Nicholas Read, Vancouver Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2007
VANCOUVER - City staff are recommending the city ban the keeping and sale of lions, tigers, wild dogs, crocodiles and some lizards and snakes for reasons of safety and animal welfare.
And in an effort to get similar bylaws enacted throughout B.C., the report, written by the office of the chief licence inspector, suggests Mayor Sam Sullivan send a letter to the Union of B.C. Municipalities urging the adoption of a provincewide list of banned exotic animals.
If council approves the recommendation Feb. 1, Vancouver will join Langley, Richmond, Surrey, Abbotsford, New Westminster, the City and District of North Vancouver and 12 communities outside the Lower Mainland in what has become a growing campaign by local jurisdictions to curb the trade in exotic pets.
"Vancouver has an opportunity to get on board, so let's get to it," said Coun. Kim Capri who, with help from the Vancouver Humane Society, asked staff to prepare the report last year.
Capri said she was "thrilled" with the outcome, except she thinks the list of restricted species also should include amphibians.
"My guess is when this comes to committee, we will likely hear from animal lovers who say there are other things we could be adding on," she said.
Capri said an "overwhelming majority" of the public support the initiative, and "the only people who are opposed are people who profit from the sale of [exotics]."
The report, issued last week, says only three independent pet stores sell exotic animals in the city, but notes they are also available through private sale, and that many national and regional pet store chains "promote the keeping of exotic/wild animals as pets."
Last June, a 1.5-metre crocodile fell out of a third-storey apartment on West Fourth Avenue. The report said that incident "reaffirmed the need to take a closer look at the issue."
Vancouver Humane Society representative Peter Fricker said: "It's clear the city has recognized that exotic animals suffer in captivity and that they pose a threat to public health and safety.
"We think the proposed list of banned animals could be longer [it should include primates, iguanas, monitor lizards and wolf-dog hybrids, he said] but this is a great step forward for animal welfare in Vancouver."
Cam McOuat, a co-owner of Aquariums West pet store on Burrard, said while he supports a ban on the sale of large and dangerous animals, such as pythons and crocodiles, the new law will do nothing to prevent the underground sale of exotic animals and is another example of the city interfering in something that doesn't need addressing.
"A lot of these things are rhetoric," he said, "and when the rubber meets the road, you'll find there ain't too much rubber on the road."
He also said it won't affect his ability to sell such reptiles and amphibians as geckos, skinks, frogs, anoles and chameleons.
Paul Springate, curator of the Rainforest Reptile Refuge in Surrey, said 99 per cent of the more than 300 animals at the refuge -- which include large and dangerous snakes and lizards -- are discarded pets.
The bylaw also would ban the use of wild and/or exotic animals in public performances, events and exhibitions. The city has prohibited the use of such animals in circuses since 1992, but there are no restrictions on using them in other kinds of performances.
In 2005, a Las Vegas magic act sought to include tigers in a show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The show's star, Rick Thomas, changed his mind after protests from animal-welfare groups.
Bylaw to Ban Some Animals From Vancouver
If enacted, a proposed bylaw would prohibit the keeping of the following animals within city limits:
- Snakes: green anaconda, yellow anaconda, reticulated python, African rock python, Burmese python, Indian python, amethyst python
- Crocodilians, including alligators and crocodiles
- All venomous reptiles
- Canids such as wolves, jackals, coyotes and foxes
- Felids such as lions and tigers
It also would prohibit the following species from being sold:
- Cetaceans, including whales, dolphins, porpoises
- Edentates, including anteaters, sloths, armadillos
- Felids, including lions and tigers
- Green iguanas
- Insectivores, except African pygmy hedgehogs
- Marsupials, except sugar gliders
- Mutelids (skunks, weasels, otters), except domesticated ferrets
- Non-human primates
- Pinnipeds (seals, walruses)
- Birds of prey
- Rodents, except domestic hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas, rats and mice
- Pythons and anacondas
- Turtles and turtle eggs
- Ungulates, except goats, sheep, pigs, cattle, horses, mules, donkeys, llamas and alpacas
- Venomous spiders and insects
- Venomous reptiles
- Mongooses, civets, genets
Source: City of Vancouver