the Leon County Circuit Court website; just input the case number (2021 CA 977): https://cvweb.leonclerk.com/public/online_services/search_courts/search_by_name.asp