Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Jim Jeffords, I – Vt., and John Ensign, R – Nev., today called for an Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee hearing on the importation of exotic pets, their impact on public health and the recent outbreak of monkeypox. Jeffords is the ranking member of the EPW Committee, and Ensign is a veterinarian. In a letter to EPW Committee Chairman James Inhofe, R- OK, the Senators wrote, “The recent outbreak of monkeypox highlights the growing problem of exotic animals giving exotic diseases to people. Such diseases can become a threat not just to the people who buy and sell exotic pets, but to the general public if these diseases spread to native animals and become established in the United States. Federal health officials are working frantically to ensure this does not happen with monkeypox.” The EPW Committee has jurisdiction over fisheries and wildlife and oversight responsibilities under the Lacey Act, which regulates the control of illegally taken fish and wildlife, as well as the Convention of the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Monkeypox, a relative of smallpox usually found in tropical African forests, apparently jumped from an imported Gambian giant rat into prairie dogs when both species were being housed together by an exotic pet distributor in Illinois. Health officials are investigating nearly three dozen possible cases of monkeypox in people who bought or cared for the prairie dogs, in Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois. The outbreak marks the first time monkeypox has been detected in the Western hemisphere. The Senators wrote, “We need to examine the current regulations for the import and trade in these exotic species and find ways to keep this kind of deadly outbreak from happening in the future.” Jeffords discussed this issue with the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Steve Williams, in a meeting this week in Jeffords’ Capitol Hill office.