United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
United States Association of Reptile Keepers, Inc., et al., Appellees
Ryan Zinke, The Honorable, in his official capacity as the Secretary of the Interior and United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Appellants Humane Society of the United States and Center for Biological Diversity, Appellees
April 1, 2016.
from the United States District Court for the District of
Columbia (No. 1:13-cv-02007)
A. Polachek, Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, argued the
cause for federal appellants. With her on the briefs were
John C. Cruden, Assistant Attorney General, and Meredith L.
Kimbrell, Sr. was on the brief for amicus curiae The Center
for Invasive Species Prevention, Natural Areas Association
and the Wildlife Society in support of defendants-appellants.
E. Frulla argued the cause for appellees U.S. Association of
Reptile Keepers, Inc., et al. With him on the brief were Paul
C. Rosenthal and Shaun M. Gehan.
Collette L. Adkins and Anna E. Frostic were on the briefs for
defendant-intervenors/appellees The Humane Society of the
United States and Center for Biological Diversity.
Before: Tatel, Srinivasan, and Wilkins, Circuit Judges.
Srinivasan Circuit Judge
federal statute known as the Lacey Act enables the Secretary
of the Interior to designate certain species of animals as
injurious to humans, wildlife, agriculture, horticulture, or
forestry. When a species is designated as injurious, the Act
prohibits any importation of the species into the United
States or its possessions or territories. 18 U.S.C. §
42(a)(1). The Act additionally bars "any shipment"
of the species "between the continental United States,
the District of Columbia, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of Puerto
Rico, or any possession of the United States."
case concerns the proper interpretation of the latter
provision, which we will refer to as the shipment clause. All
agree that the clause bars shipments of injurious species
between each of the listed jurisdictions-for instance,
shipments of animals between "Hawaii" and "the
continental United States, " or between "the
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" and a "possession of
the United States." But what about shipments between the
states making up "the continental United
States"-for instance, shipments between Virginia and
Maryland? Does the clause prohibit those shipments as well?
government believes the answer is yes. It reads the shipment
clause not only to bar shipments between the continental
United States and the other listed jurisdictions, but also to
prohibit shipments between any of the 49 States comprising
the continental United States. The plaintiffs in this case,
individuals who breed and sell animals, disagree. In their
view, the shipment clause has no bearing on shipments of
animals from one of the 49 continental United States to
district court sided with the plaintiffs' interpretation.
The court thus preliminarily enjoined enforcement of a Fish
and Wildlife Service rule barring interstate shipments of two
species of snakes deemed to be injurious. We agree with the
district court's understanding of the shipment clause. We
therefore affirm the court's decision.
its enactment in 1900, a principal "object and
purpose" of the Lacey Act has been "to regulate the
introduction of American or foreign birds or animals in
localities where they have not heretofore existed."
Lacey Act, ch. 553, § 1, 31 Stat. 187, 188 (1900)
(codified as amended at 16 U.S.C. § 701). In furtherance
of that objective, the Act established a criminal prohibition
against importation into the country of certain identified
species and such additional species "as the Secretary of
Agriculture may from time to time declare injurious to the
interest of agriculture or horticulture." 31 Stat. at
188. That prohibition, which we will call the import clause,
later became codified at 18 U.S.C. § 42.
1960, Congress sought "[t]o clarify certain provisions
of the Criminal Code relating to the importation or shipment
of injurious mammals, birds, amphibians, fish, and
reptiles." Pub. L. No. 86-702, 74 Stat. 753, 753 (1960)
(citing 18 U.S.C. § 42). To that end, Congress enacted
the clause directly in issue here-the shipment clause-and
appended it to the import clause. The shipment clause, as
noted at the outset of this opinion, makes it illegal to ship
injurious animals "between the continental United
States, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of
Puerto Rico, or any possession of the United States." 74
Stat. at 753-54 (now codified at 18 U.S.C. § 42(a)).
import and shipment clauses, in their current formulations,
read as follows (with the shipment clause italicized for
The importation into the United States, any territory of the
United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of
Puerto Rico, or any possession of the United States, or
any shipment between the continental United States, the
District of Columbia, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of Puerto
Rico, or any possession of the United States, of
[enumerated species] and such other species . . . which the
Secretary of the Interior may prescribe by regulation to be
injurious to human beings, to the interests ...