Thursday, August, 29, 2013 – 11:11:40 AM
NORTH BAY – If it crawls, slithers or hisses, a North Bay city councillor says the city should know where to find it.
Mike Anthony put forth a motion that was passed by his fellow councilors Monday night asking city staff to work with the North Bay Humane Society to develop a bylaw to regulate exotic pets.
“We have no laws when it comes to exotic animals,” he said. “The province of Ontario, unlike some other provinces, leaves it up to municipalities. If we had some regulation and knew where they were, that would be a great thing.
“I thought it was at least worth having the staff and the humane society take a look at and at least tell us what rules could apply here. I don’t know if they will come back and talk about a ban. But that’s not what I’m after.”
Michelle Villeneuve, who owns Reptiles Plus on Lakeshore Drive and plans to speak to the humane society about developing a possible bylaw, says education is key when acquiring any pet.
“There are so many myths and legends about snakes that aren’t true,” she said. “If people don’t have the right information presented to them they’re probably going to make the wrong choice.
“I would like to see a three-metre rule. Anything that is over three metres or will grow to that should not be allowed in a home.”
Earlier this month, city police were called after a four-foot python was found loose on a city street. It was turned over to the humane society.
“Our main concern is that they are being cared for properly,” says Daryl Vaillancourt, executive director of the North Bay Humane Society. “Any kind of regulation to help us do our job is a good thing. We’ll take a look at what other communities do.”
Although his motion was presented less than a month after two young boys were killed by a 45-kg African rock python in New Brunswick, Anthony says that was not the complete impetus behind his request.
A new bylaw could help ensure police, fire and EMS workers would also have a much better idea of what could be behind the door in a time of crisis by helping to eliminate the unknown.
“Think of emergency personnel going to a home and not being aware that there’s a 1,200-pound jungle cat in there. It might be nice to know that before you burst in and try to help someone,” Anthony said. “Regulation does not necessarily mean huge fees. It might just mean a registry.”
The recent tragedy is prompting many Ontario communities to look at how they deal with the issue.
“I was surprised there was not one in existence,” said councillor Judy Koziol.”
There is no official time frame for the report to be completed.
“We need a responsible bylaw,” said mayor Al McDonald. “We need to hear from the experts.”
Regulations regarding exotic pets vary widely from coast to coast and if the province one day decides to regulate exotic pets, Anthony says North Bay will be able to provide data to assist.
About half of the country’s provinces regulate exotic pets in some manner, while the rest leave it up to the municipality. There is no direct federal regulation addressing exotic pets.
Vaillancourt offers this advice to anyone considering a pet of any kind.
“Do research to make sure you know what you are getting into,” he said.
Villeneuve supports the call for creating regulation.
“It was a terrible tragedy,” she said. “But I’ll be happy if something good comes from it. Let’s put a bylaw in place so that this does not happen again.”
Earlier this month, the province said it was forming a group to study exotic pet regulations to decide if changes are necessary. A report is expected to come in the fall.
Story by Steve Hardy