Exotic animal ban much ado about nothing

A Morinvillenews.com editorial

By Stephen Dafoe

In a slow news week television news programs need to fill the same time slot that they do when the streets are flush with stories. It is therefore no surprise that a story about Morinville’s potential banning of elephants, armadillos and other exotic animals would find itself on the tube last week, complete with accompanying footage of Godzilla terrorizing Tokyo and that scene from Jumanji where the elephants were running wild in the streets.

The added clips made for a funny holiday filler piece, but the central theme of the story has really created much ado about nothing.

The story, picked up from St. Albert Gazette reporter Kevin Ma’s report on Morinville’s proposed Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw, went somewhat viral over the New Year’s weekend, travelling to various news sources off and online as one news source picked it up from another, few taking the time to do any original research on the topic.

While Morinville Town Council does in fact have a document in front of them proposing to outlaw elephants, armadillos, hippopotami and 127 other animals, the list of banned and prohibited animals are but a three-page appendix to a 56-page bylaw.

Kevin Ma made that clear in his Dec. 29 Gazette article. Global News did not, leaving viewers, including Morinville residents themselves, with the distinct impression that our tax dollars are being spent on cockamamie bylaws that do not address what is important to residents. It’s not a good impression to have hanging over council’s head when they just passed a budget authorizing the hiring of 14 new administrative staff.

But when you jam a microphone in someone’s face and ask them their thoughts on a possible elephant ban in town, chances are people are going to react with outrage or sarcasm. And why not – the idea is ludicrous when one does not have all the facts, and a two-minute news segment of which a large portion is consumed by stock video footage of animals (and Godzilla) running amuck through the streets does not provide all the facts.

Everyone has an opinion, but few people have an informed opinion. Sadly, many of those who saw the Global piece on Morinville’s elephant exodus are forming their opinion without realizing nine months of work has gone into a new bylaw that seeks to target those pet owners who do not take responsibility for their pets.

Should the bylaw be passed, Morinville residents who let their cats run about the streets defecating in their neighbour’s gardens will be looking at stiffer fines, as will residents who let their vicious dogs off the leash. The same bylaw will require residents with three or more cats or dogs to buy a kennel licence, and dog owners in general will have to keep their pets off school grounds, playgrounds and the splash park.

Of course none of those things (the meat of the proposed bylaw) match up well with clips from Jumanji or vintage Godzilla films.

Council tabled discussion of the bylaw Dec. 21 because it had not been brought before council prior to the meeting. During the course of the discussion that will be had between now and when the bylaw receives its three readings, some items will likely be added and some items will be removed or clarified.

Whatever shape the bylaw ultimately takes, the Town’s decision to shift from an Animal Control Bylaw to a Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw is something to be applauded, not ridiculed simply because the drafters of the bylaw wanted to include a list of prohibited animals and the media wanted a funny holiday story.

But whether the exclusion of elephants, armadillos and other exotic critters remain in the final draft of the bylaw or not, the content that does remain will be meaningless without enforcement. A $120 fine for roaming cats only keeps kitty off the streets if some roaming kitty’s owner is actually forced to dig in their pocket to pay the fine.

And with the number of cats using Morinville flower beds as a litter box, let’s all be thankful they’re thinking of banning elephants as pets.

Proposed Banned and Prohibited Animals

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5 Comments

  1. The town was trying to save some money but it appears that it backfired. These regulations are Federal and Provincial laws. In order to enforce these laws you need to hire Peace Officiers. Morinville hired Bylaw Enforcemnt Officiers. These officiers can’t enfore Federal or Provincial laws so Morinville has copied the appropriate legislation into their by bylaw so it can be enforced inside Morinville by our Bylaw Enforcement Officiers. Council was looking at ways to get more people to move here but I think they blew it.

    • Morinville employs Peace Officers and has for some time.

      You’ll find the term Peace Officer used several times on this page:

      http://www.morinville.ca/residents/bylaw-enforcement

      As a general note to all who wish to comment, please take time to inform yourselves before posting. While MorinvilleNews.com welcomes a variety of opinions, we prefer that those opinions are informed opinions.

  2. How do we get a copy of the proposed bylaw. Morinville does not publish them on their website at all. In fact even the agendas for passed council meetings are not posted online. Dec21st for instance still does not have the agenda posted, nor are the minutes posted for anything in the last month.

    How are we as residents supposed to stay informed, stop the ridiculous behavior and focus people on the real issues? Are we all expected to get off work early to go pick up a copy of the bylaw at the local town office?

    When did Morinville stop being a community for the residents and start being a non family friendly industrial stop on highway 2?

    The budget, this bylaw, the lack of will to do anything about the air quality and the insistence that we pay hotel costs instead of asking our councilors to make a 20 minute drive, all make me wish that there was another election.

  3. I was going to buy a mini pot bellied pig for a family pet, they grow to about 60lbs, but they are banned why? I have a 170lb boxer/mastiff who is a great dog but more than twice the size of the mini pot bellied pig. I think the town should spend more time cracking down on people breaking by-laws, I see at least 5 dogs at large on my street in a new development, I pick up others dog feces that has been left behind or that has been deposited on my lawn. Or how about speeding cars in residential areas people driving inappropriately at the skatepark/ baseball diamonds… Sorry about the rant, I just really wanted a mini pot bellied pig.

    Maybe I’ll keep it in my yard behind my fence.

  4. This is my response, long after the bylaw amendments were passed. This bylaw had little to do with all of these exotic and rare animals, it was all smoke and mirrors. This was strictly a by-law created to make money for the town, visa cat owners. The town council attempted to pass a cat bylaw in the past, which failed miserably. The biggest reason; there was no support for it.

    The result of this bylaw in essence; it allows neighbors to steal someone else’s pet in a town-owned trap. Do you have any idea what this does to a neighborhood? It serves to cause a lot of resentment when a neighbor places a trap with cat food in it. The cat is lured in, and off it goes. Another $60 for the owner. Another $60 worth of resentment towards the neighbor. Are people’s lives really that trivial, where a cat on one’s property is that big of a deal? I don’t think so. Hire all the bylaw officers you want to pick up stray cats, why do you feel a need to encourage people to steal someone else’s pet?

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