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Exotic animal hunting bill stalked and killed by activists



Another bill that would serve the interests of a single wealthy entity was being fast tracked through the Rhode Island General Assembly only to stall due to public outrage and exposure. Like the biomass incinerator bill that was crafted to serve the interests of one developer, new bills (H8090/S2929) that would allow so-called “shooting preserves” to import exotic animals for hunting seem to have been introduced to serve Paul Mihailides, owner and developer of The Preserve at Boulder Hills, located in Richmond, Rhode Island.

According to the Providence Journal, “Although membership at The Preserve has its privileges, it also has its costs: $250,000 for family lifetime memberships that offer access to the resort 365 days a year. ‘Social” memberships cost $50,000 and allow access 12 times a year. Mihailides said he plans to raise the family membership rates by $25,000 every time five new members join, and total membership will be limited to 150 families.”

What kind of exotic animals are we talking about? The bills don’t specify, but elk were mentioned at an April 24 House Corporations Committee meeting by Representative Stephen Ucci (Democrat, District 42, Johnston). Wild boars are under consideration, and perhaps even giraffes or tigers which have been taken at “canned hunts” in other states. (Representative Ucci said at the House Corporation Committee that the bill would bring us line with canned hunting laws in other states.) The bills don’t specify what animals are being considered and use the term “wild or domestic game.” The bills assign the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) the task of determining whether the animals under consideration are safe to import and hunt.

“Currently we are allowed to shoot and hunt animals that are native to Rhode Island. We are also allowed to import certain animals. We are not allowed to hunt those imported animals. This will allow us to hunt the elk under the same terms and conditions and laws that we hunt the native animals,” said Jerry Sahagian, one of the founding members of the preserve, to the House Corporations Committee. “The animals, after being hunted, are consumed,” added Sahagian.

Sahagian is also a member of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC).

Here’s the video I shot at the meeting, (the same video the ProJo neglected to credit me for in their piece on the bills.)

The House bill was to be voted out of the Corporations Committee today, but was removed from the agenda, and the Senate bill was tabled without passage in the full Senate today. What stopped these bills? Public outrage and activism.

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Here’s a series of photos I took of people, some of whom have never before visited the Senate chamber to speak to Senators. Among those speaking to the Senators were Naama Gidron, Mary Pendergast, Jean DePasquale, and Sarah Gleason. They advocated strongly that the bill not be passed, and, at least for now, they seem to have won.

Senator James Seveney (Democrat, District 11, Bristol, Portsmouth)

Senator Frank Lombardi (Democrat, District 26, Cranston) might look confused here but he’s one of the bill’s sponsors.

Senator Donna Nesselbush (Democrat, District 15, Pawtucket)

Senator Frank Ciccone (Democrat, District 7, North Providence)

Senator Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3, Providence)

Senator Daniel DaPonte (Democrat, District 14, East Providence, Pawtucket)

Senator Adam Satchell (Democrat, District 9, West Warwick)

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.