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

Update: Lightning sparks blaze above Summerland

Firefighters are battling the small fire from the area that occurred Tuesday shortly after 7 p.m.

911 jams causes panic among residents

RDOS chair received dozens of calls and texts from panicked residents unable to get through to 911

UPDATE: Smoke rising from Okanagan Mountain Park hills

Lightning may have sparked a fire in the hills across from Peachland

Lightning strikes across B.C. Interior

Residents are being asked to go inside until last rumble of thunder

UPDATE: Several fires burning in Lower Similkameen

At least one fire near Keremeos was caused by lightening

Trudeau asks transport minister to tackle Greyhound’s western pullout

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s asked Transport Minister Marc Garneau to find solutions in Greyhound Canada’s absence.

Lightning sparks wildfires in Vernon

Tuesday night storm causes wildfire in BX and residential fire in East Hill

Crash closes Highway 5A in both directions

A collision has shut down Highway 5A about 22 kilometres south of the junction with Highway 97C

UPDATE: Crews battle wildfire near Big White

Joe Rich Fire Department responding alongside Big White Fire Department and provincial crews.

Hub for mental health and addictions treatment opens at B.C. hospital

St. Paul’s Hospital HUB is an acute medical unit that includes 10 patient beds

Pike Mountain fire continues to grow – quadruples in 24 hours

Fire threatens area consumed in 2017 by a 3,500 hectare blaze

Vernon Knights hire Van Horlick

New head coach of Junior B franchise in Armstrong

Restaurant Brands International to review policy over poaching employees

One of Canada’s largest fast-food company to review ‘no-poach’ franchise agreements

Calgary family’s vacation ends in tragedy on Texas highway

Three people died and four others were injured in the crash

Most Read