The Town of Huntsville revisits its exotic pet bylaw

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The Town’s planning committee has approved an update to Huntsville’s 2006 exotic pet bylaw.

Chief bylaw enforcement officer Andrew Stillar told committee at its September 19, 2019 meeting that some of the main changes include the prohibition of a circus within the municipality as well as an exemption process, “which lays out everything that needs to be done if you want to have a pet that is prohibited under the bylaw,” he said.

Prompted by a question from Councillor Jason FitzGerald, Stillar said anyone looking for a bylaw exemption could expect a delay of six to eight weeks, depending on when the application is made and the timing of committee and council meetings.

In the bylaw, municipal staff also reserves the right to revoke an exemption. The matter can be appealed to the Town’s planning committee. The bylaw also states that a “By-law Enforcement Officer or their designate may at any time, enter onto a property to determine whether this By-law is being complied with.” Other provisions also state that: “Every Person shall permit a By-law Enforcement Officer to inspect any land for the purposes of determining compliance with this By-law.”

If someone is found to be in contravention of the bylaw, the bylaw enforcement officer may remove the animal and leave it with the “Pound Keeper” pending the outcome of a “court case and appeal period.” If the court’s decision is to uphold the municipality’s decision that the owner of the animal is in contravention of the municipal bylaw, the “animal(s) in question shall be disposed of in compliance with the Court decision,” it states. “Animals surrendered to the pound keeper or Municipal By-Law Enforcement Officer become the property of the Town and may be kept, adopted out to a lawful recipient or humanely destroyed by the Town.”

Councillor Jonathan Wiebe questioned who would decide what an appropriate search for a recipient might be, versus the destruction of the animal.

Stillar gave the committee an example of an occurrence. He said when the bylaw was first passed in 2006 there was a complaint of someone keeping a cougar in their backyard. He said the owner understood that he or she could not keep the animal and helped staff find it a new home.

“And it only took about three days and we found the animal a new home. It didn’t leave the residence until we found it a new home,” said Stillar, adding that the destruction of an animal would only happen as a last resort. “It would have to be something pretty severe, where the animal would be injured. It would be looked at by a professional… and if they recommended it, but we’re not going out and just doing it on our own.”

Councillor Dan Armour noted that the timing is right to revisit the bylaw. “Just North of us in Kearney they’re looking at… a pet area with bears and wild cats, so it’s good that we’re bringing this forward now,” he said.

You can find Huntsville’s proposed bylaw here.

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