Monkeys, reptiles and other exotic animals OK for Thorold property
But JP says no more can be brought onto rural site
By Karena Walter, Standard Staff
More than 30 exotic animals, including a dozen monkeys and a three-legged jaguar, will be allowed to stay on a rural Thorold property until they die natural deaths.
But the owner of the animals must keep them in appropriate pens and can’t display them to the public.
A justice of the peace made the ruling after Sharon Morabito and the City of Thorold came to an agreement about the fate of the animals, whose current home contravenes a zoning bylaw.
“We basically grandfathered those current animals, but we have not allowed any more animals to be brought in,” said Frank Fabiano, the city’s chief administrative officer.
Morabito pleaded guilty last month to using lands zoned agricultural for an animal sanctuary contrary to Thorold’s planning act.
A report on the court decision, which came down last month, was given to Thorold councillors this week.
The city charged Morabito with the bylaw infraction after police discovered the animals in good condition during a non-related incident at the 20-acre property she owns at Kottmeier and Holland Rds.
While there is no bylaw prohibiting exotic animals, the city did not give permission to create an animal sanctuary and the property was not zoned for animal habitat.
Under the negotiated settlement and court order, Morabito will be allowed to keep all the identified exotic animals on the property — with the exception of a lion cub — until they die or are relocated to other facilities.
The lion cub is supposed to be off the property with three months following the April 6 order.
Fabiano said Morabito is trying to find a home for it at a zoo.
The court has allowed the city to do compliance spot checks with 72-hour notice, using photos of the existing 33 animals on the site.
“When we do site inspections, we’ll bring them with us to make sure they are those animals and no other new ones are there,” Fabiano said.
The tally lists two blue and gold parrots and 12 primates, including three baboons.
The property also houses a jaguar, the lion cub and 17 reptiles, including three boas, a tarantula, three bearded dragons and two tortoises.
Under the court order, all animals must be maintained in appropriate pens or enclosures and cannot run at large or be displayed to the public.
The animals must not be permitted to breed.
In November, Morabito’s husband, Chris, told The Standard the family had to euthanize three lions and six monkeys because the city denied their application for an exotic pet sanctuary.
He said the sanctuary was intended to be an education and rehabilitation refuge for sick, old or abandoned animals. The animals were mostly from homes and farms in Niagara where they lived as pets.
The family said it was unable to find an accredited zoo that would take the animals, so they had to take the drastic action.
The police discovery of the animals in October 2009 prompted hot debate in the city over the need for an exotic pet ban or bylaw.
Fabiano said the city wanted to get the court case completed before it looked at the details of creating a new bylaw.
He said licensing exotic animals is a complex issue.
“We are entertaining it, but it will be some time before we put our minds around it,” he said.