By Ross Romaniuk
Exotic creatures may or may not be safe to keep as pets, but the issue of whether they’re even legal to bring into Canada is a completely different kind of animal.
“We’re seeing more traffic of exotic pets,” Lyle Saigeon, executive director of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment’s fish and wildlife branch, told Metro.
“The problem is that the exotic pet trade becomes kind of a global thing. And certainly, a lot of exotic animals are being brought into Saskatchewan, or other places in Canada, (through) online pet stores.”
The continuing rapid increase in online pet sales has made purchasing animals foreign to Canada far easier than it used to be.
Saigeon points out that it’s “kind of a buyer-beware thing” as to whether the would-be pet is legal to own in Canada, or in any particular province or city — and therefore, whether the snake, lizard, monkey or mongoose can even cross the border in a box or by some other means and reach the purchaser’s property.
If the creature is endangered, he said, “the federal government would not let something like that into the country. But if it’s coming across in a box, a lot of times it’s not caught. And that’s certainly the case for a lot of smaller animals.”
Vern Ruml, who legally owns a dozen reptiles including a Burmese python, boa constrictors and an alligator snapping turtle at his home near Winnipeg, is concerned about transactions and transport of foreign animals.
“If they’re not allowed, isn’t the only way to get them here to smuggle them?” said Ruml, who operated the Ruml’s Reptiles educational enterprise in Manitoba until about a decade ago.
“That shouldn’t happen. If an animal isn’t supposed to be somewhere, it shouldn’t be there. Because ultimately, it’s the animal that suffers. Not the person.”