At the request of Dr. Tom French, the New England Herpetological Society set up a committee to review the current list of reptiles and amphibians that require a permit in Massachusetts. We conducted an informal survey of our members to determine their thoughts on the restrictions list and to locate individuals who would be willing to help in the review . A number of subcommittees met to discuss various aspects of the list, and each submitted a report, which comprises the bulk of this document.

The committees observed two ground rules: 1) Massachusetts has an intrinsic right to regulate any native reptile and amphibian, no matter what a committee member might think, and so native animals were not discussed, and 2) All venomous (and venomoid) animals should require permits. {The Society feels that no distinction should exist between venomous and so-called “venomoid” animals (reptiles with their venom glands extracted surgically). We object to this process because it is basically a mutilation of a healthy animal, it may have ill effects on the animal’s ability to digest food, it creates a false sense of security in the handler with respect to venomous animals, there is no guarantee that the surgery removed all of the venom glands, and finally, any offspring will be venomous and therefore dangerous.}

In talking to a number of members, a number of comments or complaints about the regulations and the permitting process were expressed repeatedly:

  1. The permitting system currently does not take into account the large advances in captive breeding and the large number of captive bred morphological variants available. For example, an animal that is very scarce in the wild and therefore requires a permit to possess may be bred regularly and in a number of color morphs in captivity.
  2. The permitting process and enforcement of regulations tend to be somewhat arbitrarily applied or enforced. Someone commented that, after having a permit request rejected for an animal for which he felt he demonstrated a reasonable knowledge of the care required, he saw a number of the same animals available in a pet store in his neighborhood.
  3. The lists of permit-requiring animals seem to have been compiled in an arbitrary manner. As an example, all Lacertas require a permit while only a handful of Teiids require one, yet the Lacertas are generally considered to be Old World counterparts of the Teiids, inhabiting the same ecological niches and requiring almost identical care.
  4. The permit list is almost incomprehensible in terms of arrangement and wording.
  5. The list does not incorporate nomenclatural changes. For example, the genus Ctenonotus was split off from Anolis a few years ago, with the result that formerly legal animals immediately became illegal to possess.
  6. The size requirements for boids are not uniform, leading to confusion.
  7. There should be a system for regular updates and changes to the list – it should not exist as a static entity but change to reflect the current state of reptile-keeping.

We have taken into account as many of these factors as possible in compiling the following lists of recommended changes. They range from minor, in the case of the turtles, to fairly major, in the case of the lizards. However, no matter the extent of the revisions proposed, we tried to keep in mind a larger goal – to improve the restrictions list in order to make it more comprehensible, up-to-date, and more readily enforceable. We realize that this restrictions list and the laws behind it are responsible for keeping a number of animals unsuitable for maintenance by the general public from appearing in pet stores across Massachusetts, and wholehearted support this aspect of the laws. However, we also feel that individuals who demonstrate an understanding of the difficulties inherent in keeping some of the more unique reptiles should be permitted to do so.


Roberta Dell’Anno
Catherine Kirkpatrick
David Kirkpatrick
Michael Labbe
Joe Martinez
Dawn McCall
Allison McNeill
Dave McNeill
Tom Monahan
Tom Spadaro
Rick Stafford
Mary Stafford