We’ve all seen them outside of the local grocer waiting like a Vulture on a Saguaro. They won’t approach on the exit, they know your hands may be full and you won’t be able to grasp the pen. The smart ones get you when you’re going in. Watching you get out of the car, judging the distance until you reach the automatic sliding door. Carefully observing you out of the corner of their eye. Then when there is just enough time left; probably while you’re trying to separate those metal grocery carts they pounce on you like a Spider monkey! (just to be clear for my anthropologist/primate people Spider monkeys do not pounce on people)
“Hey there, I am gathering signatures for…” You the know the spiel.
So what actually happens with our signatures? I wondered this myself and then I started looking at electronic petitions and comparing them to the ones in print. What I discovered was very disheartening but made sense once I paused to think about it.
So you sign a petition to repeal this or that law. Did you ever hear of what happened after you signed it? I have yet to read or hear a news broadcast stating that X amount of signatures repealed such and such a law today. Have you? If you have please let me know in the comments below with a specific link to the story because I would love to believe that this stuff works. To be absolutely clear, I am not referring to County initiatives which are a different entity.
Electronic signatures on petitions are not seen by politicians as a valid signature as they can be faked too easily. Pen and paper signatures are better but these are generally for county initiatives as the open window for repeal of Federal rulings to change is very short. This is obviously so that we as constituents are not as likely to attempt to challenge a ruling. I must say that the reptile community has definitely proven that to be true.
As I am writing this piece it’s 10:55 PM PST and the petition on the Whitehouse.gov had a total of 209 signatures to the petition to overturn the “Python Ban” What is interesting is that the petition for USARK which needed the same amount of signatures to be recognized didn’t get them either.
Here’s a disturbing truth, there are 4.6 million homes in the United States that own reptiles according to the APPA American Pet Products Association 25,000 signatures is a paltry 1.84% of reptile owners who actually own reptiles! So why the lackadaisical response to such a large ruling which impacts so many people? It’s real simple folks. We are lazy! I don’t care if you run 30 miles a day and donate 10% of your income to a charity. On a large-scale anything that requires an actual thoughtful effort is relegated to letting someone else doing it.
As Chris Law has mentioned to me several times in numerous conversations we have had. There is enough talent in the reptile community to create an entity that will showcase the quality aspects of reptile keeping and I personally would go so far as to say that this talent would be able make an impact that would reverberate all the way to Washington D.C. where essentially right now even the with all the thousands of dollars being spent by organizations trying to fight for us we are still but a mosquito buzzing in the ear of those in power. We’ve got 4.6 million excuses and the fact is, we are to blame for letting this Federal ruling pass.
I’m not discounting the efforts of the current organizations who are fighting for our privileges to own reptiles. They are the only ones we have at the moment. That being said, the current organizations which are fighting for these privileges need to be open to the suggestions and talents that have been offered on numerous occasions by the very constituents that they are representing. I have personally heard of numerous occasions where talents have been ignored or dismissed. They also need to be completely transparent which is another issue that the constituency has brought to the their attention and has been largely ignored. Not only is this going against the community that they claim to represent but also leaves the proverbial bad taste in the mouths of those who are trying to support you.
‘But I donated to USARK, wrote letters, and…’
Maybe you did. Do you want a cookie now? Let me ask you this? Did you share what was happening with anyone outside of your specific circle? Here’s a quote to think about
“An insular community will never move beyond its boundaries by not reaching out to embrace change.”
I had people take a survey last year and asked them about whether they were involved with a local club or society 68% of those surveyed don’t belong to a club or reptile society but 83% attend reptile shows! That to me is very telling about how far we have withdrawn from the community at large.
I get it, there’s not many people who are into reptiles out there. Hell, my own mother-in-law won’t visit my home because we have reptiles; not that I am complaining mind you. Speaking of talent in our community, we must also hold accountable those who represent our community in a poor light. We have the mass media educating the public about our pets. Let’s face it, we are allowing stations like Animal Planet, Discovery, and others who present shows like Swamp Brothers where reptiles are put into situations where they were not actually found to fake the hype for the camera! (For more on this go to The Reptile Living Room Python Ban: A Reptile Round Table.)The American public is not going to go beyond their remote to see if Alligators or snakes react the way they are portrayed on television.
This being the case we as a community need to reach out beyond our four walls and embrace a much larger community which may not like reptiles but will listen to a properly organized talk if one should be offered. Something else we should be doing is to make efforts to remove programming that insults the reptile community with their inaccurate portrayal of reptiles and how they are to be handled.
In conclusion, it is time that we as a community come together and start correcting many of the issues that we have allowed to take hold of our community. We have stepped away from our connection with one another and now we stand more divided than ever. We need to seek further methods to gain the attention of reptile keepers nation-wide in order to bring more into the fight. Further, we need to support those who bring a greater educational message to the younger generation of herpetoculturists as well as those who are not involved in herpetoculture. Wildlife conservation and education requires the support of more than just our own. If we continue allowing Animal Planet and Discovery channel sensationalism to do all of the ‘educating’ there will be nothing left of our community within a few short years. It is time for us to set the record straight, but we must also embrace change within our own policies and dealings with the general public and those who are embracing herpetoculture for the very first time. They are our future and they are the future for the animals we love and admire.
Special Note: Thanks to Chris Law for co-authoring this piece.