WINNIPEG — The global trade in exotic pets is a multi-billion-dollar business and sales in Manitoba are on the rise, according to a provincial report commissioned in the aftermath of the tragedy in New Brunswick last month that saw two small boys killed by an African rock python.
And although some exotic animals can pose risks to human safety and health, the government has, until now, lacked a co-ordinated approach to dealing with them. Instead, a patchwork of provincial laws, spanning several departments, govern the creatures, the report says.
“Industry representatives estimate the trade value in reptiles alone to be approximately $250,000 annually within the province. This is expected to double in the next two to five years, based on current trends,” chief provincial veterinarian Wayne Lees said in his report.
The report also said there are likely “tens of thousands” of reptiles kept or bred as pets in Manitoba.
The 19-page document recommends that the province launch a targeted public awareness campaign to inform owners on the safe handling and proper care of exotic pets. It also suggests that the government work with the Association of Manitoba Municipalities to develop a template or guidelines for the creation of local bylaws on exotic pet ownership and possession.
Down the road, the report says, the province could create an interdepartmental strategy on exotic pets, and, if need be, pass legislation to further regulate and license pet stores, breeders and owners.
But Lees said in an interview Monday that public education and the creation of sound local bylaws should be given a chance to work first before the province introduces a new set of laws and regulations.
And Premier Greg Selinger agreed Monday, calling that “a sensible approach.” He said creation of a provincial set of rules and regulations would only be done as a last resort.
“I think what the report has done is given us a path forward that is practical and cost-effective and can protect the public, which was the whole point of this exercise,” he said.
In his report, Lees said the majority of exotic pets are sold either online through websites such as Kijiji or in pet stores. While most exotic pets sold here used to be imported, the majority are now bred within Canada, the report said.
Apart from the possibility that some exotic animals may injure or kill someone, there is also the risk that certain animals can pass on diseases to humans. The report said that about 75 per cent of new or emerging diseases are zoonotic in origin, meaning they pass from animals to humans.
» Winnipeg Free Press
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 24, 2013