Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters
Editorial: Exotic pets should fall under federal law
August 7, 2013 Calgary Herald
The RCMP is investigating the deaths of two Campbellton, N.B., brothers who were allegedly strangled in their sleep by an African rock python that escaped its glass enclosure. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, it is time to bring Canada’s patchwork laws on exotic pets up to date.
The presence of the python in the Campbellton home is a call to action on all exotic pets. Most problematic is the lack of uniform federal regulation on the matter; instead, provinces and municipalities have been left to come up with their own piecemeal regulations.
In Alberta, for example, large constricting snakes aren’t allowed. In fact, according to Tyrone Smith, owner of Chaotic Xotic, a Medicine Hat reptile store, and The Canadian Mouseman, a supplier of reptile feed, in Alberta, African rock pythons would only be allowed to be owned by zoos. Smith told the Medicine Hat News that the largest python Albertans can legally have as a pet is the 10-foot-long olive python, which he says is “quite skinny” and can only wrap itself around its owner’s arm.
A new federal law, of course, should not be limited to snakes. Rather, it should cover all potentially dangerous exotic animals, and creating such legislation should not be a daunting task, despite the vast number of species that might fall under the law.
After a man’s pet tiger killed his girlfriend in British Columbia some years ago, the province in 2009 brought in a controlled alien species regulation. According to the B.C. government’s website, the law “controls the possession, breeding, shipping and releasing of alien animals (i.e. that are not native to B.C.) that pose a risk to the health or safety of people or the environment.” Tigers and pythons definitely fall into that category. So do poisonous spiders. Size and strength aren’t necessarily the determining factors.
One could, of course, argue that dogs and cats also pose health and safety risks, but that kind of stalling tactic in opposition to the law would be frivolous and should be ignored, as there is an enormous difference between domesticated animals and wild or even tamed wild animals.
There is every reason in the world for people to keep dogs and cats as pets — and none at all for them to keep dangerous snakes, spiders, lizards, tigers, lions or other animals that normally live in the wild or in zoos. If it can kill — whether by poison, by constricting, or by some other mode of attack — then an exotic species belongs on the banned list.
The B.C. list is exhaustive and contains things like coyotes, as well as bears, dingoes and monkeys. There are 848 species alone of prohibited reptiles. The law grandfathers in pets acquired before it came into effect, while prohibiting owners from breeding or releasing them.
B.C.’s law is a model for comprehensive federal legislation that would replace the confusing jumble of provincial and municipal bylaws and regulations now in place. The tragic deaths of brothers Connor and Noah Barthe is enough impetus for the feds to act now and bring in a dangerous, exotic pet ban.