By Peter Fricker
The tragic killing of two young boys by an African Rock Python in New Brunswick has once again shone a light into one of the darker corners of our fascination with animals: the exotic pet trade.
Sadly, it seems that tragedy is always the catalyst for focusing public and media attention on the trade, which is a threat to both public safety and animal welfare. It was the killing of a woman in 100 Mile House by a pet tiger in 2007 that finally convinced the B.C. government to introduce regulations prohibiting the sale and ownership of a large number of dangerous exotic species.
Some have questioned the effectiveness of such regulation, pointing out that the python in New Brunswick was illegal but lack of a permit did nothing to save the two children. Others have noted that it is relatively easy to buy illegal exotic animals online, suggesting that sales and ownership have just gone underground.
While there’s no denying that some hard-core exotic animal enthusiasts, especially reptile fanatics, ignore the law, that’s no reason not to regulate the exotics trade. B.C.’s prohibition of some of the most dangerous animals has prevented the trade from going mainstream, sending a clear signal that society does not approve of keeping venomous or large snakes, tigers or alligators in basements and backyards. In some U.S. states, where no regulation exists, exotic animal ownership is rampant, with some people housing large menageries of dangerous species on their properties.
The illegal underground trade and ownership of prohibited exotic species should be addressed with stronger and more proactive enforcement — on a national basis. Currently, there is a patchwork of federal, provincial and municipal legislation. More....