Exotic animals: Should they be allowed in Canada? (Seventh in a series)

Young African Rock Python.

An African Rock Python was the species of snake that killed two New Brunswick boys in August. A juvenile is pictured, as taken by Hannes Steyn (flickr: hannes.steyn) in South Africa.

There are people all across Canada and around the world who enjoy the thrill of spectacle of keeping exotic pets.

Exotic animals are beautiful and almost mystical to any, but many animals that are not native to Canada are extremely dangerous. Professionals with appropriate facilities and zoos should be the only places that some exotic animals are allowed to live within Canada, but with current legislation, this is not always the case.

Animals of all kinds are still allowed to be brought into the country.

In August, Noah and Connor Garthe, ages 4 and 6, were killed by an African rock python while sleeping in an apartment above an unlicensed reptile zoo and pet store in Campbellton, New Brunswick.

This event sparked stories across Canada about our exotic animal laws.

Exotic animal laws differ slightly between provinces and municipalities. Since the boys’ deaths, New Brunswick says that it will be tightening their exotic animal laws.

Massimo Bergamini, who is the executive director of Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, said that New Brunswick will be “setting the example for other provinces to follow,” according to the CBC article.

However, the biggest challenge the province will face will be enforcing these laws. The snake that killed the two boys was already illegal in the province.

“I think people have to remember that there are some animals that just don’t make good pets,” said Rob Laidlaw, the executive director of Zoocheck Canada, in a CBC News article on August 7.

Laidlaw also said that approximately 90 per cent of these animals die within the first two years of captivity due to the low standards that they often get for the quality of life that they require.

Juvenile African Rock Python.

A juvenile African rock python in South Africa. Photo credits to Hannes Steyn (flickr: hannes.steyn)

Beginning in March 2009, the BCSPCA has been providing recommendations to the B.C. Ministry of Environment for changes to the Wildlife Act. These recommendations have now strengthened our laws in B.C. regarding the keeping of exotic animals, prohibiting private ownership of over 1,000 animals that are not native to Canada.

The new legislation was grandfathered to allow for animals already in the province, and may not be enforced for newcomers in some situations.

Other deaths have occurred across Canada as the result of people trying to keep exotic animals as pets as well, such as Norman Buwalda, who was killed by his Siberian tiger in 2010.

Professionals with permits can own some exotic animals in some instances, such as when training animals for the film industry.

Mark and Dawn Dumas own a company called Beyond Just Bears which trains all sorts of animals for TV and film, based out of Abbotsford, B.C.

They own North America’s only trained polar bear as well as a young grizzly bear. Both bears were born and raised in captivity, and have been trained by Dumas and his wife to use for film.

The relationship that Dumas and his polar bear, Agee, have is remarkable, as he has trained her to be associated to himself, as well as to be a working animal.

He speaks of her as though she is a member his literal family, saying in a video from CBC on Sept. 15, 2012, “So what do you do when your daughter is costing you a lot of money? You throw her out on the street? No. You just have to deal with it.”

A video of them swimming together went viral on YouTube a few years ago, resulting in over 18 million hits so far.

Along with zoos, which use their animals to create profit for themselves, this can be approved to keep these animals captive in a secure environment, where they are not able to harm the public but rather amaze people with their incredible rarity and beauty.

This is the last post in a series of seven about the advantages and disadvantages of the contact between humans and animals. The first article can be found here.


Journalism student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Lover of social media, photography, and reading the news.

1 Comment

  • Avatar
    Reply February 23, 2015

    logan steggallo

    this sucks so bad it broke my monitor,a message from zac stevens

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