SPCA article on the ban of reptiles
Summary Report & Recommendations
Currently, thousands of wild, exotic animals are sold through pet stores throughout BC. Other larger animals such as lions, tigers and monkeys are sold at exotic animal auctions. Many exotic animals are taken from the wild in other countries and imported to BC. Others are bred and raised locally in captivity and sold to pet stores or sold privately through the Internet or newspaper. Adequate care information on most exotic animals is limited -- especially for the smaller animals sold in pet stores -- and many die in captivity long before they reach the store shelves.
Federal legislation governing the trade in exotic animals is generally limited to prohibitions on the import of species listed as endangered or threatened. Often exotic animals are surrendered to BC SPCA shelters, or released into the wild to live an uncertain future or to potentially disrupt local ecosystems. Refuges for exotic animals are few and most are filled to capacity.
In seeking input the BC SPCA asked a number of questions. These included whether a ban should be enacted on the trade of exotic species, whether keepers of exotic pets should be certified, whether sanctuaries should be established for exotic pets, and what the BC SPCA should do when it receives exotics.
While public feedback on this issue was not voluminous, it was generally well informed. The Rainforest Reptile Refuge Society in Surrey, BC made a long and thoughtful submission, which we will reference.
Most submissions that address this issue are against keeping exotic animals as pets, noting that these animals should be left in their native habitats. A total ban of exotic species is broadly recommended. Strict bylaws prohibiting ownership of exotic animals would eliminate the need for certification. However, it is noted that there will always be an underground trade to deal with. Most recommend that exotic animals received by the BC SPCA be turned over to zoos or sanctuaries where they can be properly cared for.
Submissions indicate that sanctuaries are necessary at least until a ban reduces the numbers. In terms of funding, submissions put forward various schemes: government funded refuges, refuges run by volunteers with some financial support from the BC SPCA, or refuges funded by pet stores who sell exotic species; a portion of sales would go into a fund for sanctuaries.
The panel recommends that the best way for the BC SPCA to address the issue of exotic animals is through education and advocacy. The BC SPCA can work in partnership with exotic animal sanctuaries to develop and deliver messages that discourage the keeping of exotic animals in captivity. While the BC SPCA itself cannot enact a ban on the trade of exotic animals, it can mount or support advocacy initiatives to change provincial and/or federal legislation.
Our specific recommendations call on the BC SPCA to:
Partner with the Rainforest Reptile Refuge Society, other exotic animal sanctuaries and the UBC Animal Welfare Program to develop education initiatives aimed at not keeping exotics in captivity as pets.
Survey branches regarding the current handling of exotics received in BC SPCA shelters and identify options for the future.
Consider lobbying provincial government and/or in partnership with the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies lobby the federal government to create legislation, banning trade in exotic species.