Snake thefts spark renewed call for exotic animals ban in Thorold

THOROLD — A possible ban on dangerous and exotic animals is back on the table at Thorold city hall, where a high-profile theft of venomous snakes including potentially deadly cobras is leading city politicians to revisit an earlier decision not to regulate those creatures in a city bylaw.

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Politicians directed city clerk Donna Delvecchio on Feb. 19 to report back on the possibility of reworking the city’s animal control bylaw to include exotic species.

Way back in 2009, the council of the day directed city staff to come up with a bylaw that included exotic animals after the discovery that a family was keeping a collection of various exotic animals on a rural property on Kottmeier Road, including three lions, a three-legged jaguar, primates and boa constrictors.

Staff worked with the Lincoln County Humane Society on a draft bylaw that would have, in most cases, prohibited animals including bears, primates, tigers, leopards, panthers, cougars, wolves, foxes, coyotes; reptiles such as Gila monsters, vipers, cobras, alligators, pythons and anacondas elephants; sea mammals such as dolphins and whales; and venomous spiders such as tarantulas and black widow spiders in Thorold.

But when the city held a public meeting that drew dozens of people, most spoke against the exotic animals ban. Some said it would simply push the exotic animal market underground where it couldn’t be monitored.

So city council exempted those creatures from its animal bylaw.

Back in 2013, some Thorold city councillors said it was time to revisit the possibility of banning dangerous, exotic animals in the wake of the discovery of an alligator struck and killed by a vehicle while walking along Merrittville Highway near Highway 20.

News of the theft of snakes including young cobras, rattlesnakes, adders, and a pregnant albino boa constrictor from a home in the areas of Hansler Road and Highway 20, where Niagara Regional Police Service say a breeding program operated as part of a reptile selling business, sparked the renewed call for banning exotic species.

“You wake up and you hear that on the news,” said Coun. Terry Ugulini, who brought forward the motion for the new report.

Delvecchio, who said she will work closely with the humane society on the new bylaw, said a public meeting will once again be needed before it can go into effect.

Police warned that the juvenile cobras that were stolen have the full strength venom of adult cobras, whose bite can be deadly when postsynaptic neurotoxins spread rapidly in victims’ bloodstream, causing respiratory failure.

Police are asking anyone with information about the stolen snakes to call them at (905) 688-4111 extension 3320, or reach out to CrimeStoppers anonymously.
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