Animal programs

Animal rights group is sounding the alarm over an exotic zoo planned for the city’s mall

An animal rights group in London fears there is a hole in the city’s animal control regulations big enough for a crocodile to squeeze through.

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An animal rights group in London fears there is a hole in the city’s animal control regulations big enough for a crocodile to squeeze through.

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The Council’s Animal Welfare Advisory Committee is calling on city staff and politicians to contact the owner of Reptilia, an exotic animal zoo which plans to open in London, and warn him not to bringing animals prohibited in the city.

Reptilia plans to open its business at the Westmount Mall in May and has circumvented municipal animal control bylaws that ban zoos in the city.

The company applied for and received a license from the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Natural Resources to keep game and specially protected wildlife at its London business.

But because the permit was issued by the province’s Ministry of Natural Resources, its display is limited to species native to Ontario.

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That means Reptilia will have to leave the black mamba behind and showcase the not-so-exotic garter snake and the crocodiles might give way to painted turtles, said Wendy Brown, chair of the city’s Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. .

To make sure Reptilia owner Brian Child understands the limits of his license, she said she wants city officials to contact him now and closely monitor the business as it opens.

“I think the city should make sure he understands what’s allowed and what’s not. It would be an important preventative measure to tell him what is not allowed and what is,” Brown said.

“Does the city want to have to deal with the application of the bylaw? The city said no to zoos.

The recommendation from the recent meeting of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee will go to an upcoming Community and Protective Services Committee of the City Council, stating that “Council asks staff to send a clarification to the owner of Reptilia Zoo regarding the limitation of the exemption and a copy of the regulation outlining that many animals in the Reptilia Zoo collection may be banned or restricted in the City of London.

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Com. Maureen Cassidy, who chairs the community and protective services committee, said she would support the advisory committee’s recommendation.

“It could be a motion to the staff to reach out to this guy, to reiterate what the rules are,” she said.

“It’s clear that as a community we have a problem with zoos and I’m concerned about how this license was issued. He’s trying to find another way to get what he wants.

Heather Chapman, the city’s community compliance and animal services manager, said Monday that Reptilia is already on the city’s radar.

“If Reptilia opened in London, the license would be reviewed. In the event of animal control by-law violations, the city would direct an animal services officer to take enforcement action,” she said in a post.

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This enforcement action can mean fines of up to $5,000, Chapman said.

Brian Child, president of Reptilia Zoo, could not be reached for comment.

Sante Esposito, vice president of McCor, a real estate company that owns the Westmount mall, said Reptilia plans to open in May.

The company leased and renovated space in the mall, for which it received building permits, Esposito said.

“The tenant applied for permits at all levels and received them. The management of their business must be done according to the governing bodies and they have done everything according to the legislation.

The city’s animal control bylaws prohibit zoos and exhibits of creatures, including poisonous snakes and crocodiles.

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“This situation is worrying. If we allow this, it will set a precedent for other zoos and other mobile animal programs,” Brown said.

Reptilia operates zoos in Vaughan and Whitby. Its website says it has more than 250 species of reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids from around the world. The company also takes its animals to schools, nursing homes and daycares.

The Animal Welfare Advisory Board opposes Reptilia setting up in London with exotic animals, saying it is concerned about creature welfare and public safety.

“They carry diseases that can affect children, the elderly and immunocompromised people. We’re worried about the escape. It also promotes the possession of reptiles and they can become invasive species,” Brown said.

The city banned zoos in 2011 and refused a request from Reptilia to open in London in 2018.

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