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Hisses greet reptile restrictions

'Too complicated,' say snake aficionados

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Casey Trizpit, owner of Winnipeg Reptiles, shows a Dumerils boa. He says reptile regulations under the proposed city bylaw don't make sense.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Casey Trizpit, owner of Winnipeg Reptiles, shows a Dumerils boa. He says reptile regulations under the proposed city bylaw don't make sense. Photo Store

THE city's new proposed responsible-pet bylaw is a little cold-blooded, according to local reptile enthusiasts.

"It doesn't make any sense to revert," said Casey Trizpit, owner of Winnipeg Reptiles. "They're targeting a couple specific lizards, but they're banning entire families. And there's no issues with lizards. Animal control sees more cats in one day than they see lizards in a year."

Under the proposed bylaw, passed Thursday by the city's protection and community services committee, all Helodermatidae (gila monster and Mexican bearded lizard) and all front-fanged venomous snakes, even if de-venomed, (viper, cobra, African burrowing asp, sea snake) are prohibited.

Also prohibited, any member or hybrid offspring of the family Boidae (common or green anaconda) greater than two metres, any member of the family Pythonidae (African rock python, Burmese python) greater than two metres, any member of the family Varanidae (white-throated monitor, Komodo monitor or dragon) greater than one metre, any member of the family Iguanidae (green or common iguana) and any member of the family Telidae (the golden, common or black and white tegu).

All other snakes over three metres or lizards over two metres (as adults) are prohibited.

Too many species, too complicated, said Trizpit.

"You're talking about hundreds and hundreds of family pets that will be made illegal by this bylaw and they'll have to grandfather them in," he said. "I don't know why he (Winnipeg animal services head Leland Gordon) would want to ban so many species for no reason whatsoever. I don't know how they (city officials) are going to enforce this. Most of those officers don't know the species as it is."

All venomous spiders, including tarantulas, black widows and scorpions, are banned, along with venomous arthropods, including centipedes.

Trizpit has a personal collection of 200 snakes and about 25 would be prohibited under the new bylaw, including a seven-foot blackhead python he's had for seven years.

As for a ban on some spiders: "Yeah, a lot of people don't like spiders. But that doesn't mean they should all be banned. Some people don't like dogs, but you shouldn't ban all dogs," he said.

Trizpit wasn't alone in his opposition Thursday.

"It (the bylaw) makes thousands of pets illegal here in Winnipeg," said Robert Vendramelli of the Manitoba Herpetocultural Society. "The city gets 10 calls per year dealing with reptiles. If these animals have not been a problem in the past, why target them now?"

Vendramelli couldn't understand why the city puts a size restriction of up to three metres for most snakes, then puts a two-metre restriction on the length of boa constrictors and pythons. "Why this arbitrary choice?" he asked. "If snakes are safe up to three metres, why boas and pythons only up to two metres? Why the discrepancy?"

Added Jeff McFarlane, owner of Aardvark Pets: "If Alice Cooper wanted to move to Winnipeg, he wouldn't be allowed to bring his snake unless he had a permit."

Later, Coun. Scott Fielding, the committee chairman, said he wanted to clarify that the proposed new city rules on pets don't affect any animals that are legal now.

"They would be grandfathered under the new bylaw," he said, adding the bylaw also gives the head of animal services the power to issue special permits for normally banned animals.

Nancy McQuade, a local veterinarian, spoke in favour of the bylaw as written.

"I think it's virtually impossible for the majority of owners to provide the proper environment for these animals," McQuade said. "Most reptiles I see come to me because of improper husbandry. They come with problems that could have been addressed.

"Reptiles aren't the best pets for the majority of people."

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2013 B1

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Updated on Friday, July 5, 2013 at 7:02 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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