WINNIPEG — An African ball python spotted slithering around city streets last week is still on the loose in Winnipeg, and now it’s raising questions on the rules around exotic pets.
It’s been nearly two weeks since the elusive reptile – stretching out about three-quarters of a metre – was first seen in Winnipeg near the University of Manitoba.
The City of Winnipeg confirmed the snake is an African ball python, a non-venomous and largely docile snake.
As of Wednesday, a city spokesperson told CTV News that multiple searches by the city’s Animal Services Officers and the Winnipeg Police Cadets were done, but the snake has not yet been found.
“Searches have been concluded,” the spokesperson said in a written statement. “Residents are asked to contact 311 if the snake is found.”
The search for the python has caught the attention of Michèle Hamers, a wildlife campaign manager for the World Animal Protection – a Toronto-based animal rights advocacy group.
Hamers said an estimated 28,000 African ball pythons are being kept as pets in Canada.
Prasad Gowdar was driving home when he spotted the snake sitting on the road along Innovation Drive. (Submitted: Prasad Gowdar)
“We know there are many people who breed them, and there is no oversight for the breeding operations or for the keeping of these animals, which is a concern to us,” Hamers said.
She said they would like to see stricter criteria across provinces and municipalities to determine if an exotic animal can be kept. She said the criteria should include the likelihood of the animal becoming an invasive species, the risk to public health, and the animal’s ability to thrive in captivity.
“It puts the burden of proof on the people who want to own these animals,” she said. “So if you want to have an animal that is not on the list, you have to prove that this animal meets all these criteria.”
She said in many cases when considering exotic pets, the safety of the pet’s owner is taken into account, but not necessarily the safety of the animal.
Steve Rempel, the founder of Prairie Exotics, a local reptile rescue and education group, said each municipality is responsible for creating and enforcing its own bylaws when it comes to exotic pets.
“Our bylaws in Winnipeg are quite strict as it is and keep people in safety,” he said.
Winnipeg’s bylaws prohibit any venomous snakes, as well as any python or Boidae that reach more than two metres in length. Venomous spiders are also prohibited.
The city has called off the search for the missing python that remains at large in Winnipeg. (Submitted: Prasad Gowdar)
Rempel said while he believes the bylaws are sufficient in Manitoba, it is still the responsibility of the owner to take proper care of their pets.
“If you’re taking an animal into your care – it is no different than a child as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “We need to look at these animals as they are not just throw-away items.”
Rempel said before people adopt a new pet – be it an exotic animal or a domesticated pet – they need to do the proper research and be prepared to take care of it properly.
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