Exotic animal bylaw being considered for Highlands East

By Darren Lum

The following are Highlands East council briefs from the Jan. 19 meeting held virtually on YouTube.

The recent attempts to start a roadside zoo with exotic animals on Peterson Road in neighbouring Hastings Highlands is drawing attention for how residents there are raising concerns and has led to Highlands East expanding its animal control bylaws to include exotic animals.

From her monthly staff report, township bylaw enforcement officer Kristen Boylan presented potential issues that face the township without such a bylaw to address complaints and concerns related to exotic animal ownership. As it stands, the township has no enforcement options.

“In this situation there is nothing to stop anyone from bringing in say, lion cubs, bears, pythons. Things along those lines into our municipality because we have absolutely no way of having any enforcement should we receive any complaints,” she said.

The concern is also related to if such animals were to escape, she adds.
Boylan has consulted with neighbouring municipalities.

Although Haliburton County does not have an exotic animal bylaw, Boylan referenced the town of Huntsville, who enacted a exotic pet bylaw in 2019.
“I basically took the copy of their schedule and what they included as prohibited animals. So what they did is they actually worked in correlation with Zoocheck,” she said. The schedule refers to a list of prohibited animals classified as animals that were being listed on the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), or in provincial and national legislation as threatened, endangered, or a species of concern
Per Zoocheck, it is a “Canadian-based, international wildlife protection charity started in 1984 to promote and protect the interests and well-being of wild animals.”

The township voted unanimously to draft an exotic animal bylaw to regulate and/or license, or prohibit ownership. The other choices were to do nothing or repeal the current bylaw for dogs and draft an inclusive bylaw for dogs and exotic animals with a related list of species.

Before the vote, councillors offered their perspectives.

Coun. Suzanne Partridge said she agreed with prohibition, but wasn’t sure about hybrid animals because of her past ownership of one. She wondered about how animals would be identified, if genetic testing needed to be performed. Boylan said more investigation is required.

Deputy Mayor Cec Ryall said he didn’t want dogs and exotic animals included together when it came to bylaw enforcement. He adds cats are being overlooked in this discussion.

“Is it an exotic animal or is it a domestic animal? And, if so, would it follow the same guidelines as a dog or would it be under the executive exotic species,” he said.

He pointed out he’s fielded lots of domestic cat complaints.

“I have more complaints about cats than I do with exotic animals. I think it’s an issue we should take up and I’m not in favour of putting the two together,” he said.

Coun. Cam McKenzie asked what would happen to exotic animals currently owned and housed by residents in the municipality. He wondered whether they would be “grandfathered in,” if a bylaw was added. Boylan said looking to other municipalities with exotic animal bylaws and how they handled the situation will be considered. The first thing is to gain a better picture of the township, she said.

“Maybe there is a way we could at least be made aware to know where these animals are and what these animals are to go forth,” she said.

Record number of service calls
2020 was a record year for the Highlands East Fire Department, who went out to 324 service calls, said fire chief Chris Baughman during his monthly operations report for December.

Baughman said in 2020 the department record number of calls “certainly kept the department busy with emergency responses, training and meetings were and continue to be greatly affected by the COVID pandemic. In person training and practice nights were altered to keep the responders as safe as possible while still providing emergency response coverage to the municipality.”

With completed professional training, department has five more certified fire fighters. Four more fire fighters are enrolled for training to add to the five for 2021.