OTTAWA: December 4, 2017 – A near lethal snake bite to a Toronto man this week is a troubling reminder of why the Government of Ontario must create regulation and enforcement mechanisms to manage exotic animals in the province.
Although City officials were able to call on a member of CAZA’s esteemed animal welfare network – Andrew Lentini, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians at the Toronto Zoo to save the man, this incident illustrates the very real consequences of an absent regulatory system.
Presently, Ontario is the only province in Canada without regulation to manage the keeping of exotic animals. In fact, the current landscape allows private residents to keep exotic animals with virtually zero government oversight – posing serious harm to animals whose owners do not have the proper knowledge to care for them, but also to the health and safety of a public who is unaware of the serious risks associated with interacting with exotic species.
With the public’s desire to engage with exotic animals on the rise in Ontario – reluctance to deal with this issue is sure to result in further harm.
Ontario also has some of the weakest measures in the country to manage zoos and aquariums. Although known zoos and aquariums receive an inspection from the OSPCA twice a year to assess animal welfare, inspectors are not trained or equipped to assess safety measures required to protect the public from the unique risks associated with keeping rare species.
For years, CAZA has joined others – including the OSPCA – to call for the creation of regulation reflective of CAZA’s standards to minimize the risks caused by the current unfettered system. Out of hundreds of zoos in the province, only 13 are accredited by CAZA through voluntary independent inspection. CAZA accredited facilities are held to strict requirements to manage animal welfare, operations, health and safety, and are evaluated by independent inspectors with expertise in veterinary care, animal welfare, and safety protocols.
As witnessed by this near tragic incident – the risks of government complacency to the health and safety of Ontarians is real. We urge the Government of Ontario to work with CAZA and other animal welfare organizations to create regulation which protects the public, and ensures those who keep exotic animals in their care do so in accordance with internationally recognized best practices in animal welfare.
Founded in 1975, CAZA is the leading animal welfare standards development organization in Canada. Its standards development process includes expert opinion from researchers, biologists, and academia to ensure that our standards reflect the latest in animal welfare research, organizational management, and public safety protocols. Through a science-based approach, CAZA’s standards bridge the ethical concerns regarding zoos and aquariums, and are currently the only pan-Canada set of standards mandating zoological facilities in the country. Out of hundreds of zoos in Canada, only 31 have received CAZA accreditation through independent inspection.
For More Information
Manager, Research and Public Affairs
Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums