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British Columbia Bans Exotic Pets

By March 18, 2009

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British Columbia, Canada (the beautiful province in which I grew up) has taken the step of banning a long list of exotic animals. The ban was enacted at least partially in response to the death of Tania Dumstrey-Soos, who was killed by a captive tiger a couple of years ago. Banned animals include tigers and other big cats, pythons and boas (all those that get longer than 3 metres -- roughly 9 feet), venomous snakes, some poisonous frogs, and a long list of other animals which are probably unlikely to ever be kept as pets anyway (never heard of a pet giraffe, but I guess you have to cover everything because you just never know). You can see the full list here.

Updated to add links from the BC Ministry of Environment:
- Full list of species affected
- General Information and Q & A about the regulations

While I understand why people want to vigorously defend their rights to keep whatever they wish as pets, I've come to believe that, for the most part, none of the animals on this list belong in captivity anyway. So generally, I am actually in favor of this ban (with one caveat: I do think the regulations on boas and pythons are too restrictive). I expect that other jurisdictions will likely follow suit, eventually. Maybe I am just used to bans like this because I live in a city with restrictive laws already (we can't even have ball pythons here!). What do you think about the BC ban on exotics? Vote in the poll and / or leave your comments below.


March 20, 2009 at 4:28 pm
(1) EricR says:


It is most disappointing and surprising that you have come to support a ban such as this. From what I have heard and understand, hundreds of people in BC keep and own reptiles, arachnids and other exotic pets and will be negatively effected by this. Banning is not an acceptable solution. Individuals SHOULD have the right to keep what they want as long as it is done properly.

March 20, 2009 at 4:37 pm
(2) EricR says:

In addition, consider this Lianne:
No exotic pets=no vet clients!
Why support bans when they do not work?

March 20, 2009 at 8:50 pm
(3) Tom says:

Where do you think they’re going to live when they are forced out of the homes that humans have raised them in? None of your “they don’t belong in captivity” stacks up against their lives or the rights of their owners.

March 20, 2009 at 8:52 pm
(4) Ballpythonkeeper007 says:

Dr. McLeod-
In your previous blog on amnesty days for exotic pets, you state “I absolutely support the promotion of responsible exotic pet ownership.”
But yet in this article on the BC ban you state ” I’ve come to believe that, for the most part, none of the animals on this list belong in captivity anyway. So generally, I am actually in favor of this ban.”

So which is it? You cannot exhibit hypocrisy, Dr. McLeod.

March 20, 2009 at 9:01 pm
(5) Tom says:

Too many people and animals have been hurt by this kind of conservation. It’s not worth it. The animals had homes and now they don’t have homes and their offspring don’t have homes and this “person” has claimed the right to dictate horrible penalties for disobeying him. How can anything human let this happen?

March 20, 2009 at 10:47 pm
(6) EricR says:

Thirdly, now that this ban has been passed, many reptile and exotic pet breeders, hobbyists, businesses, manufacturers, and pet stores in BC will be forced out of their, passion, livlihood, and in many instances their businesses. Many people will now also fear taking their animals to vets when needed for fear of prosectuon.
Why on earth do you want for this to occur Lianne?

March 21, 2009 at 1:33 am
(7) Lianne says:

I appreciate all the comments so far. I’d like to address a couple of points.

First, I don’t see how believing in responsible ownership and not being opposed to such a ban qualifies as hypocrisy. I see it as being one and the same.

Secondly, have you all actually seen the full list of banned species? The only category that truly gives me pause is the python/boid listing (less than 3 metres adult length are allowed, longer species banned). I don’t think banning anything else on that list is going to have many far reaching effects (to pet stores, manufacturers, or vets, for example), though maybe I am naive that way. There are provisions for current owners to keep their pets, so long as they apply for the proper permits. I don’t see this as legislating the exotic pet industry out of business – it does limit what can be kept, but, with the exception of the python/boid regulations, I don’t think the list is unreasonable. Here is the full list:

and full info on the regulations:

Thanks again for the thoughtful comments, they are giving me lots to think about.


March 21, 2009 at 2:23 am
(8) Tom says:

Thank you for the links, Lianne. I’ve been looking over the regulations on the different sites and I still don’t see where it’s written into any legally citable regulations. I haven’t found a reference to something in writing that says what conditions a person has to meet to keep their animal, either. If it’s up to the SPCA whether they keep their animals or not, everyone’s toast and the regulations are in bad faith.

There may be some way to characterize the regulations as “reasonable” but I have always thought that keeping lions and tigers is worth some risk. Maybe Canada doesn’t care about equal protection under the law, but Barry Penner’s thing about animals that present a risk to human life, which is totally slaved to the SPCA’s propaganda, applies to just about every species of animal that you can name. So what are you seeing that is so “reasonable”?

This one person, who so blatantly works for the SPCA, should not have been given this power. If the Assembly is unable to do this in a more fair and reasonable manner they should not have fobbed it off on a person who essentially works for the animal rights activists, which is a conflict of interest with his duty as a Minister of the government of B.C. He and the SPCA have been jonesing for this kind of power over pet owners. And many of the species in question have been defined as “domestic” for over 25 years. Redefining them as wildlife is a betrayal. Such a basic change in the status of personal pets, by species, should not be in the hands of one man even if you don’t like their teeth and claws.

Then you have the permit applications. People will submit these applications in good faith and whether those applications will be accepted may not be in good faith. Submitting the applications in good faith will be giving up their right to privacy, not that Canada, the SPCA, or the U.S. any of them has given a fig for privacy, and that will make them targets for abuse.

I consider the new regulations to be an unnecessary abuse of power and a giving of quasi-governmental powers to special interests of the animal rights activist type.

How could this not be legislating the exotic animal industry out of business? The regulation clearly excludes almost everything.

The way that I see it the pet industry is at least as valid as zoological parks and recreation. Personal property is the basis of personal freedom. A regulation that says that scientists can own something and humans can’t makes everyone a second-class citizen under the scientists, and the animals don’t benefit all that much. Animals like being raised with families better than they like being raised in institutions.

March 21, 2009 at 9:06 am
(9) EricR says:

I’m not entirely convinced.
I see nothing reasonable about a ban on keeping the reptiles. Sure existing owners may be grandfathered in, but this is still an all out ban on all new ownership and animal acquistition. A ban will only drive the hoby underground and make matters less safe and humane for everyone involved.

In fact the greater vancouver Zoo has already mentioned that they want to EXPAND the list. They want to ban parrots and macaws and tortoises next. Today it may be crocodilians and hots that are being banned, tommorrow it could be your corn snakes, or geckos, or parakeets. We ALL need to unite and stand up for our rights regardless of whehther we keep those species or not! See this link

March 21, 2009 at 3:10 pm
(10) justin says:

Eric and Tom your both from a radical list called Rexano where those folks are even alright with tiger farms (tigers farmed for parts) as long as it means them also being able to keep such WILD animals as PETS. I have seen those people see horrible conditions of wild animals make the news and make it alright by saying “oh it’s prolly not the whole picture to this bust. ” and “they are probably lying about the truth, the animal was probably well taken care off ” yadda yadda crap)

They spew off all this nonsense on that list that make them all look like looney tunes. They dont even know how stupid they all sound to TRUE professionals and conservationists, how much people are laughing at them.

Humans have NO more rights than any other creature, humans have EGO that is the difference, and that ego tells them they can do as they please with the earths creatures and be damned anything else. I only wish they included wolf hybrids in this list like the spca was trying to get banned. I dont think this list is near big enough but its a START.

People that want to keep WILD animals as pets have no respect for true wilderness and conservation at all, they only care about their RIGHTS to keep what they want in cages and thus taking away purpose in another being.

All LIFE is born with purpose…take that away and you take away an animals TRUE spirit. All people need to do is look back at the slave trade of humans 2 see that in their own kind even.

I will continue to fight to get MORE bans enacted and speak out against those radicals such as tom and eric whom want what they want cause they want it.

dont even bother talking to me either cause I wont even read your response anyways..cause I have seen how people like you two work and your all puffed up egos. You get all commando on those whom truly love and care for nature and wildlife and work to truly conserve it, like your ten year olds getting your hands slapped.

Talk to the computer screen people like you will never truly be taken seriously by those in power thank god!

March 21, 2009 at 4:04 pm
(11) Tom says:

As a matter of fact, Justin, I do care about human rights and I am sick of your war against humans.

