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BC Press: Council caves on crawly creatures

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Posted by W von Papinešu on April 29, 2003 at 21:37:47:

RICHMOND NEWS (British Columbia) 28 April 03 Council caves on crawly creatures (Darah Hansen)
You may like spiders and snakes. But that's not what it takes to care for these cold-blooded critters, say proponents of a city-wide ban on the sale of reptiles and exotic pets.
"I don't believe... these animals should ever be pets. They're wild animals. They don't belong in a cage," says Christine Schramm, president of the nonprofit animal rescue group, the Rainforest Reptile Refuge. "None of these animals are happy in captivity."
Nonsense, counters Calli Jensen, a reptile specialist at Super Pet, which sells a large selection of reptiles, exotic birds and fish.
For those who are allergic to dogs and cats or just have a passion for the unusual, reptiles make great pets, Jensen said.
"I've been around reptiles all my life. At home, I've got a boa (constrictor) which is nine-and-a-half-feet long. It is my baby."
The subject of reptiles - and whether they should be available for sale in the city - was unleashed at a council meeting after Super Pet applied for a business licence earlier this month. The current bylaw prohibits the sale of certain types of animals - specifically those which are not "ordinarily tame or domesticated, and includes any exotic animal."
But the wording of the bylaw is too loose, so council handed the matter over to the city's legal staff. They responded with a proposed "prohibited species list", which, among the more obvious, includes the sale of elephants, monkeys, hyenas, and bears.
But it would also stop the sale of reptiles, including snakes, lizards, crocodiles, turtles and tortoises.
City solicitor Rebecca Bittel said the interpretation was made to promote public health and safety as well as animal welfare.
"I gave the opinion that I couldn't think of a reptile that is 'ordinarily tame,'" said Bittel.
Other problems mentioned include potential contamination from salmonella, a bacteria carried by many reptiles that causes severe illness in humans, and the lack of facilities available for reptiles that are abandoned.
"With cats and dogs, we at least have a system in place (to care for them) ... With reptiles, there's nowhere for these things to go," she said.
That argument drew praise from Schramm and other animal welfare groups at last Tuesday's general purposes committee meeting.
Schramm's private Surrey operation is full with almost 400 abandoned reptiles, spiders, frogs and exotic birds.
"People just don't care as much about cold-blooded animals as they do about furry animals. They're not fluffy like a little bunny so people think they have no feelings," said Schramm of the endless excuses people find to dump their scaly pets. "I've even had people bring in a snake and say, 'It's boring. It doesn't do anything.'
"It's terrible. They're disposable pets is what they are."
But reptile enthusiasts contend the public just needs to be educated.
"They do require a lot of research," said Jensen. "People need to know what they are getting into."
But, once that's done, she said there's no good reason why someone shouldn't be allowed to own a lizard or a snake.
"And we always have the right to refuse a sale if they don't meet the requirements," she said.
Following last Monday's meeting, council is considering a scaled-down solution: a bylaw amendment forcing those selling reptiles to post detailed information about the animal.
The matter will be decided this Monday.

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