Stricter regulations are needed in Alberta for exotic pets following a house fire where hundreds of reptiles and amphibians were discovered, an advocate says.
The discovery of the animals is not surprising and shows there are loopholes in animal protection laws in Alberta, said Michèle Hamers, campaign manager of the World Animal Protection group.
“In most jurisdictions, there are a lot of regulations to prevent people from keeping dangerous animals like tigers and lions, but when it comes to reptiles, usually the only reptiles that are prohibited to be kept are venomous reptiles, the ones that grow really large like anacondas, for example,” said Hamers.
“This means that thousands of animals are not subject to any regulations and can be kept, can be bred, can be used in any way.”
Postmedia reached out to the justice ministry for comment but they were unable to respond by deadline.
In November, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services was called to a home in the area of 20 Avenue and 112 Street. Close to 700 replies and amphibians were found that “appeared seriously neglected,” with many that were dead prior to the fire.
On Tuesday, police charged 31-year-old John Makaryshyn with 37 counts of offenses under the animal cruelty section of the Criminal Code along with 89 counts under the Animal Protection Act of Alberta.
Hamers said the loopholes in regulations create concerns over animal welfare, biodiversity and public health. The breeding isn’t regulated nor is the number of animals that an individual can have.
Like puppy mills, there can be reptile mills, Hamers said, where hundreds or thousands of animals are kept confined and bred.
“If you go inside these places, usually reptiles are kept in plastic drawers or containers,” she said. “They’re stacked on top of each other. In many cases like these drawers are given long enough for the animals to stretch to fit in or to be very comfortable moving around. They don’t have access to natural light or natural features. And that’s their life.”
While Alberta has a list of controlled animals, World Animal Protection would like to see a precautionary system used, where the animal is measured against a list of criteria including animal welfare, public health and safety, and risk of evasiveness.
“If they meet the criteria, fine, they can be kept as pets, but if they don’t, they should be left off,” Hamers said. “Right now it is a prohibited list, so it’s like just a list of animals and by default, everything else is allowed.”
Until there is better regulation, the industry will continue to take advantage, Hamers said.
“We are just glad that the Edmonton police and others are taking the animal welfare regulations that are available serious and that they apply it even to reptiles and amphibians because these animals need as much protection as our dogs and cats.”