Pennsylvania town to vote on exotic pet ordinance

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Published: November 3, 2009

Freeland Council continued its meeting to December so it can vote on a proposed exotic pet ordinance.

The ordinance stems from an incident last week, when two pet pythons were reported missing from an Adams Street home, which alarmed several neighbors enough to ask council to ban some pets considered dangerous.

Anyone that keeps a pet defined as exotic or wild by the proposed ordinance is subject to a $1,000 fine, 30 days in prison or both, for each day the violation exists.

The proposed ordinance also bans the breeding, sale, adoption or transfer of pets considered exotic or wild.

The ordinance also provides rules for anyone that owns an exotic or wild pet in the borough now. Essentially, the ordinance states people must own the pet prior to Monday night’s council meeting, when council announced it would advertise the ordinance for 30 days.

Those pet owners can get a $300 permit and non-conforming use status for the animal pending zoning officer approval and if they meet certain criteria set by the ordinance. Those criteria include no prior health or safety problems against the pet owner. The owner must also fill out an application that includes the animal’s species, age and sex and a plan for housing the animal to prevent escape. The pet is also not allowed to roam in public freely.

When the pet dies or is removed from the home it can’t be replaced.

The permit must be obtained within 30 days of council adopting the ordinance.

Anyone that keeps a wild or exotic pet in violation of the ordinance must get rid of the animal or give it to the borough police department. Officers are allowed to release the animal to the wild, a zoo, or “dispose” of it in a humane manner, depending on the type of animal. The animal’s owner will pay the borough for the cost of removal or placement. The ordinance would be enforced by borough code, zoning, police and possibly a building code inspector.

Council will vote on the ordinance at its continued meeting. Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m. Once the ordinance is advertised it will be available for public inspection at the borough.

The two snakes reported missing Wednesday prompted Freeland police and fire departments to conduct a search of the neighborhood around 345 Adams St., looking for a nine-foot long and a four-foot long python.

Nicole Composto of 343 Adams St. who lives in the other half of the double home where the snakes went missing was so scared that she, her husband, Steve, and two small children stayed with a relative until Saturday night. At Monday’s council meeting, Composto thanked the borough for its quick action in dealing with the issue and for arranging for a Vector Control exterminator to inspect the homes and try to locate the smaller snake, which is still at large.

The larger snake was found later that night but the smaller python still remains at large. Solicitor Donald Karpowich said, when talking to the snake’s owner, he was told the snake likely died because its body can’t handle the cold weather.

Resident Nick Lapchak, who attended Monday’s council meeting said many people in the neighborhood were worried about the missing pythons.

Councilman John Budda asked if pit bulls could be added to the list of banned animals. Karpowich said he didn’t think it could, but noted any dog that harms a human being or has a history of aggressive behavior is banned. Sgt. Rob Maholik said the ordinance should include any dog that harms a human or another animal and Karpowich agreed to add that to the law. Animals considered wild or exotic and, according to the ordinance, are banned from becoming pets in a Freeland home, include but aren’t limited to:

Amphibians – All venomous frogs, toads, turtles.


Felines – Lions, pumas, panthers, mountain lions, leopards, jaguars, ocelots, margays, tigers, bobcats and wild cats. It excludes common domesticated cats.

Crocodilians – All alligators, caimans, crocodiles and gavials.

Dogs – Wolf, fox, coyote, dingo or the offspring of a domestic dog that was bred with such types. Also, any dog that bites, injures or attacks a human being without being provoked, or any dog deemed dangerous under state law is banned.

Pigs – All wild or domesticated swine, excluding certified Vietnamese potbellied pigs.

Reptiles – All venomous and constricting snakes, such as boa constrictors, pythons and all venomous lizards.

Venomous invertebrates – Such as spiders and scorpions.

In addition, porcupines, skunks, sub-human primates, raccoons, civets, weasels, martens, mink, wolverines, ferrets, badgers, otters, ermine and mongoose.

Vietnamese potbellied pigs must be certified as such by a nationally recognized registry or a licensed veterinarian, they must also be spayed or neutered, vaccinated and can’t be bred. Owners must also keep proper documentation if they were advised against vaccination by a licensed veterinarian.

Domesticated ferrets are allowed but must be de-scented, spayed or neutered, vaccinated and not allowed to wander freely outside. Proper vaccination documentation on the pet ferret must be shown to a borough official upon request. Ferret breeding is banned.

– Amanda Christman


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