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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

No injuries reported following propane leak in Terrace

Hwy 16 closed off, businesses evacuated as emergency crews responded

Coastal GasLink stresses pipeline ‘on a schedule’ as B.C. appoints liaison for Wet’suwet’en

670-kilometre pipeline is schedule to be completed by end of 2023

River Kings dethrone Rampage to reclaim first place in CIHL standings

Terrace is heading to Rupert rivals Jan. 31 in what will be a pivotal match for first place

COLUMN | Creating a “community of practice” inspires

Art Matters by columnist Sarah Zimmerman

Hockey puck with nails found at Terrace Sportsplex Arena

City believes it has already caused $4,000 of damage

VIDEO: Canada’s first presumptive case of coronavirus officially confirmed

Both patient and wife arrived on a China Southern Airlines flight after having been to Wuhan

Swapping grape varieties can help winemakers adapt to climate change: UBC study

Report says 56% of wine-grape-growing regions would be lost if global climate warms by 2 C

Alberta premier wants feds to approve Teck mine for benefit of First Nations

Kenney: ‘Surely [reconciliation] means saying yes to economic development for First Nations people’

Police search for man who went missing from Vernon hotel

Jay Rosenberger, 38, was last seen Friday

NDP suggests easing secondary housing rules for B.C. farmland

Lana Popham proposes guest homes not just for relatives

After four sexual assaults in the same B.C. park, RCMP ask women not to walk alone

Four sexual assaults took place in Glen Park over two months

BC Place lights up in purple and yellow to honour Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash

Whistleblower says Iranian-Americans questioned at Peace Arch crossing were targeted

Immigration lawyer says response from Customs Border Protection is a ‘total cover up’

Most Read