Do you have a pet monkey, a large exotic cat or unlicensed python? If you do, there's probably a state law barring you from keeping the pet. When owners of such animals no longer want them, the animals often end up in the wild. "And they threaten native species in many different ways," says Lt. Col. Jeff Mayne, a spokesman for the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. "It has become a major challenge for us." Just last month, department officials seized a group of illegal pythons from an Oakdale-area couple who was breeding the snakes, growing them over the legal limit of 12 feet in length and selling them on the Internet.
Mayne says it's just the latest example of what the department deals with on a regular basis. "We've come in contact with monkeys, big cats, snakes — both venomous and nonvenomous — and pythons in excess of 17 to 18 feet that people no longer want or don't have the proper permits," he says. In an effort to curb such activities, the department is urging legislators to pass a law this session that would allow people in possession of illegal animals to turn them over to the state without facing penalties.
"If people are in possession of these animals, they can contact us and receive amnesty under the legislation," Mayne says. House Bill 1255 by Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, authorizes the surrender of "any live animal possessed illegally or which may be possessed only by permit or license from the department." It further indemnifies the possessor from prosecution, provided the surrender is initiated prior to any independent investigation or contact by any public employee operating in an official capacity. Badon's bill allows the department to "dispose of a surrendered animal in any manner deemed appropriate."
Badon isn't the only member of the local delegation with animal legislation this session. Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, has introduced House Bill 408, which permits dogs seized in connection with dogfighting to be euthanized. House Bill 428, also by Leger, calls for a bond of $100 per day per animal for the seizure of animals treated cruelly. House Bill 829 by Rep. Tony Ligi, R-Metairie, creates the crime of aggravated cruelty to animals, and Senate Bill 73 by Sen. David Heitmeier, D-New Orleans, prohibits euthanasia by intracardiac injection on cats and dogs unless the animal is "unconscious or rendered completely unconscious and insensitive to pain through the injection of an anesthetic."