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VANCOUVER, B.C. — The tragic death two years ago of a woman killed by a caged tiger as children looked on helped spur the British Columbia government to implement new rules to ban dangerous pets that could harm the public, says Environment Minister Barry Penner.
Penner said Tuesday that the new Controlled Alien Species Regulation, which came into effect this week, identifies 1,256 species that pose a serious threat to public safety.
The list includes black panthers, lions, tigers, boa constrictors, pythons, some poisonous frogs, monkeys, chimpanzees and caimans.
"We are determined to do something to improve public safety while also protecting these species from improperly being brought into British Columbia," said Penner.
He recounted the horrific incident in 2007 in Bridge Lake, B.C., when Tanya Dumstrey-Soos, 32, was clawed by a Siberian tiger owned by her boyfriend and bled to death.
"Despite that animal being inside a cage it was able to get its claws get through the cage and sever an artery in the back of her leg," he said.
"Tragically her death took place in the full view of her children."
He called her death "needless and unnecessary" and suggested it was the impetus "for the need to take steps in British Columbia."
The new regulations mean pet owners can no longer own several types of foreign mammals, amphibians or reptiles unless the animal was in B.C. prior to March 16 of this year.
People who already own a foreign pet who came into the province before that date may be able to keep the animal, if they are granted a permit from the Environment Ministry. Owners are also prohibited from breeding or releasing the animals.
Penner made the announcement at the Vancouver Aquarium, to a backdrop of several of the newly regulated species.
The minister and a representative from the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said there are many hundreds of people in B.C. who are in possession of exotic pets.
"We know that an increasing number of individuals are choosing to obtain these types of animals and keep them as pets or as attractions in communities around the province," Penner told reporters.
Craig Daniel, head of the provincial SPCA, said the organization's cruelty investigators are too often called upon "to investigate private individuals who own dangerous wildlife and are unable to meet the needs of these unique animals."
They not only put public safety at risk, but also the safety of the SPCA staff, he said.
Many exotic pet owners are also ill-equipped to own such animals.
"Owners of exotic animals often do not know how to meet the physical and psychological needs of these animals," Daniel said.
"The only effective way to prevent this abuse and neglect is through the introduction of regulations."
Accredited zoos and research or educational institutions can continue breeding the regulated animals but must apply for a permit for each animal beginning in November.
The film industry will also be required to get a permit for temporarily bringing controlled animals into B.C. and must remove the animals from the province when the film shoot has been completed.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org