Reptilia’s push for London, Ont. Exemption from Blocked Regulation at City Hall – London

City councilors in London, Ont., want more information before voting on a bylaw exemption requested by Reptilia, which will soon open a reptile zoo and conservation center in the city’s west end.

Despite previous opposition from city council, Reptilia won a building permit earlier this year that allowed it to move into Westmount Mall, where the zoo is set to open in early 2023.

In 2011, the City Council removed zoning for private zoos, meaning those looking to open a zoo in London would need council approval.

That’s exactly what Reptilia tried to do in 2018 through two motions that failed to gain support from councillors: one for staff to collect public feedback and information about zoos and mobile zoos in London; and another for staff to draft amendments to By-law L-131-16 on operating permits to regulate zoos, fairs, exhibitions and circuses.

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On Tuesday, Reptilia appeared before the Community and Protective Services (CAPS) committee to seek an exemption from London’s animal control regulations.

The regulations prohibit the possession and display of animals « normally found in the wild and natural state ». Designated as Class 7 animals under the regulations, this includes, but is not limited to, crocodiles, alligators, poisonous snakes and poisonous lizards.

The request was the subject of more than an hour of discussion by members of the public before the committee, including Brian Child and Robert Murphy, Reptilia’s president and director of animal welfare, respectively.

The two touted the zoo’s safety record over its 26-year history, with facilities in Vaughan and Whitby, and spoke of the entertainment and educational value it would bring to London.

Leo Longo, an attorney representing McCor Management Inc., which manages the Westmount Mall, spoke of the mall’s support for the settlement exemption sought by Reptilia, adding that Westmount sees the zoo as a positive for the city.

Longo told the CAPS committee that according to his legal opinion, Reptilia is already exempt from animal control regulations « since it operates under a provincial license. »

Section 3.6 of the regulation, quoted by Longo, states that « this regulation does not apply to animals raised in a public park, zoo, fair, exhibition or circus operated or authorized by a municipal authority or other authority governmental ».

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Eleven of 15 speakers at Tuesday’s meeting spoke against the zoo’s request for an exemption from the regulations.

“I ask you to stick to previous council decisions, they were here just a few months ago,” said Marie Blosh, deputy chair of London’s Animal Welfare Community Advisory Board.

« Zoos are a pain to human societies because they have a poor record within their organizations of meeting their own poor standards, » added Joris Van Daele, former director and chairman of the London Humane. Society, which is now Humane Society London and Middlesex. .

Scott Tinney, a lawyer with Toronto-based advocacy group Animal Justice, warned that allowing the exemption would set a precedent that would prevent the council from restricting Reptilia in the future. He also pushed back against the claim that Reptilia’s provincial license exempted him from animal control regulations.

“A wide variety of animals kept at Reptilia are non-native animals and therefore fall outside the jurisdiction of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act and therefore not subject to the existing provincial permit,” Tinney said.

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CAPS committee advisers, along with a number of guest advisers, spent an additional two hours debating the exemption. Although councilors do not have the power to pass by-laws at the committee level, they are authorized to approve certain actions, which are then sent to the city council for final approval.

District 12 Com. Elizabeth Peloza and Ward 13 Council. David Ferreira spoke against allowing the exemption, while fellow committee members Ward 4 Coun. Susan Stevenson and Ward 5 Coun. Jerry Pribil encouraged his colleagues to support Reptilia’s request.

A motion by Ferreira for the committee to approve taking no action on the matter failed, and Stevenson then moved a motion to approve granting Reptilia an exemption from the animal control regulations. Stevenson’s motion was drafted by the Ward 10 Coun. Paul Van Meerbergn, who was not allowed to move the motion himself because he does not sit on the CAPS committee.

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Ferreira eventually won the support of his colleagues when he proposed an amendment to attach a city staff report to the bylaw exemption that would explore the implications of such an exemption, as well as other options available to council. .

Committee members voted 4-1 to approve the amended motion, along with Ferreira, Peloza, Pribil and Ward 7 Coun. Corrine Rahman all voted yes. Stevenson, who told his colleagues, « this looks quite different from my motion that I presented, » was the lone opponent, while Mayor Josh Morgan, the sixth member of the committee, was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

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This means that the CAPS committee would receive a draft rule waiver, along with a staff report detailing what it means, at an upcoming meeting in January.

The move still requires final approval from the full city council when the group meets on December 13.

— with files from Jacquelyn LeBel of Global.

Click to play the video: “Visiting the Largest Indoor Reptile Facility in Canada”

Visit the largest indoor reptile facility in Canada

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