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SOS Rhino : In the News : Council bill is rare breed

Council bill is rare breed

  Focus on endangered-species trade

New York Daily News, NY
November 22, 2004

The City Council is set to put a big bite on buyers and sellers of outlawed products containing endangered species.

A bill scheduled for approval tomorrow by the full Council will make it easier to convict violators and sock them with fines of $500 to $1,500.

The bill enables convictions without having to prove through DNA testing that the products bought or sold actually contain prohibited endangered species.

The measure also has the backing of Mayor Bloomberg's administration, ensuring that it will become a city law by early next year. Its sponsors say it will be the first city law of its kind in the country.

The measure is aimed largely at curtailing the trade in furs, leathers, curios and "traditional" medicines that contain such ingredients as tiger bone, rhino horn and musk deer extract.

Such products "can be found for sale in a variety of shops, not only in New York City's Chinatown, but throughout the city and in various communities throughout the United States," the bill states.

The sale or purchase of products containing endangered species is already illegal under New York State law and federal law. But those laws are difficult to enforce because they require prosecutors to prove - usually through costly DNA testing - that the products in question actually contain endangered species.

Under the City Council bill, violators could be convicted and fined for buying or selling products labeled or advertised as containing endangered species - without a showing of proof.

Sponsors believe the measure will help protect endangered species by reducing the market for outlawed products.

When the bill was approved last week by the Consumer Affairs Committee, the bill's chief sponsor, Councilwoman Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn), said, "This law will give an added level of protection and strength to the enforcement of our laws."

The measure requires the Department of Consumer Affairs to publish a list in English and Chinese of the covered endangered species by April 1 and every year thereafter. It also gives the department authority to impose the fines through its own administrative hearings.

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