David Wylie, CanWest News Service
Published: Saturday, May 12, 2007
Canadians need a well-crafted bylaw that regulates the kinds of animals which can be kept for pets, says the president and CEO of the Humane Society of Canada.
Michael O’Sullivan told CanWest News Service Friday the country currently has a patchwork mix of local, provincial and federal laws that leave plenty of room for people intent on owning exotic pets to squeeze through loopholes.
O’Sullivan said Canada needs a universal bylaw crafted by experts, with regulations that can be easily moulded to fit the needs of each municipality.
“Regulations are easier to change than a law,” he said. “It allows you to adapt more quickly if you need to close a loophole.”
A 32-year-old British Columbia woman died Thursday night, after her boyfriend’s tiger reached through the bars of its cage and killed her in front of two young children. The tiger was being kept at a petting zoo near Kamloops, 355 kilometres northeast of Vancouver
Animals that are penned up are under “tremendous stress” and are apt to lash out, said O’Sullivan.
“It’s a bad situation all around. The best thing to do is not to get them in the first place. Basically, wild animals belong in the wild,” he said. “All the problems facing animals stand on two feet.”
O’Sullivan said most major Canadian cities have bylaws that ban keeping exotic animals, such as tigers; however, smaller communities may not have the expertise or money to craft detailed animal bylaws that are safe from legal challenges.
Most provinces require a specific permit for residents to keep exotic animals and federal laws protect endangered species, he said. Still, municipal bylaws are the final layer of defence against animals, such as crocodiles, poisonous snakes, hyenas, wolves or spiders being kept as companions.
Many municipalities, he said, require people keeping such animals to have hefty liability insurance – which acts as an effective deterrent.
“What you need, in any case, is a balanced program of laws and education – and an attitude change,” he added.
O’Sullivan said he’s consulted on a number of municipal animal bylaws: “Generally, they’re quite strong.”
In Saskatoon, the city council has created – and enforces – a detailed animal control bylaw, despite the fact that Saskatchewan also has legislation that bans ownership of animals, such as tigers, without a special permit.
“We cover it as well, just to be extra careful,” said Saskatoon’s city solicitor Theresa Dust. “This really came about when there was kind of a fashion for more exotic pets. It makes sure everything is covered.”
The city used an animal advisory committee, which included a member of the SPCA and a member of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine.
So far the bylaw hasn’t been challenged in court, she said.
“I think we’re lucky – we have a lot of people with expertise in the (University of Saskatchewan). We have in-house lawyers, we have professional bylaw officers,” she said. “It’s the smaller communities who have less resources that can have a problem.”