Exotic pet laws a dog’s breakfast

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Snakes and monkeys are making headlines again as the last few weeks have brought new developments in two strange high-profile cases of exotic animal ownership.

Last week saw the arrest of a man linked to the horrifying 2013 deaths of two New Brunswick boys killed by a python.

Police arrested Jean-Claude Savoie in Montreal — where he now lives — and charged him with criminal negligence. Savoie owned a pet shop and reptile zoo in Campbellton, N.B., where he illegally kept the African rock python that escaped and strangled two boys sleeping in an apartment above the store in August 2013.

In mid-January, Yasmin Nakhuda, the former owner of the “Ikea monkey” revealed she recently purchased two new macaque monkeys, confounding the many critics who blasted her after “Darwin” was found scampering through a Toronto Ikea parking lot in 2012, dolled up in a winter coat.

Both cases ignited heated debate over exotic pet ownership laws.

Nakhuda lost custody of Darwin since Toronto bans primate pet ownership. So how can she get away with owning two? She just moved down the road.

Nakhuda and her two new macaques live near Pontypool, Ont., which is about 100 kilometres northeast of Toronto. Yes, it’s just that easy, since exotic animal ownership laws typically just vary from one municipality to the next.

Ontario’s Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur called the current system a “patchwork” of inconsistent laws. The provincial government announced it planned to re-examine those laws after the New Brunswick incident in 2013. The only animal that Ontario bans province-wide is the pit bull.

And while Ontario looked at toughening those laws, Saskatchewan has looked into easing its province-wide ban on pythons and boa constrictors.

British Columbia has a broad province-wide ban on many exotic species including: pythons, macaques, poison frogs, alligators, and more. The province created its Controlled Alien Species Regulation after a pet tiger mauled a woman to death in 2007.

New Brunswick is reviewing its own exotic animal laws. A report for the provincial Department of Natural Resources is expected next month.

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