By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton’s Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo can keep its exotic animals at its Barton Street location, and for the foreseeable future can also conduct off-site activities with its snakes and reptiles.
Politicians at their May 14 council meeting amended the city’s responsible animal ownership bylaw to allow prohibited animals to be displayed for educational purposes.
It was a victory of sorts for the business after the city forced the company to get rid of a number of restricted animals last fall. Some of the exotic animals, including snakes and other reptiles were sent to Little Ray’s Ottawa location. Councillors eventually agreed to review the bylaw in an effort to accommodate the company’s issues.
“This allows the prohibited animals to remain in a confined space,” said Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins.
He compared Little Ray’s to African Lion Safari in Flamborough, which also has exotic animals in close proximity to the public.
“It will limit the risk,” he said.
But other councillors opposed the solution, saying exotic animals carry parasites and pathogens that can infect children and adults.
“I remained concerned,” said Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark. “I think (the issue) is being understated (by city staff).”
Hamilton’s licensing staff will be examining possible new guidelines for businesses using temporary displays for exotic animals. Bill Young, the director of municipal law enforcement, said currently there are no rules prohibiting businesses such as Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo from taking exotic animals off-site to schools or other gatherings where children are present.
It was a situation that provoked some fear in Ward 1 councillor Brian McHattie in what could happen.
“That is a safety issue we just don’t need in Hamilton, putting children in jeopardy,” he said. “I don’t see any temporary protection.”
Licensing staff and the owners of Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo pointed out their facility will be inspected, and eventually accredited byCanada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums organization (CAZA). The business’s Ottawa location has already been accredited.
But McHattie dismissed CAZA as nothing more than an “industry lobby group” and has no interest” in the protection of the health of animals.
“I’m disappointed,” he said. “There are no benefits for the animals.”