March 21, 2009 at 4:16 pm
(12) Animal Awareness Project says:

I still can’t believe that anyone in their right mind could make/pass/support legislation like this without knowing the facts first. Often times, this sort of legislation is 100% emotionally based, not based on the statistics and facts. The facts are that death by exotic animal is so miniscule that it should never even be considered a public threat. When you look at statistics over the past 20 years, there is approximately 1 death per year by large exotic cats, less than 1 death per year by exotic reptiles, and all other exotic animals are even far less than that. And, in all of these cases, the deaths have been either the owners, helpers, or people that deliberately put themselves in harms way of the animals. Never, and I repeat, NEVER, has an at-large exotic animal killed a random person walking down the street. Also, the broad reach of this legislation, specifically banning Boids over 9í, cuts out so many species that have never, in the history of this planet, caused death to a human being.

I can support fair legislation putting reasonable guidelines in place for the care of the animals and people, and there are a few well written and fair laws out there. But to all out deny people the opportunity to keep such magnificent companions is a violation of human rights. This is the work of fanatical Animal Rights Terrorist groups using fear of the unknown to push their own agendaís because I canít for the life of me see any logical reasoning to be behind any legislation that essentially destroys human rights. And no matter how many times it happens, I am shocked and appalled that any legislator could lack the common sense to see this.

They should repeal this law effective immediately and if they really feel the need for some sort of legislation to ease public concerns, they should workshop with members from all sides to come up with something that is fair to everyone. Itís amazing what can be created when people work together. I know, Iíve been there and Iíve done that.

March 21, 2009 at 5:01 pm
(13) EricR says:

Please spare me your anti-human remarks. Do you not believe in the concept of human rights (regardless of whether the matter at hand is pertaining to animals or not). Is that correct?
And I fail to see what is so radical about defending one’s freedom to own the animal of their choice. Go to the Rexano website and read their mission statement to see what they are about. Can you produce some evidence that they are in fact supportive of these “tiger farms” as you are claiming?
I suppose I can safely say that you oppose the who notion of having pets, is that correct Justin?

March 21, 2009 at 6:12 pm
(14) Tom says:

It really does add up to an anti-humanity campaign. Even given that there are reasons to like animals better than humans, there are reasons why this means that we should be for human-animal contact, and there are also reasons why we should be for contact with apex predators.

One of the reasons is because humans are altruistic enough to give up a lot of time and energy for each animal. When it is a personal love for the animals, that’s actually just that much better. Another reason is because humans are part of nature. We are dependent on it and filtering the connection through our most exploitative and sociopathic people is really a bad idea.

Sheer numbers is another good argument. There could be a million cheetahs in the Americas and millions of ocelots, as cheetahs aren’t much hungrier and are possibly less dangerous than a Great Dane, and ocelots are simply housecats with beautiful coats. It’s barely dangerous at all to have lions and tigers, and the successful introduction of thousands of them into human homes argues for the success of pet ownership.

Our so-called animal advocates have actually declared animals to be a bane that they have to handle and use to generate revenue for their own malicious purposes. We can’t rely on any of their information because it is motivated by the profit motive and malice.

March 21, 2009 at 9:24 pm
(15) EricR says:

” I dont think this list is near big enough but its a START.”

A start to what Justin? Banning all pets? Which by the way is the goal of extreme animal rights groups such as PETA.

“I will continue to fight to get MORE bans enacted”

In other words you are openly admitting to wanting to end other people’s livlihoods and businesses, is this correct Justin?

March 22, 2009 at 1:42 am
(16) Tom says:

Eric, people like Justin just want to hurt people and positions of false authority are the best place to do it from. There are few ways that even a totalitarian state can get away with that are worse for hurting people than by attacking their animals, and this drive against so-called exotic animals is an attack on the animals that people love.

There’s a good Wikipedia entry on “Animal Welfare in Nazi Germany” and it’s the same thing this go-round.

They should make it so that they can’t ban individuals from owning animals without also banning institutions from owning animals. Too many of the people who push for bans own animals themselves. This is hypocritical and denies equal protection under the law and those who want the bans and want to be like that should be punished with the rest of us.

March 22, 2009 at 7:56 am
(17) Ticklerkid says:

Justin, your personal cultural values are interesting but they are no more superior nor more correct than those of others. Your arguments are peppered with many logical fallacies.

