OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 5578



This bill generally bans purchasing, selling, offering for sale, or possessing with the intent to sell ivory, rhinoceros horn, or products made from them. It includes trading, bartering, or giving away as part of a commercial transaction.

The bill exempts from the ban (1) law enforcement activity or activity allowed under federal law, (2) certain antiques or musical instruments containing ivory, (3) noncommercial transfers to legal beneficiaries, and (4) activity by a bona fide educational or scientific institution or museum.

The bill makes a violation a class B misdemeanor. It requires forfeiture of seized ivory or horn upon a conviction or other entry of judgment. Forfeited ivory or horn may be destroyed, used by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) for educational or training purposes, or donated by DEEP to an educational or scientific institution.

The bill specifies that possessing ivory, horn, or an associated product in a retail or wholesale location commonly used to buy or sell similar items is presumptive evidence of possession with intent to sell. But the presumption does not preclude a finding of intent to sell based on other evidence that may independently establish it.

The bill allows the DEEP commissioner, in consultation with the attorney general, to adopt regulations implementing the ban. Existing law allows the commissioner to adopt regulations on the trade of raw elephant ivory or products made from ivory if he finds that it contributes to elephant endangerment or extinction (CGS 26-315).

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2017


The bill's ban applies to:

1. tooth or tusk, or any part of it, from an elephant, hippopotamus, mammoth, narwhal, walrus, or whale;

2. horn, or any part or derivative (e.g., powder) of it, from any rhinoceros species; and

3. any product that has, or is advertised to have, ivory or rhinoceros horn.

The bill exempts the following activities involving ivory, rhinoceros horn, or associated products:

1. activity expressly allowed by federal law;

2. state or federal law enforcement activity or a mandatory duty under federal law;

3. noncommercial ownership transfers to a legal beneficiary of an estate, trust, or other inheritance; and

4. actions by bona fide education or scientific institutions or museums.

The ban also does not apply to ivory that is part of (1) a musical instrument made before February 26, 1976 or (2) certain antiques. For ivory that is part of an antique, the exemption only applies if it:

1. was removed from the wild before February 26, 1976, if it is elephant ivory;

2. is a fixed component of a larger manufactured item and is not, in its current form, the main source of the item's value;

3. makes up less than 20% of the item;

4. is not raw, unaltered, or minimally changed by carving; and

5. is at least 100 years old, as shown by historical documentation from the owner or seller or a sworn affidavit executed by an expert to verify the age.


Criminal Penalties

The bill makes violating the ban, or any rule, regulation, or order adopted under the bill's provisions, a class B misdemeanor, punishable by prison time, a fine, or both.

A first-time violator is subject to up to six months in prison and a fine of at least $3,000 or twice the total value of the ivory, horn, or product, whichever is greater.

Second or subsequent violations are punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of at least $6,000 or three times the total value of the ivory, horn, or product, whichever is greater.

Under the bill, the total value is the greater of the (1) fair market value or (2) actual price paid.


Under the bill, any ivory or rhinoceros horn seized as a result of a ban violation must be forfeited on conviction or other entry of judgment. After forfeiture, the ivory or horn must be (1) maintained by DEEP for educational or training purposes, (2) donated by DEEP to a bona fide educational or scientific institution, or (3) destroyed.

The bill defines a “bona fide educational or scientific institution” as an institution with documentation to show that it (1) has a national or state educational or scientific tax exemption or (2) is accredited as an educational or scientific institution by a qualified national or state authority from the institution's location.


Related International and Federal Law

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international treaty under which governments agree to restrict international trade in certain plants and animals, including elephants and rhinoceri, and products derived from them.

CITES provides a framework for countries to follow when adopting legislation to implement the treaty. Trade in protected species must be licensed, with different levels of protection based on a species' endangered status. Currently, 181 countries, including the United States, are parties to the treaty.

The United States regulates trade in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn through CITES and laws such as the Endangered Species Act (15 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Specifically, trade of these species requires permits, at minimum. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is engaged in efforts to amend its regulations to increase commercial trade restrictions on elephant ivory.

Related Bill

sSB 227, reported favorably by the Environment Committee, generally bans importing, possessing, selling or offering for sale, or transporting five animal species, including African elephants and certain rhinoceri. It exempts ivory.


Environment Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute