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LITTLE ROCK -- A new regulation in Arkansas that prohibits anyone from breeding, selling or importing any of five large python species without a permit has received backlash from critics who say the state went too far.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission added Malayopython reticulatus, Python bivittatus, Python molurus, Python natalensis and Python sebae to the state's list of prohibited captive wildlife last week.

The regulation includes 30 mammal species, eight reptile species and 123 amphibian species, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Thursday. As of May 21, new permits will not be issued.

Keith Stephens, commission's spokesman, said no one holds an active permit to import, breed or sell the pythons restricted by the regulation. Therefore, the decision will close the door on any future breeding and selling of large pythons in the state.

"Provided that one of these species was legally imported into Arkansas, a permit is not necessary to simply possess the animal," Stephens wrote in an email. "They can still be kept under Commission non-native pet regulations that have certain restrictions (such as males and females must be kept separately so that they cannot breed)."

Phil Goss, president of the U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers, said his group thought the commission overstepped, "especially considering some of the other species that are found on the unrestricted and permitted lists."

Goss noted that large snakes are an issue in south Florida because of the climate, but the snakes cannot survive a winter in places like Arkansas.

Anya Littlefield, who runs a reptile breeding operation called Snake Eyes Exotics in Benton with her husband Matt, said the move takes away the opportunity for people to own specific animals.

"They're regulating something that hasn't been proven to be an issue," Littlefield added.

The regulations become effective 10 days after the commission files them with the secretary of state's office, which should happen this week, according to Stephens. The changes were first introduced through an online survey in March.

State Desk on 05/29/2020

Print Headline: Reptile enthusiasts criticize state for banning pythons

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