In 2007, following several high-profile human injuries and a death caused by exotic pets, the BC SPCA urgently called upon the BC Ministry of Environment to regulate exotic animals like primates and big cats through amendments to the Wildlife Act. Less than two years later, after petitioning strongly for these changes, the BC SPCA was able to applaud the provincial government's announcement of new regulations enacted on March 16, 2009 that prohibit the keeping and breeding of certain exotic animals, providing greater safety measures for the public.
The Wildlife Act’s new Controlled Alien Species (CAS) Regulation controls the possession, breeding, shipping and releasing of exotic animals (not native to B.C.) that pose a risk to the health or safety of people. As the provincial government has the responsibility of ensuring public safety, the exotic animals listed reflect only those that pose a serious risk to human safety. The animal welfare and environmental concerns of the BC SPCA advocate for a prohibition of all exotic animals as pets or for entertainment; however, the provincial government has taken an important first step.
Exotic animals such as tigers, lions, primates, caimans, cobras and poison arrow dart frogs are now considered CAS. Under sections 6.4 and 6.5 of the Wildlife Act, the Minister of the Environment has authority to designate a species as a CAS, and therefore additional species may be added in time without the need for additional legislative changes. For the current list of prohibited exotic species, see Ownership Restrictions.
The BC SPCA will continue to advocate for stricter exotic animal legislation at the municipal government level to protect animal welfare. Cities and towns can still pass bylaws that restrict additional exotic animals from being kept as pets and attractions such as kangaroos, servals, iguanas and others that suffer from life in captivity that were not included in the new CAS regulations.
Owners of CAS in B.C. before March 16, 2009 were able to apply for a possession permit from the Permit and Authorization Service Bureau on November 1, 2009 and were required to have such permits in place by March 31, 2010. The BC SPCA continues to work with the BC Ministry of Environment to ensure that permit conditions for these grandfathered animals will protect their health and safety, as well as that of the general public.
In addition, certain other exotic animals such as axolotls and tree frogs, while not considered CAS, are designated as wildlife under the Wildlife Act. Ownership of these animals is therefore restricted, meaning they cannot be kept, sold, bred, trafficked or transported without a permit.