Permanent exemption to exotic animal bylaw denied

Wild Zoo Parties owner Marc Cunningham asks councillors to consider a permanent exemption to the municipal exotic animal bylaw during a November meeting. (Chad Ibbotson/Gazette staff)

Wild Zoo Parties will have to apply to show animals on event-by-event basis



Councillors voted to deny a local business’ application for a permanent exemption to the municipal exotic animal bylaw during last week’s committee-of-the-whole meeting.

The decision followed receipt of a staff report recommending denial of the request from Wild Zoo Parties owner Marc Cunningham.

Councillor David Harrison was among those who supported denying the exemption.

“All this is doing is making sure that each event that comes up, the person has to come and get a permit to have that event — similar to if you were having an event where you’re serving alcohol,” he said.

He said regular exemption requests would keep the County up to date on what animals are entering the community and would give greater ability to be prepared in the event of an animal escape.

“In case of escape or disease it gives traceability to the medical community as to where this person may have contacted that,” he said. “There’s a value in that traceability.”

Councillor Steve Ferguson agreed with Harrison, saying the exemptions should be applied for on an as-needed basis.

“We have these bylaws in place for a purpose,” he said. “Making an exception in this case will lead to somebody else wanting an exception in their case.”

Cunningham’s business had been granted a temporary three-month exemption last summer. The company had booked shows across Prince Edward County that would feature animals such as the boa constrictor, Harris’s hawk, curly haired tarantula, dwarf caiman, and ball python.

Last summer’s exemption was contingent on the company providing the municipality’s bylaw enforcement officials with advance notification of when and where events would be held and what animals would be involved.

In November Cunningham told councillors that since the company’s initial inquiry, it had received more than 50 requests for presentations and requested a permanent exemption to present educational shows in the county.

The staff report presented to committee says the company was to provide a listing to the bylaw office within two weeks of each scheduled event. The report says two emails were received — one on June 14 listing five events and a second on July 5 listing a show for July 29. The report says the first notice included dates more than seven weeks away without any follow up and the list of animals included was not definitive, saying the shows “could include” the listed animals.

Mobile Live Animal Programs (MLAPs) are not regulated in Ontario and there are no comprehensive mandatory standards for animal care, housing, or handling, the report says. It says there are no requirements for education, training, or experience for people conducting a MLAP.

The report concluded “the municipality may incur some liability with the regulation of exotic animals where there is no provincial legislation.”

Councillors also heard from Rob Laidlaw, executive director of Canadian-based international wildlife protection charity Zoocheck. He said he had been contacted by residents of the county who had concerns about the permanent exemption request.

He said he agreed with the staff recommendation, saying MLAPs aren’t regulated. He said generally municipalities don’t have the internal expertise to properly and comprehensively regulate and provide oversight for the businesses.

That has led to a trend of municipalities introducing greater restrictions on such businesses.

“That’s the trend across Canada, adding more species to prohibited lists, moving to positive lists and removing exemptions,” he said.