St. Catharines won’t debate Reptilia application after zoo pulls request

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Published April 25, 2022 at 3:54 pm

Reptilia has withdrawn its application to amend bylaws to a allow an expansion into St. Catharines.

A St. Catharines Mall is going to be without a Reptilia branch for a while longer after the reptile zoo pulled its zoning amendment application from consideration at this week’s council meeting for the second time.

Reptilia, founded in 1996, already operates permanent and mobile zoos in Whitby and Vaughan and sought to expand into the Fairview Mall. The reptile zoo  locations contain around 250 animals including snakes, crocodiles, turtles, and myriad kinds of lizards.

The zoos are accredited by Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, a non-profit designed ensure zoos are “recognized for their high standards of animal care.”

Reptilia say 75 percent of its animals are rescues, who have difficulty being put up in other forms of animal shelters. Another 10 per cent have been born in Reptilia locations.

The very creatures that make Reptilia and attraction are what have hindered the development. The zoo has been eyeing the former IKEA location in the mall since January, but St Catharines has exotic animal bylaws which ban venomous snakes and crocodiles the zoo is set to feature.

In their quest to change the bylaw Reptilia has come across significant opposition from some residents and animal rights groups. Niagara Action for Animals, Zoocheck, the Canadian Wildlife Federation, Ontario SPCA and the Humane Society have all voiced opposition to the Reptilia application.

However the public seem much more on board with nearly 800 letters of support coming in, compared to 161 letters of opposition. City staff has also recommended the zoo operate from the mall.

However the opposition led Reptilia to withdraw their application in January, delaying an debate until they reapplied in March to respond to animal rights group concerns.

Paramount among this concerns was a the potential spread of disease and risk of escape. Reptilia has stressed they’ve never had a reptilian jailbreak in their 25 year history.

However with a discussion on the horizon the zoo has once again withdrawn its application.

“At this time Reptilia feels that without the city’s animal services provider available to respond to their requests, and the fact that there is pending provincial legislation which also may affect the requirement for an exemption, they are pulling the ask at this time,” city clerk Bonnie Nistico-Dunk emailed councillors.

The withdrawal has been acclaimed by rights groups, like Animal Justice who acclaimed the move as a success after learning of the decision as their lawyers prepared to debate the exemption.

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