Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Belleville City Council backs Tweed’s call for provincial regulation of exotic animals

With the look of a leopard and the temperament of a house cat, Servals are exotic animals that are becoming increasingly popular as pets. – Photo via Pexels

In support of public safety and animal welfare, the Belleville City Council has unanimously passed a motion supporting the Ontario provincial government’s implementation of stringent regulations on the possession, breeding, and use of non-native (“exotic”) wild animals.

The motion, which was presented to Council at a June 24 council meeting, was in support of the Municipality of Tweed’s resolution petitioning an urgent need for consistent provincial policies to address the growing concerns associated with exotic animal ownership.

“The Municipality of Tweed [is] petitioning the provincial government to implement provincial regulations to restrict the possession, breeding, and use of non-native (“exotic”) wild animals and license zoos in order to guarantee the fair and consistent application of policy throughout Ontario for the safety of Ontario citizens and the exotic wild animal population,” the resolutions stated.

The resolution was moved without opposition, reflecting a shared recognition of the risks and administrative challenges posed by the current lack of provincial regulations, and inconsistency of municipal bylaws.

The Municipality of Tweed’s resolution, moved by Counc. J. Flieler and seconded by Counc. P. Valiquette, outlines several issues that have surfaced from the lack of provincial regulation. Tweed’s resolution, passed initially on May 7, 2024, stresses the risks exotic animals pose to public safety and animal welfare.

It notes that Ontario has more private exotic animal keepers, roadside zoos, mobile zoos, and wildlife exhibits than any other province in Canada. Despite this, Ontario remains without comprehensive legislation governing these animals’ possession, breeding or use in captivity.

What brought this resolution forward was a recent incident in Kirkland Lake, where a one-armed baboon named Mark escaped from a residence, crossed Highway 11, and bit a woman. This incident has brought attention to the province’s inadequacies regarding current regulations on exotic animals.

In response, various municipal associations, including the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO), and the Municipal Law Enforcement Officers’ Association (MLEOA), have voiced support for Tweed’s campaign. These organizations have called on the provincial government to create uniform regulations to ensure the safety of both the public and the animals.

Tweed councillor J. Flieler, who introduced Tweed’s resolution, emphasized a pressing need for a cohesive approach: “Without provincial regulations, municipalities are left to navigate complex and often inconsistent bylaws, which can lead to enforcement difficulties and safety hazards. A unified policy is essential for protecting our communities and ensuring the humane treatment of exotic animals,” the letter states.

With support from Ontario municipal councils, Tweed will forward the letter to the following dignitaries: Premier Doug Ford, the Ontario Solicitor General Michael Kerzner, the Ontario Minister for Natural Resources and Forestry Graydon Smith and MPP Ric Bresee. Additionally, endorsements will be sent to AMO, AMCTO, and MLEOA, amplifying the call for legislative action across multiple levels of government.

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