By JEREMY HAINSWORTH, CP
VANCOUVER — A B.C. exotic reptile expert says the federal government has to move to control exotic animal ownership in the wake of the mauling death of a 100 Mile House woman by a tiger on Friday.
“We’ve got a tiger that’s mauling somebody’s girlfriend to death,” says Paul Springate of the Rainforest Reptile Refuge . “That’s unacceptable. All it’s being is being a tiger.”
And, while his sympathies go out to the family of Tanya Dumstrey-Soos, he says he’s also distressed about the tiger which will now almost assuredly be killed as a result of the incident.
“It’s a shame,” he says. “The bottom line is that animals are suffering to death in captivity and going extinct, becoming endangered so that we can have something cool to look at and show off to our friends.”
It was thought the cat began clawing at Dumstrey-Soos’ dress as she stood outside its cage. He then grabbed her legs.
The incident took place at an exotic animal farm owned by Dumstrey-Soos’ fiancee, Kim Carlton.
Const. Annie Linteau of the RCMP’s E Division said a number of children witnessed the attack and “at least one of the children belonged to her.”
She said it’s too early to say if anyone could face charges.
Two of the children who saw the attack were believed to have been Carlton’s kids — Dakota, 12, and 15-year-old Kodiak.
Springate said the federal government has to set up an exotic animal registry so that people know who owns the tiger or python “down the street.”
He wants to take that a step further, saying people should not own exotic animals in the first place.
“Stop it,” he said. “Ban the sale and ownership.”
“The animals suffer in captivity,” he said. “It’s like taking a human being and keeping them in a closet. It’s silent screaming that no one can hear.”
Springate pointed out that current laws are at odds with each other. He said that while the sale and purchase of exotic species is illegal, the importation of them is not.
That alone, he said, puts Canada out of synch with other countries where the exportation or ownership of endangered species is illegal.
He’d like to see the United Nations step in to ensure that Canada’s laws are in line with the laws of other countries when it comes to exotic species.
“We are disrespecting the laws and protection policies of other countries,” he said. “It needs to be a criminal offence.”
The incident had the provincial government promising to look into the regulations that allow private citizens to keep such animals. The SPCA is calling for legislation to ban the practice.
Agriculture Minister Pat Bell said on Friday he will work with other authorities to determine if there is the need for legislative or regulatory change.
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