Interestingly, I read an amicus curiae written by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which makes the statement that this movement with which you are an affiliate, is a religious one.

Plaintiff is a strict Vegan; he holds strong beliefs against the killing or exploitation of animals for food, clothing, or the testing of products and medications. His beliefs are the central guiding theme in his life, to the extent that he would disregard elementary self- interest in order to adhere to them. He holds his beliefs with the strength of traditiona l religious convictions; they are sincere and meaningful, and occupy a place in his life parallel to that filled by God in traditionally religious individuals adhering to the Christian, Jewish or Muslim faiths.

No different than a Jesus Freak trolling forums where people who have animal husbandry in mind, seems to be your freakish obsession. Trying to guilt others into adopting principles of your religious faith seems to be your pattern. Maybe you never imagined you would grow to need a religion so badly to assuage imagined guilt but it happens and maybe it does set your spirit free.

Nevertheless, animals do not have rights. Rights are tied with law and legal responsibility.

Let’s look at the practice of protecting animal rights from the very proponents that believe this faith.

Do animals have rights? HSUS and PeTA for example, do not believe pets should be allowed the freedom the pursue happiness, they advocate surgical modification of these animals and that they not be allowed reproduce at will or even in controlled situtations (Mandatory Spay and Neuter). HSUS and PeTA agree that certain types or breeds of animals (domestic, or breeds of dogs…) have less rights than others. The so called rights of animals are defined by these philosophical bodies in terms that defy any semblence of logic, and yet when it is convenient, they claim that animals have rights.

Which is it? When I see Justin sharing his religious principles on forums, it is very clear to that Justin is passionately immersed in his chosen religion. Those who are atheist, agnostic or fellows of other religions or cultures and other views can see clearly enough that Justin is just expressing that he finds comfort in his religion and wishes others did too.


March 22, 2009 at 4:07 pm
(18) Tom says:

That sounds like one right through the foot.

March 23, 2009 at 1:21 pm
(19) Lianne says:

I may regret this, and hate to take this discussion further off course, but I feel the need to weigh in here.

About this statement:
“your personal cultural values are interesting but they are no more superior nor more correct than those of others”

That statement has to apply equally to everyone here.

And just because animals have no rights under the law doesn’t make it true that animals should not have rights. After all, humans wrote the laws…and perhaps they self-serving and inadequate.

I don’t think one needs to believe in all the philosophies of PETA or the HSUS to believe that animals should have some basic rights too.

And I also don’t think that supporting human rights and animals rights is a mutually exclusive decision.

[edited to add] As much as I am interested in the turns this discussion has taken, there is a whole site at About.com devoted to the discussion of animal rights, where discussions such as this are probably more appropriate:

March 23, 2009 at 1:32 pm
(20) Diana says:

A true animal lover will have no problem with an animal ban that keeps animals that are not indigenous to our country from being taken away from their homes and natural environments to be some kind of owner trophy. Those of us who really care do not want to keep so-called “exotic pets” just for our own personal gratification.

March 23, 2009 at 4:13 pm
(21) Ticklerkid says:

@Lianne: that’s why we have Animal welfare provisions.

@Diana: I would not be so presumptuous as to be able to define all ‘true animal lovers’. However you can of course apply your personal philosophies, your culture and your beliefs into your own lifestyle choices. Those who live and breath for their big cats, their reptiles, exotic birds and what have you, are better qualified to speak for themselves and for their beloved animals.

Decades ago, the only medical doctors were male. They knew everything there was to know about women and how imaginary women’s issues were. And of course, our male dominated government believed them because of the authority granted to those without ovaries. Times have changed because because those with more intimate knowledge of women’s issues became involved.

Do we want singles and swinging bachelors to tell mothers how to raise their kids?

The people best qualified to speak for the animals are those whose lives have been dedicated to the care of the animals they own.

March 23, 2009 at 7:52 pm
(22) Tom says:

I certainly don’t accept Diana’s idea of a “true animal lover.” That kind of definition is designed not to love animals but to hate humans and pretend that’s love of animals.

