Jozef Demcak with his black-throated monitor lizard

Ban drives exotic pet showmen snaky

Critics are going to court to challenge B.C.'s alien species regulations

Opponents of B.C.’s regulations that ban the exhibition of many reptiles and other restricted exotic pets are challenging the province in court.

Jozef Demcak and his wife Bibiana say they’ve lost income because they are now barred from taking their six pythons on a touring roadshow that was their main business for decades.

Demcak claims the shows were educational and the crackdown by the province has rendered the couple virtually homeless.

“We lost everything,” the former school teacher said. “All our savings and livelihood. It has been horror upon horror.”

The former Richmond residents now live in a trailer at Cinema Zoo in South Surrey, where their snakes and a monitor lizard are kept under permit but can’t be exhibited.

The Demcaks say nobody can visit them lest they see the forbidden reptiles.

Their challenge of the Controlled Alien Species Regulation – which covers dangerous animals from crocodiles to big cats – is being heard by B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster over the next two weeks.

Mike Hopcraft, an Aldergrove reptile rescuer who supported his now-closed Abbotsford operation with shows and presentations, is backing the Demcaks.

They contend the changes were made illegally, with insufficient consultation and without actual legislation.

“We’re hoping the whole thing gets overturned,” Hopcraft said. “We all agree there should be some sort of regulations in place to limit who can get these animals. But when you put a ban on education and rescue, it goes too far.”

Only a tiny fraction of exotic pet owners in B.C. have obtained the required permits to keep their restricted or prohibited animals. New imports are banned.

“All they’ve done is create a huge underground market,” Hopcraft said. “There are so many people in B.C. who have these animals but don’t have permits for them.”

Hopcraft questioned why the province allows “harmless” boa constrictors to be legally kept until they grow to three metres long, at which point they are banned with other big snakes like anacondas.

“If you’re going to ban something, ban it,” he said. “Don’t allow people to breed something if it’s eventually going to become illegal.”

The province cited public safety when it outlawed dangerous exotic animals, after repeated escapes of snakes from homes and the 2007 death of a woman killed by her boyfriend’s pet tiger at Bridge Lake.

Some banned species – like primates – are of concern over their potential to spread disease.

Hopcraft initially tried to get zoo accreditation for his reptile rescue centre but gave up because of the cost.

Most of his reptiles were sent to Ontario, while a few ended up at the Greater Vancouver Zoo.

 

PHOTO: Jozef Demcak, wife Bibiana and Cleopatra the python. The couple toured B.C. for decades with their exotic reptiles.

Just Posted

Abram to run again for Strathcona Regional District’s Area C

Fibre optics, housing, fire service among his priorities

Cortes Island strengthening nuisance provisions

New bylaw will be easier to enforce legally

Campbell River student preps for Skills Canada finals

Dawson Vanderwiel will compete against other top cabinet-makers

Who is Vancouver Island’s greatest athlete ever?

We want to know, you get to choose in a 64-athlete tournament bracket

Man dead after crashing vehicle into hydro pole and tree in Gibsons

Dog also hurt in collision, which happened Wednesday morning

Study recommends jurors receive more financial and psychological support

Federal justice committee calls for 11 policy changes to mitigate juror stress

Research needed on impact of microplastics on B.C. shellfish industry: study

SFU’s department of biological sciences recommends deeper look into shellfish ingesting microbeads

B.C. dad pens letter urging overhaul of youth health laws after son’s fatal overdose

The Infants Act currently states children under 19 years old may consent to medical treatment on own

Singh sides with B.C. in hornet’s nest of pipeline politics for the NDP

Singh had called for a more thorough environmental review process on the proposal

VIDEO: B.C. woman gets up-close view of Royal wedding

Kelly Samra won a trip back to her home country to see Prince Harry and Meghan Markle say ‘I do’

30 C in B.C., 30 cm of snow expected for eastern Canada

It might be hot in B.C., but the rest of Canada still dealing with cold

Horgan defends fight to both retain and restrict Alberta oil imports

Alberta says pipeline bottlenecks are kneecapping the industry, costing millions of dollars a day

Most Read