A small army of Mainers who collect, breed and sell reptiles came to Augusta on Tuesday evening to oppose new rules that have been proposed for the state’s animal owners.

The proposed rules, which could go into effect as early as August, would sharply delineate which wildlife Mainers can and can’t own.

They also would allow the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to impose steeper fines on those who keep wildlife illegally, change the permitting process for those wanting to keep wildlife, and give third party contractors the ability to carry out the necessary inspections of a facility where wildlife will be kept.

State lawmakers directed the wildlife agency to draft those changes three years ago.

A handful of the people who spoke Tuesday evening supported the stricter requirements, on the grounds that they will better ensure the welfare of animals in Maine.

Among the supporters of the proposed changes was Kristina Snyder, an animal rights activist from New Hampshire who has protested the operation of a wildlife preserve in Mount Vernon. Snyder has alleged mistreatment of animals at the preserve, called DEW Haven, where proprietors Bob and Julie Miner keep tigers, wolves, kangaroos, alligators and other exotic animals.

In March, an Animal Planet television series about DEW Haven was canceled following an investigation of the preserve by the left-leaning magazine Mother Jones.

More than 116,300 people have signed an online petition Snyder created to protest the preserve. In a news release issued before the event, Snyder expressed her hope that “the new Captive Wildlife Rules will shut down the backyard zoo and others like it for good.”

But when speakers tried to bring up the example of DEW Haven on Tuesday night, the moderator of the hearing, Commissioner Chandler Woodcock of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, asked them to focus exclusively on the proposed rules — not specific organizations.

Julie Miner, who attended the hearing, did not speak publicly. But in an interview beforehand, she said she supports some of the proposed changes, particularly those that make it clear which species are allowed and not allowed.

She also dismissed Snyder’s characterizations of her organization as “fabricated stories.”

At the hearing Tuesday evening, far more numerous were those Mainers who opposed the rule changes outright.

Many varieties of reptile are prohibited in the proposed changes, and about a dozen speakers Tuesday argued they would have to leave the state if the rules passed, so that they could maintain their collections and breeding businesses. Others described the rules as unnecessary, given how difficult it would be for the prohibited species to survive in Maine.

The state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will continue to accept written feedback on the proposed changes until June 17.

Nate Webb, a wildlife biologist with the agency, pointed out that the department will rely on expert committees to decide which animals should be on the final lists of allowed and prohibited species, so those with strong opinions about the matter should stay involved with the process as it continues.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

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Twitter: @ceichacker