March 23, 2009 at 9:27 pm
(23) EricR says:

Getting back on topic, I want to elaborate on something I stated earlier, namely:
“A ban will only drive the hobby underground and make matters less safe and humane for everyone involved.”
Now here are a few points to consider; Many people who keep their herps have a lot of passion for their animals, and I know of many who will not rid themselves of the animals as a result of a ban. Now that can certainly be a dangerous and unintended consequence of a ban. Take the case of venomous reptiles in the hobby (which are informally called “hots”). If there is a ban law on hot snakes, there is a much lesser liklihood that keepers would report any snake bites, escapes, or other accidents to the authorities or medical institutions for fear of prosecution.
And certainly that very illegality aspect will only make owning these animals that much more appealing to those individuals with unscrupulous intentions. I am sure you know of the individuals with the “look at me and what I have illegally” mentality.
Don’t get me wrong, venomous animals can be potentially dangerous animals and should only be kept by highly experienced and trained individuals. However, I see other ways of regulating them to be more effective. Look at the permitting systems that have been introduced in Florida, and Texas for example. Which mandate a certain number of hours of experience with venomous reptiles and other reptiles of concern (i.e nile monitors, and large constrictors), as well as strict caging, transport, husbandry standards, and handling protocols.

March 23, 2009 at 11:00 pm
(24) Tom says:

I prefer a system that facilitates getting people into the business the way that issuing driver’s licenses does. Florida’s scheme is for banning pets and for strictly limiting who can get in.

The “invasive species” thing is just a blind anyway. I discount it entirely. It’s been abused beyond all recognition. There is very little real danger in keeping exotics. Pets kill extremely few people whether you are talking about housecats or tigers and lions.

March 24, 2009 at 1:40 am
(25) D says:

Regardless of how safe it is to keep a tiger, giraffe or large snake, we should consider what kind of life such a large wild animal would have in captivity. It’s a cruelty issue as well as a safety issue.

March 24, 2009 at 1:41 am
(26) Tom says:

And if all cultures are equal, an idea that the activists bank on, then no culture has the right to suppress another, not the environmentalits, not the conservationists, and definitely not the animal rights activists. Animal owners are a legitimate group no matter what the species and the fact that anyone has managed to marginalize us is just tragic.

March 24, 2009 at 7:57 am
(27) Tom says:

D, I consider human keeping of animals to be inherently humane. So do the animals.

March 24, 2009 at 12:59 pm
(28) Ticklerkid says:

Regardless of how safe it is to keep a tiger, giraffe or large snake, we should consider what kind of life such a large wild animal would have in captivity. Itís a cruelty issue as well as a safety issue.

@D: Opinion biased toward a cultural perception of ‘morality’–much like Scientology, Islam, Christianity (pick your faith) can be freely exercised by those who chose to do so.

Not everyone in a free nation should be forced to adopt a cultural bias/religion because people of that faith want everyone else to adopt it.

April 12, 2009 at 8:38 pm
(29) Tim says:

I see this thread is kind of old but wanted to point something out regardless.

I have one of the frog species banned P. Terribilis.
I can’t help but wonder why it’s on the list.

1. Captive raised Terribilis are 100% non-toxic. That’s been known since shortly after they were first described (early 80′s). Their toxins come from their diet, as with all dart frogs.
2. Exports of wild-caught Terribilis were banned in 1985. CITES confirms as recent as 2006 there is minor trade in captive raised animals.
3. Breeders and importers I’ve spoken to have never seen wild-caught on the market.
4. There’s little incentive to smuggle them as they’re one of the least expensive and easy to breed dart frogs out there. The small locality they inhabit is in an area controlled by the Colombian drug cartels – even scientists don’t bother going in anymore.

But let’s suspend reality and pretend somebody risked life and limb and smuggled in a wild-caught frog.

1. As far as I can find (I’m open to being proven wrong) nobody has actually ever been harmed by this frog… ever… worldwide. Lot’s of death by dog, but not by frog.

2. Somebody might argue well if the ban saves even ‘one’ life then it’s worth it. So by the same logic horses must be banned immediately. The BC ministry of health website points out “The most dangerous animal, in terms of fatalities, was the horse, accounting for slightly over 35% of animal caused deaths.”

3. The frogs in my tank and the ones available on the pet market couldn’t hurt you if they tried. On the other hand your typical dog could unexpectedly go bonkers for some unknown reason and rip half your face off – but that’s ok because they’re cute and cuddly.

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