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United States Association of Reptile Keepers, Inc. v. Zinke

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

April 7, 2017

United States Association of Reptile Keepers, Inc., et al., Appellees
v.
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

          Argued April 1, 2016.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 1:13-cv-02007)

          Emily 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. Flax, Attorney.

          George 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.

          David 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

         A 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." Id.

         This 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?

         The 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 another.

         The 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.

         I.

         A.

         Since 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.

         In 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)).

         The import and shipment clauses, in their current formulations, read as follows (with the shipment clause italicized for demarcation):

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 ...

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