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

Woman charged in Saanichton stabbing

One man treated for injuries, released from hospital following Friday assault

Saanich’s Red Lion Inn receives council’s blessing for extended liquor hours

Extension comes more than two years after a major fire

Province continues to investigate Saanich’s Horticultural Centre of the Pacific

Investigation stems from May 2 incident that turned Colquitz River ‘chocolate brown’

Avid Victoria cyclist’s legacy bike ride helps fund end-of-life care

2019 Denis Muloin Ride for Palliative Care invites cyclists for May 26 fundraiser

VIDEO: Fun without sun: Hundreds enjoy Family Fest on Victoria Day

Families enjoy activities in Veterans Memorial Park

Top women’s hockey player Natalie Spooner coming to B.C.

Natalie Spooner special guest at annual Grindstone charity weekend in Kelowna

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

Father and two youngsters fall down a steep, treacherous cliff while hiking Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Most Read