A lion prowls its enclosure at Guha’s Lions and Tigers Farm in Utterson in Township of Muskoka Lakes in the winter of 2010.
Photo by Matt Driscoll
MUSKOKA LAKES - Muskoka Lakes is fine-tuning, not one, but two exotic animal bylaws which are expected to come into effect in the near future.
There should be a bylaw because it could be dangerous if it’s in the wrong hands
— Nanda Guha, Guha’s Tigers and Lions
The prohibiting bylaw will make it illegal for residents to own an exotic pet unless they own a zoo or wild animal sanctuary. The licensing bylaw sets out rules and regulations for zoos and wild animal sanctuaries.
Muskoka Lakes mayor Alice Murphy said after the bylaw is passed, those who currently have exotic pets are going to have to find alternative arrangements for them.
“There will be no grandfathering,” she said. “There will be a 60-day amnesty, but this is not the time to get a new one.”
The 60-day period will begin the day the bylaw is passed. Residents can seek an exemption from council, though they may be refused.
The proposed bylaw states that a municipal bylaw officer can search property and buildings for exotic animals and may issue a notice of removal regarding any exotic animal. Transgressors will face an initial $250 fine. If they fail to remove the animals by the removal date, they will face an additional $250 fine per day for each animal.
Residents with exotic animals may find relocating them could be a challenge.
Julie Woodyer, director of Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, said they generally deal with native wildlife, and she doesn’t know of any good local places that would take exotic animals that aren’t already full. For big cats, she suggested a place in Colorado.
“What’s the point of relocating them in the area, because there’s bylaws all over the place,” she said.
Muskoka Lakes is currently the only municipality in Muskoka that doesn’t have a bylaw regulating exotic pets. They reconsidered their stance in August when the mayor referred to Muskoka Lakes as “a bit of a haven” for exotic animals following two cougar attacks and a number of sightings.
Nanda Guha, a Muskoka Lakes resident with a wild cat farm who has received much of the blame for the cougar-related incidents, offered his support for an exotic animal bylaw at a committee of the whole meeting on Sept. 11.
He requested the he be grandfathered in because he would not part with the animals he raised from birth.
“If you’re passing the bylaw, I’m not against it,” Guha said. “There should be a bylaw because it could be dangerous if it’s in the wrong hands.”
Following his presentation, Guha became one of four people, including a Muskoka Lakes CAO, a councillor and the bylaw officer, to form a working group to look into the bylaws. In the past, council has referred to Guha’s farm as a zoo which means he would be allowed to continue caring for his wild cats, but would have to comply with the standards and regulations in the licsensing bylaw.
Woodyer is concerned about grandfathering existing places such as Guha’s into the bylaws.
“We just hope the conditions are set high enough that they both accommodate the animal’s needs, but also provide some protection for the public,” she said.
She’d like to see conditions that take into consideration the biological and behavioural needs of the animals such as adequate space, secure fencing, and roofs on cages for big cats.
Muskoka Lakes councillors discussed the bylaws at their last meeting on Oct. 22, but Mayor Alice Murphy said they are still working out the wording.
“We want to make sure that the definitions are parallel between the two bylaws,” Murphy said.
They are currently defining what a zoo and wildlife sanctuary are.
Since the September meeting he delegated at, Guha is facing charges for failing to comply with prescribed standards of care under the OSPCA Act. He is due back in court on Dec. 6.