01/09/10 WOMEN AND REPTILES INQUIRY

As you know we are working hard to amend S373.

One of the core concerns I have is the affect this bill will have on women herpetologists and herpetoculturists.

Over the past 35 years that I have been involved in herpetoculture, a huge change has happened that involves the increased participation of women in this hobby, academic studies and business.

In the beginning of my career I would attend professional zoological meetings where I was the only woman speaker. Over the past three decades I have been thrilled to see more and more women who have developed academic credentials as well as professional credentials and participated in educational programs, scientific research, and business surrounding herpetology and herpetoculture.

At VPI we have had 4 women interns that have gone on to become a PhD. graduate biologist, a professional at a major international zoo, an accredited science teacher in the public school system, and a veterinary technician.

Herpetoculture and herpetology are two viable areas where girls can become interested in science at an early age and have academic and business careers that may lead them in a myriad of directions.

There is no question that the exposure I had at 15 years of age to herpetoculture, absolutely formed my academic path and career. The thought of this opportunity not being afforded to other girls and women is just offensive to me.

I am very concerned that legislation such as what is being initiated in S373, has far reaching implications other than the banning of animals. It will result in a future where all the progress that women have made in herpetoculture and herpetology will be jeopardized.

I would also like to address two other issues that I have personally experienced in my career that I feel directly apply to my concerns in regards to this type of legislation:

1) As a woman that built a home based business breeding reptiles and writing about reptiles, I was able to be at home with my children. There hasn’t been a day that I do not say the biggest pay off of having this type of business was the ability to be at home with my children when they were preschool age and be able to make a living for our family. I would hate to see this opportunity of herpetoculture as an alternative professional choice for women be taken away.

2) As a women who was diagnosed with breast cancer and was faced with major surgery while having two young children ages 8 and 10, I was able to maintain my business at home during this very difficult time. I would hate to see this opportunity of herpetoculture as an alternative professional choice for women who may be faced with these same challenges be taken away.

The information I am seeking at this time is any kind of estimate of the number of girls and women that are involved in herpetoculture that this type of legislation would affect now and in the future.

Decades of work installing confidence in girls and women that they can participate in herpetological academic, professional, and hobby activities is being jeopardized by fear mongering in the media and rush to judgment legislation coordinated by self serving special interest groups.

I seek this information of women’s participation in herpetoculture so that I may approach various organizations that are focused on women’s issues and request their assistance in protecting women’s rights in this matter.

Sincerely,

Tracy Barker/VPI