Kevin McCurley has about 20 snakes he's not sure what he will do with.
Thanks to a new federal ban, four kinds of pythons and anacondas can no longer be sold across state lines.
Blame Florida, where Burmese pythons have become a serious problem in parts of the Everglades. That prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ban the Burmese python, the yellow anaconda, and the northern and southern African pythons. Those snakes can no longer be imported or sold across state lines.
That leaves McCurley, owner of Zoo Creatures and New England Reptile Distributors in Plaistow, in a bit of a bind.
"I have about 20 Burmese pythons and yellow anacondas," he said. "I have snakes now that I can't sell. It's really hurting my business and I'm already struggling with the economy."
It's a ban that makes no sense in the Northeast, he said.
"They have a problem in southern Florida with Burmese pythons and they're treating it as a national threat, which is silly," McCurley said. "These animals have no chance of surviving in New Hampshire. If you let them go right now in the winter, they would only last an hour."
An environmental problem in Florida should not have resulted in a nationwide ban, according to McCurley and others.
"If someone travels to Massachusetts with their pet snake, that would be a federal crime," he said. "It is affecting thousands of people and we're losing our rights."
Alan LaFreniere, owner of Fins and Feathers in Chelmsford, doesn't sell those particular snakes, but he still thinks the regulation is too much.
"I think it's a little over the top by making a national ban," he said. "If there's a threat in that state, then they should ban it. But wild pythons will never be a problem in Massachusetts."
And some snake breeders think there is more regulation to come.
Scott Seavey, owner of CV Exotics in East Hampstead, sells Colombian boa constrictors and ball pythons, which are still legal — for now.
"It will affect the whole industry itself in the long run," Seavey said. "This is just getting their feet in the door. What's going to come next would be what I'm worried about. They could add more species to the list down the road."
Right now, he said, he has a couple thousand snakes he has been breeding for years to get the right colors and patterns.
"We're a family-run business basically and I am worried," he said. "The biggest part of my business is breeding and mail order, so banning shopping across state borders would definitely make it difficult."
Stephen Ayer, owner of Jabberwock Reptiles in Winchester, said he sympathizes with people who have been breeding snakes for years.
"They've invested a lot of money breeding snakes and now what are they going to do with them?" he said. "They can't sell them outside the state and it will limit them a lot. If they take another step and say ball pythons are invasive, that's a fair part of my business. I'd be in trouble."
Ayer said he thinks there is an anti-pet lobby in Washington working to ban these pets.
"The Humane Society and PETA have an agenda to restrict breeding certain pets," he said. "They were a big supporter of the bill."
McCurley said people are scared and uncertain about buying snakes, which could be banned soon. That is bad for business, he said.
"Right now, they have six or seven other species slated for ban," he said. "If they were to get that passed, that would be the end of my reptile business. It would be the end of thousands upon thousands of reptile businesses across the country."
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