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

Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge construction could start in 2021, MLA says

The project is expected to cost substantially more than budgeted in 2017

Fraser Valley developer offering to build barn owl nesting boxes for free

Gore Brothers says anyone with a suitable building can help the threatened raptor

EDITORIAL: Post-grad years are your time

Editor Grace Kennedy shares a few words for this year’s high school grads

Dinosaurs will reign at Sto:lo Children’s Festival

Jurassic Park theme takes over long-standing, free community event

COLUMN: Llamas, goats and snakes, oh my!

Making friends on the Ryder Lake Ramble not a walk in the park

VIDEO: Reading splashes into Agassiz’s Ferny Coombe Pool

The Agassiz Library held its annual Reading in the Pool event Friday, June 14

Victoria mom describes finding son ‘gone’ on first day of coroners inquest into overdose death

Resulting recommendations could change handling of youth records amidst the overdose crisis

Dash-cam video in trial of accused cop killer shows man with a gun

Footage is shown at trial of Oscar Arfmann, charged with killing Const. John Davidson of Abbotsford

Suicide confirmed in case of B.C. father who’d been missing for months

2018 disappearance sparked massive search for Ben Kilmer

Eight U.S. senators write to John Horgan over B.C. mining pollution

The dispute stems from Teck Resources’ coal mines in B.C.’s Elk Valley

Dinosaur statues from defunct Dinotown theme park stolen in Chilliwack

The dinosaur figures once graced the theme park but were destined for Chilliwack fundraiser

Threats charge against Surrey’s Jaspal Atwal stayed

Atwal, 64, was at centre of controversy in 2018 over his attendance at prime minister’s reception in India

Langley’s oldest and last strip bar shuts its doors

The Alder Inn, in operation since 1957, has reportedly been purchased

Anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to speak in Surrey

He’s keynote speaker at Surrey Environment and Business Awards luncheon by Surrey Board of Trade Sept. 17

Most Read