Bervie Zoo triumphs over proposed exotic pets bylaw
By Liz Dadson
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Prompted by concerns from the owners of the Bervie Zoo, Kincardine council has quashed its proposed exotic pets bylaw.
The bylaw would have banned ownership of certain species of animals, such as monkeys, kangaroos and eagles, in the municipality.
In committee-of-the-whole Wednesday night (Nov. 15), John Geddes, who owns the Bervie Zoo with his wife, Alice, appealed to council to grant his family an exemption from the bylaw so they can continue to own and display their animals.
"My wife and I started the Bervie Zoo 25 years ago," he said, "and we've had no problems with the municipality."
Geddes questioned why council was even considering the bylaw.
comply with all the provincial and federal laws and have since they
were evoked," he said. "We are part of the local economy, supporting
local business by buying material goods, such as fencing supplies,
"Safety is not an issue as I can think of no incident, past or present, in the Municipality of Kincardine that would require an exotic animal by-law."
He said he understands that council does not want large animals in residential back yards, such as in the former Town of Kincardine (Ward 1).
"We were open to the public for at least 15 years and our business grew every year with no safety issues," said Geddes. "You should feel privileged to know that some of these exotic animals that we breed, own and care for, are on the endangered species list."
He said many big zoos were started by private collectors like the Geddes family.
"Currently my family and I care for more than 50 species of exotic mammals, birds and reptiles," said Geddes. "This is a large burden on my family, but we bear this responsibility willingly, for our animals are important in our lives.
"It is an unusual lifestyle that many people canít possibly fathom, leaving our family tied down on the farm, when our peers went on vacations, drove new vehicles and built new houses. Maybe if enough private zoo owners survive, our childrenís children will be able to see, hear and smell these creatures rather than simply seeing their pictures under the heading 'extinct'."
Geddes said when his family chose to close the gates to the zoo, they did not intend on closing it forever and parting ways with their animals.
"We simply needed time for our family," he said. "We were not forced in any way to close our zoo; we have kept our place to the same standards as if we were open, including all of our contacts, permits and licences. This bylaw may only affect a few people in the municipality, but for us, it is a direct conflict with our workplace, business, home, and family."
Councillor Candy Hewitt said the intent of the bylaw was not to hamper people who have the experience to care for exotic animals, but to discourage those who can't take care of exotic pets properly.
Councillor Jacqueline Faubert said her concern with this bylaw is the same she has regarding the dog control bylaw - there is not enough information and there has not been enough discussion about it.
Councillor Kenneth Craig asked how the bylaw would be applied, particularly with exotic animals already in the municipality.
Chief building official Michele Barr said the onus is on the owner to prove the pet was in his possession prior to the bylaw being enacted, so the pet would be "grandfathered-in" and allowed to stay.
She emphasized that the intent of the bylaw is to restrict exotic pets in the urban areas, but not as much in the agriculturally-zoned areas where animals, such as emus, are considered livestock and are being raised for food.
"I think the definitions in this bylaw are too vague," said Craig. "It would be difficult to apply them consistently and effectively. I would like to defer this bylaw until we have better definitions."
Councillor Mike Leggett said the bylaw would affect only people like the Geddes family and their zoo. "If someone wants to have boa constrictor in his home, nothing would happen unless there were a complaint."
"I agree there should be an exemption given to the Bervie Zoo," said mayor Larry Kraemer. "There have been no incidents and no safety concerns; so I don't think there's an issue here."
"So, the bylaw, as written, would restrict the Bervie Zoo?" asked deputy mayor Anne Eadie
"Yes," said Barr.
The vote was called, with an exemption for the Bervie Zoo included, but the bylaw was defeated.
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© Liz Dadson
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014