Animal groups urge tougher laws after Ontario tiger owner killed

Animal groups urge tougher laws after Ontario tiger owner killed

Mark Iype, Canwest News Servic
Published: Monday, January 11, 2010

66 years-old Norman Buwalda was mauled by a tiger at his residence in Southwold Township, Ontario. Cars are parked in front of the building that a tiger was kept in on the country estate, west of …

A leading rights group that works to protect the well-being of wild animals in Canada says that the mauling death of an Ontario man by his tiger is a wake-up call to governments at all levels to prevent people from owning exotic animals.

Rob Laidlaw, the executive director of Zoo Check Canada, said the death of Norman Buwalda on Sunday was the result of Ontario’s weak laws that make it too easy for people to keep wild animals as pets without any oversight.

“We’ve had a litany of incidents and the government has washed its hands of it,” Laidlaw said Monday.

This weekend’s attack in Southwold township, near London, Ont., is not the first time a large cat has mauled somebody on Buwalda’s property. The same tiger is believed to have attacked a 10-year-old boy in 2004, severely injuring him.

The attack prompted the township to pass a bylaw preventing the ownership of exotic animals, but Buwalda successfully fought the law in 2006, having his animals – reportedly two tigers, two lions and a cougar – grandfathered past the ruling.

Mayor James McIntyre said town council will again take up the cause and debate a new bylaw at its next meeting.

Barry Kent MacKay, the Canadian representative of Born Free USA, another animal rights group, said his organization has been warning communities for years to toughen laws.

“We warned these communities to pass these bylaws, because people can have a plethora of animals,” MacKay said. “Private owners don’t see the danger, they think everything is fine.”

Both MacKay and Laidlaw said the biggest mistake made by Buwalda was getting into the cage with the tiger.

“People say that you can’t predict this sort of thing,” said Laidlaw. “But it’s predictable that it will eventually kill you.”

Laidlaw said that Alberta has the strongest legislation right now, and that B.C. enacted tougher laws after a woman was mauled to death by a pet Siberian tiger in May 2007.

But, he said, Ontario is the only province where exotic animals don’t need to be licensed.

John Parker, a Toronto city councillor and a former Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP, said he tried to create a provincial standard when he introduced animal welfare legislation in 1997 that was quashed as a private member’s bill.

“What motivated my bill was concern for the animals and the public,” he said. “When the public goes to something called a zoo, they just assume that the animals and the people are safe.”

Buwalda, the chairman of the Canadian Exotic Animal Owner’s Association, died Sunday at about 3 p.m. when he entered the cage to feed the tiger on his 80-acre property.

A family member found the 66-year-old in the cage and separated the 300-kilogram animal by trapping it behind a set of glass doors that divides the cage.

An autopsy was scheduled for Monday.


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