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Boas / Pythons - taxonomy

Discussion in 'Snakes - General' started by JMM, Apr 2, 2007.

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  1. JMM

    JMM Elite Member


    I am evaluating the possibility of starting a legal battle in order to be able to keep a Ball Python in Portugal (in a few months to a year time).

    As I´ve mentioned in another thread, according to the Portuguese law (an old Ministerial Order dated 1992) it is forbidden to keep snakes of the following families: Boidae, Elapidae and Viperidae.

    The Authorities consider that since the law was issued in 1992 and, at that time, the Pythonidae were considered to be a sub-family of the Boidae, the prohibition remains applicable to Pythons, regardless of the fact of their autonomization as a new family. An internal ruling was issued accordingly.

    So, no petshop sells Pyhtons in Portugal and if you keep one and the authorities find out, it will be aprehended and a fine will be applied to the owner.

    In my opinion the position the Portuguese Authorities is (legally) weak and it may be challenged. However, I need some scientific background. Basically, I need to know the following:

    - When (date, if possible) were the Pythons "separated" from the Boids as regards their taxonomic (sp?) classification ? Was it after 1993.01.01 ?

    - Is there an Internacional Authority that issues such classification thus becoming "binding" to everyone "as from... " is is it just a consensus reached (in time) by the cientific community ?

    In general terms,

    Snake keeping in Portugal is in its very early stages. Only a few petshops sell snakes and - naturally - the available snakes are basically (if not only) corns, milks and kings.

    So, I have two options here if I decide to go ahead:

    1) Consider that the arguments are strong enough to say that according to present law keeping a Ball Python is not forbidden, drive to Spain to buy the snake and if a problem occurs, challenge in Court any aprehension or fine that may be apllied;

    2) Try to persuade the Authorities that a Ball Python is not an Anaconda or a Retic or a Burmese as regards the potencial danger to the community and try to change the internal rulling (or even the Ministerial Order) so that smaller Pythons /Boids (say...under 2mts/6´) may be kept.

    I´ve tried an informal approach (by telephone) to the Authorities and basically they just say: "keep cats and dogs and leave the snakes in the wild".. So the 1st round was not promising...

    The obvious problem with option 1 is that the Authorities aprehend first so, even if I make my point in Court, that would only occur some months after the aprehension; The problem with number 2 is that I may "open a can of worms" and the law may change in the wrong way...

    So, what do you think ? I would really like to have your thoughts on this.


    p.s.: giving up is not (yet) an option
  2. The D

    The D Mango Empress

    well... i have no information that will be helpful to you at all... but i wish you all the luck with your mission, it's a fantastic fight your working for and i realy hope it works out for the best!

    go get 'em!!!
  3. nicole

    nicole Elite Member

    I agree with the problem with option 1 is that they apprehend the snake first, which they will probably euthanise it, so that is not a good idea.

    you can challenge the law with the info that the pythons are are in their own family now. That in itself also presents other challenges as there are many many large pythons (burmese, indian, retc, etc) and by legalizing pythons they are in turn allowing these larger species to be kept as pets.

    I noticed that you stated something about getting them to allow pythons up to 6 feet, that is a marvelous idea as I will always be a supporter of more restrictions of the larger snake, which most people on here will freak out about that! I believe that larger snakes should require permits as too many people get them and have no idea what they are getting into and put themselves and people around them in danger. But that is a whole different topic all together. I feel that you are going to fight an uphill battle, but for the ball pythons I think it is worth it.

    The one thing you need to remember is that the people who you are going to present this to are probably terrified of snakes and will think you are strange, weird and were dropped on your head as an infant :D :eek:

    I think it is a good fight to fight as long as you present restrictions with your case (length of snake) .
    Another thing to remember is that there are certain boas that do not get that big either so they may ask as to why you are not adding that to your proposal.
  4. JMM

    JMM Elite Member

    Thanks D and Nicole for your input

    My fear also. And, even if not aprehended, it would be quite a challenge to find a vet...

    Yes, but I need to know since when. If I could prove that it was before 1993... the Ball Python battle would be won. If it was after that date, the Authorities will just stay with their present argument

    Yes, I know. And this could became a big issue and could lead them just to "update" the law expressly forbidden Pythonids.

    If I take the route of trying to change the law, I would have to prepare something like this. I think the 2m range could be acceptable and it would be not only to Pythons but to all non-venomous snakes.

    But it would be a huge battle and extremely difficult to win. The tendency is to create more restrictions to animal keeping (specially "exotics") and not the contrary.
  5. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    If you wish to take on this battle (and I commend you on your enthusiasm) be prepared to expend a LOT of time and money! I would also recommend that you approach it from the standpoint of a concerned citizen as opposed to someone who got caught with an illegal animal in their possession. This latter situation puts you in the category of a criminal who got caught and is now trying to change the law. Try and enlist the aid of fellow keepers as well as the owners of pet stores as the more numbers you have behind you the more likely they will pay attention.
    As to contesting the law based on the species' nomenclature,... I would not put much hope in that routw as they generally (at leat in the US) go by the intent of the law as opposed to the exact wording.
    For example, in the US, several years back there was an attempt to end the prohibition of a certain plant. They approached it from the angle that the law prohibiting the plant was written specifically referring to a particular species of that plant genus. The arguement was made that, since there was also another seperate species of the same genus which was also used and that once the plant material was processed it was impossible to determine which species a particular sample actually belonged to, then the law should be repealed.
    The courts didn't buy it.
  6. JMM

    JMM Elite Member

    Hi Merlin,

    At least I won´t have to paid lawyer´s fees lol

    That is my idea. That´s why I said it was a project for a few months to an year.

