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How pet bylaw affects exotic pet owners

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If you own a cat, it will require a licence as of Jan. 1, 2015. Great idea, if the funds are used for spay/neuter programs. Circus animals are no longer allowed into the city, good idea. 

Dogs that look like pitbulls are not allowed in the city, bad idea. Many breed bans are actually being lifted now, they just don’t work. There are a number of other changes that will affect owners of dogs and cats, but I’ll discuss these and more in future columns.  

The issue that is pressing right now is that the city has added a large number of animals to its ‘prohibited’ list, effective immediately. Animals which, up to last week, were legal to own in the city, and now are not. People who presently own these animals can grandfather them under the bylaw, but have only until Oct. 15 to do so.  And no one can buy or bring a new one into the city.

We are trying to get definitive answers on exactly what animals are eligible for the grandfathering, and what will be legal, but there are questions we still need answers to. The city’s website has a list of prohibited animals and the prohibited animal registration forms here: http://winnipeg.ca/cms/animal/other/prohibited_animals.stm    

The form is simple. You need to provide the animal’s name (what you call it), its type (species), its age and its sex, along with a photo. Once registered, you can legally keep the animal until it passes away.  

You cannot transfer ownership within the city by selling it or even giving it away. You cannot purchase a replacement for the animal should it pass either. And should the animal produce any offspring, those offspring are illegal in the city.

One of the main reasons for changing this part of the current bylaw was to make it more concise and remove some inconsistencies in defining the banned animals. Unfortunately, the new bylaw introduces a number of new questions, and bans a number of totally harmless animals by association.  

There are questions about things like "large rodents" not being able to be kept, and it goes on to specifically mention prairie dogs. Prairie dogs are the same size as guinea pigs, so, by association, is a guinea pig a "large rodent," which needs to be registered?     

As far as exotic or non-traditional pets go, this bylaw is one of the most restrictive in Canada. It really limits the options of people who desire a pet other than a cat or dog. I know most people don’t understand why someone would want a snake or a spider as a pet, but we all have different tastes. No one wants to force everyone to have a spider as a pet, they just want to have the same options that people in every other large Canadian city have.

Jeff McFarlane is the owner of Aardvark Pets in St. Vital.  
You can contact him with questions, comments or topic suggestions at aardvarkpets@shaw.ca or www.aardvarkpets.com

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