Protecting the pets they love

 

 

     
Protecting the pets they love
September 23, 2009


By Lindsey Cole
The Oshawa Express

Kaytlyn Gauvin’s nine-year-old brother Richard has Tourette’s Syndrome. Dante, his iguana, is the only thing that calms him down.“To me it’s a great therapy to my brother,” she tells members of the city’s Finance and Administration Committee during a public meeting regarding modifications to the current Responsible Pet Owner’s Bylaw.“It comforts him.”
But Richard may not be able to keep Dante if new proposals under the bylaw are passed.
“It hurts because I see him change with his pet,” Gauvin adds.“We have no other way.”

Richard and Kaytlyn were among some 60 people who came to speak up about the proposed changes to the bylaw. Currently the bylaw prohibits multiple animals, but where most people were concerned, it dealt with exotic animals like certain reptiles and arachnids. While the list of animals includes elephants, whales and a variety of unlikely pets, to the exotic pet lover, some of the animals listed are what they long to own. Pythons, boas, tarantulas,
gila monsters, bearded dragons, monitors, pigs, sugar gliders and chinchillas were just some of the animals that concerned citizens want to see removed from the list of prohibited animals.“Many exotic animals make good pets because they are easy to care for,” says Web Webster, an exotic pet breeder and enthusiast.

They don’t destroy furniture, they are a way to connect with the natural world and they fit in with a busy lifestyle, he says.

“I believe every pet owner should be responsible. I also believe elected officials should be responsible,” he says.“Everyone has things they enjoy doing. Many children and adults drown in pools. Just because something is ordinary doesn’t mean it’s safe. Just because something is different doesn’t mean it’s unsafe.” If the proposed changes go through, owners of prohibited animals would have 90 days to get rid of them. It also states that anyone who is in violation of any of the bylaw’s stipulations, which also includes provisions about dogs and cats, could face stiff fines.“Each person who contravenes any provision of the bylaw is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $300 and not more than $5,000; not less than
$400 and not more than $10,000 for a second conviction of the same offence; and
not less than $500 and not more than $25,000 for a third or subsequent conviction of the same offence,” the bylaw reads. For D&D Exotics coowner Debbie Grills, this is unacceptable.

They have a nine-year-old water monitor that is not only a beloved family pet but is also used as a way to educate people about reptiles, she says, addi ng they have groups come into take a look at the animal. She and her husband Doug have been forthright in their views against the bylaw and had previously written council requesting that the City of Oshawa follow suit with Port Perry and Ajax which have already changed their bylaw to include some exempt animals, in particular reptiles, arachnids and mammals.

The Grills would like to see sugar-gliders, a marsupial from Australia, included in the
bylaw as well as non-venomous snakes as long as the full size is not greater than three metres. The same could be said for non-venomous lizards up to two metres.“This is a control bylaw,” says Debbie Grills.“Now, currently we can have any lizards. Now that’s going to be exempt. That (the bylaw) gives us 90 days to get rid of our animals. We have an Asian water monitor. We’ve had her for nine years. She is a joy for kids to come and look at.

These animals pose no threat. The only threat is driving our industry underground. We’re taking 15 steps backwards.” Grills adds she knows there should be restrictions placed on venomous animals and animals that are so big they could pose a threat, but she says in most cases it just comes down to education and responsible ownership.“People are afraid of these animals, we understand that. It’s an educational process.” Councillor and committee chair Brian Nicholson couldn’t agree more.

 

“This is an opportunity to give a little education to us,” he says. “This is a start of a public process. We have heard what you have said. We want to be able to use your expertise in the field. The animals don’t read the bylaws, so it’s up to us to get it right.” But for some these public meetings come too late. Brian and Leanne Calvert owned a Vietnamese Pot-Bellied pig named Violet five years ago. Because it infringed on the bylaw at the time, stating she was too exotic, they had to get rid of her.

As a result she died 36 hours after going to a farm.“She was too domesticated,” Mrs. Calvert says. “She has been raised in a home.”

Now they hope the city will change the list of animals so others don’t have to lose their pets. Councillor Nicholson told members of the audience that this could be the first in a series of public meetings on the issue and that staff will come up with a report to present to the committee and to council at a later date.

 
     
     

 

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