    I understand what you´re saying. The wording, in this case, is so lousy that, according to it, I may keep any Crotalus, but not a Sand boa...

    But I still would need that info on nomenclature. Can you help ?
  7. JMM

    JMM Elite Member

    Update - not the best news


    I made some unofficial contacts to the Authorities as regards the possibility of amending the Ministerial Order.

    The news are not good, but somewhat expectable.

    Nobody has been thinking about it (nobody even cares); there is no pressure whatsoever from the community (is there a community at all??? they asked) that determines or advises amending the law, etc.
    This, I expected.

    What I did not expect, was to hear that according to the feeling of one the responsible in the Department, if the law (or Order) is to be changed it will most likely be in the opposite direction. Forbidding snake-keeping was mentioned as a possible route....

    Of course I was concerned about that. That would be the worst possible scenario and the last thing I want is to create that kind of mess.
    So, although feeling bad about it, I am considering dropping - at least for the moment - the issue, and waiting for a better moment (if that is to be expected...), not taking the risk of jeopardizing the - already limited - snake-keeping in Portugal.

    I would feel really miserable it that happened. Even more if it happened "thanks" to me... So, I think this is the conscious decision to make.

    Nevertheless, I want to get a 2nd snake (that will require a lot of work and negotiation at home but...)

    The (limited) options are: a corn, a Cali king or a Pituophis (there is a breeder in Portugal, but I don´t know if he breeds Gophers, Bulls or Pine snakes)

    Since I already have a milk, I´ll probably choose between a corn and a pituophis.

    I´ll keep you updated.
  8. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Thats typical bureaucratic thinking. If they have laws prohibiting certain species than they have to train their agents in what to look for and how to identify species. This means time and money. If they just pass a blanket law prohibiting all snakes it makes their job so much more simple.
  9. furryscaly

    furryscaly Elite Member

    Sorry about the bad news. I just saw this thread now, and I'm afraid that was the likely outcome. Since at the time pythons were part of Boidae, they didn't need to create a separate law to ban pythons, but the intent of the law was to ban boas and pythons. To bring up the issue would likely just create a new separate law to ban pythons too, because they were included in the original law. And, considering their way of thinking, the possibility of banning all snakes instead doesn't surprise me. I'm afraid challenging them on this matter would be losing the battle. Better to take what you can get.
  10. CodyW

    CodyW Elite Member

    It looks like a single approach by any one person will just lead to a blanket law covering all snakes, it's one person versus everyone else. Since they've already looked it over and considered it let off of it for a little, let them forget. During this time, lobby, and come back with a community concern, not an individual. Raising awarness and approaching with a decision made by several individuals should yeild more of a concern for the lawmakers, maybe enough to reconsider everything.

    There's also the american way, take the lawmakers out to dinner and a weekend of fishing and hunting then ask a "favor." It seems to work for the lobbyist over here just fine.
  11. kremlinator

    kremlinator Banned User

    "In my opinion the position the Portuguese Authorities is (legally) weak"

    -don't count on it. In alberta here they say any "poisonous" snakes, lizards and reptiles. They've tried to overturn it cause of the venom vs poison debate but they basically said "yeah well we MEANT are your fines."

    When (date, if possible) were the Pythons "separated" from the Boids as regards their taxonomic (sp?) classification ? Was it after 1993.01.01 ?

    EMBL Heildelburg site: THE REPTILE DATABASE (it's fully back up may 14 they say...they will be able to tell you if you look it up). You might be able to find some info here: Catalogue of Life : 2007 Annual Checklist : Search Just look up your family and it should have info and such. Just and FYI: In the ophidians, according to the molecular biology guys at EMBL, pythons and boas are in the boidae still and this thing is up to date...however Zug et al (2001) say clearly in a phylogeny that boids and pythonids are in a polytomy but are infact distinct. This is a good place to look (pages 515-516) as it has a plethora of references which you could look up at any university. Alot of the work seems to have been done from 1990-1996 but you should look anyways. Make sure to check any article about nomenclature of the group and look in the references to ensure that it is infact the earliest record. an important note: this path, if won, might be temporary. Since taxonomic levels of things is always up in the air you could find your loop hole vanishing fast. All it would take is some lumper, like me, coming along and saying "they are now BOTH boids and are just different subfamilies". Also remember that they are still in the same SUPERfamily so it's a moot point to begin with. The law there implies ALL boids and their close allies so as to smother that entire branch of the tree in one fell swoop.

    - Is there an Internacional Authority that issues such classification thus becoming "binding" to everyone "as from... " is is it just a consensus reached (in time) by the cientific community ?

    Yes. ICZN (international comission on zoological nominclature). ICZN Homepage ...if by everyone you mean anyone wanting to publish in a scientific manor, then yes. If by what these guys might listen to, then no.

    CODYW: "it looks like a single approach by any one person will just lead to a blanket law covering all snakes, it's one person versus everyone else."

    I concur 100%. Leave it alone. If they are anything like Canada, the animals will be illegal but nobody will come check for two reasons: 1. nobody cares and they don't wanna pay for the salary of said person and 2. They need a REASON to search your home so don't call them and say "guess what I have"...leave it alone, let it blow over and be a criminal like me (lol)
  12. JMM

    JMM Elite Member

    Thank you all for your input.

    I will look closer at the info sent by Paleontology.

    The "funny" thing is that according to present law, the "superdangerous" Ball Pyhtons and Kenyan Sand Boas are banned, but it is legal to keep a "docile" rattlesnake.... (Crotalus)
  13. The D

    The D Mango Empress

    well THAT doesn't make any sense!
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