Lacey Act Phase VI and Reflections on The Tiger Trade

Lacey Act Phase VI and Reflections on The Tiger Trade

On March 31, 2020, the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (“APHIS”) announced its intention to expand, effective October 1, 2020, the reporting requirements of the Lacey Act to additional commodities. Comments may be submitted on or before June 1, 2020 via Regulations.Gov. The Federal Register, including the full list of affected items, is here.

The Lacey Act was first passed in 1900 and is an early conservation law. As originally enacted, it protected animals from illegal hunting through criminal and civil penalties. The law also prohibits trade in protected animal and plant species that are hunted or harvested illegally. The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, expanded the law to cover a broader range of plant species and products derived from those plants. It is now illegal to import, export, and otherwise trade in plants and plant products taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of a U.S., Tribal, state, or foreign law that protects the covered species. Importers of specified plants and plant products must make a Lacey Act declaration identifying the plant by scientific name, the country of origin, and provide other information.

Since 2008, APHIS has been phasing in Lacey Act enforcement by adding sections of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule to the list of items requiring a declaration at entry. The Federal Register Notice announces the next phase of enforcement. Products to be included in the next phase include:

  • Essential oils (Chapter 33)
  • Trunks, Cases, and Suitcases (Chapter 42)
  • Wooden boxes, pallets, and crates (Chapter 44)
  • Musical Instruments (Chapter 92)

Not all items in these chapters are covered. See the full list for details.

The Lacey Act also makes it a crime to import into the United States any injurious animals including brown tree snakes, big head carp, zebra mussels, and flying fox bats. 18 U.S.C. 42. Exceptions can be made for properly permitted (and dead) zoological specimens and certain "cage birds." A violator may be imprisoned  and fined. It is also illegal to transport in interstate commerce any animal that was killed illegally. Even if you are the former host of a hunting show.

The Lacey Act is separate from both the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wide Fauna and Flora, the latter of which regulates trade in specified animals, plants, and products derived from them. Tigers, for example, are listed as endangered species. Thus, should someone shoot, say, five tigers to make room in his roadside zoo, that person could be charged with violating the Endangered Species Act.

It would be a violation of the Lacey Act to illegally transport an endangered species, for example lions and tigers, across state lines by means of false documents. Those documents might be, again just as an example, false statements that the animals were being donated for exhibition rather than sold for profit (possibly to support an ongoing personal vendetta against a business rival).