Help Us Support The Hobby in Canada!

Hi MorphMarket forum, I have a request for some of you! In the interest of promoting and preserving the hobby in Canada, we require direct evidence of the good that this community does for specialized pets like reptiles and amphibians.

To give you a little background info, I’m involved with certain advocacy groups whose goal is to prevent and eliminate discriminatory legislation against specialty pets in Canada. Unfortunately we’ve been on the defensive as of late, and don’t quite have a USARK equivalent. Part of the work that needs to be done is to have direct evidence of the positive aspects of the hobby.

So, what we are looking for is this: scientific papers and pictures of the successful preservation of endangered species in captivity, as well as evidence of increased lifespan, reduced stress, and general wellbeing in captivity. Any scientific articles would be golden for our argumentation, as well as anything that disproves common myths or fears about the hobby (such as invasiveness of exotics, or pets being disease vectors). These don’t have to be completed papers either, really any data would help greatly!

When it comes to advocacy on the municipal, provincial or federal level, concrete evidence on our side is one of our greatest weapons. I’m sure any of the info we collect would be of equal value to our US and international family as well.

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CanHerp is actively advocating for and protecting our rights as keepers in Canada. They’ve been doing so for over a decade, they don’t have the same presence as USARK though. Something they’ve been working on :slight_smile:

With all the recent legislation passing across provinces, they’ve been really working hard to become that bigger, louder voice.

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@elementalherps
CanHerp has actually been dormant until just recently and are in serious need of help.
That is what is post is for gathering papers and other evidence for the benefit of animals in captivity for all animals not just reptiles.

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As a Canadian hoping to enter the herp amphib and invert keeping world I’d like to help if I can. I know I need to get legislation changed locally (I’m from Toronto) to keep stuff I want. I dunno how to start the process though…maybe this is where I can start?

I realize this might be an unpopular opinion on these forums, but as a true professional in the wildlife conservation field (I’m an Associate Professor of Fish and Wildlife Management and a Certified Wildlife Biologist), any time USARK or other organizations use the “conservation by captive propagation” tagline anyone working with politicians and trying to balance conservation with the pet trade all roll our eyes. Unless you’re an accredited zoo, or working with an accredited zoo, with genetic sequencing of your animals and a studbook to keep track of breeding records, and actively working to conserve wild habitats for the eventual release and establishment of those species (this step is almost always ignored), you are not participating in any real meaningful conservation. Keeping a cool pet is not conservation, nor is breeding for cool color patterns (which is actually antithetical to conservation, as we seek to preserve wild geno- and phenotypes).

Instead, focus on dispelling myths and increasing the public acceptability of having alternative pets. There are aspects of the pet trade that are sustainable and many that are not. Focus on the parts that are sustainable and legal and oppose those that aren’t. There’s nothing wrong with keeping an exotic pet so long as wild populations aren’t affected, disease issues are addressed, and no one is harmed. Many politicians oppose reptiles and amphibians as pets because they have never been exposed. You’ll get farther ahead working and educating those politicians (and working with your own representatives) before any proposed legislation or regulation than always being on the defensive when such actions are introduced.

Education is key, send letters often, make phone calls, be friendly and available, but be willing to admit when there’s a real problem and work with politicians and biologists to find ways to address those problems (such as invasive species). That’s how you build relationships… and credibility.

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Thank you so much for your response! That is exactly what we need help getting across.
We are just reaching out and seeing if anyone has any leads on something that can be used as evidence to present to politicians.
Letters are being sent and people’s voices are being heard, just wondering if anyone on the forum has anything that we could use just in case we need to start a powerpoint as to why people should be allowed to own a hamster if they wanted to.

When I teach policy and environmental interpretation to my students, I use the sociology approach. In general, people contain a deeply held, core set of values, which then lead to perceptions of issues, which lead to a position on a topic (we call this “attitude” - not an emotional state, but a stance), and then, finally, behavior. You will never alter someone’s values. If you try to do so, you will be met with strong pushback as that person defends their core self, and often you will alienate that person forever.

Instead, focus on which behaviors you want to change. Behaviors are the most shallow expression of a person’s inner thoughts and as such, are the easiest to change because they’re the farthest away from one’s core values. I do snake education in south Georgia - the heart of anti-snake sentiments in the country. There is no way I’ll be able to touch deeply held religious values and come out unscathed. Instead, I focus on presenting information that will change behavior. They’re killing snakes, I would like them to stop. So to get them to stop killing snakes, I introduce them to species that are utterly harmless and, even better, “beneficial” from a human perspective (an easy sell are eastern indigos because they eat rattlesnakes sometimes). This approach works well from a public education point of view, you may have to be a little creative with its adaptation to policymaking though. It’s still a useful thought experiment.

With policy, you need to call your representatives. Emails and letters alone don’t really cut it, you need to become a person, not a piece of paper, to connect with a policymaker. If they have office hours, even better, or at least talk with their staff if they’re busy.

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First of all, I hope most people are able to contribute to this. We can all spend 10 minutes finding papers and websites to save the hobby that we all love. Some more topics that could use evidence (major points I’ve noticed on anti-reptile articles) are: shipping and safety of shipping, released pet dangers to native wildlife and public, keeper deaths and injuries from venomous and giant snakes, understanding of risks and dangers working with reptiles, survival rates of new reptiles (do 75% of reptiles die within the first year with a new owner), care complexity and understanding of care.

From what I’ve found so far (I’ll read through relevant scientific papers later to find more):

These are numbers in the US but I figured they’re still relevant and you might be able to find stats for Canada.
Only 50,000 to 80,000 cases of salmonella are caused by reptiles (source).
There are 1.35 million cases of salmonella each year (source).
That means 3.7-5.9% of salmonella cases are caused by reptiles.

Many of these are from children under 5. This is why education is important so parents know the potential risks and can make sure unsupervised children can’t access reptiles and reptiles stay away from food and kitchen areas. This also helps reduce abandoned pets (for parents who get rid of reptiles after their child gets sick from it).

Lifespan for 3 major snakes. I used a different source for each of them. Most of these websites have pages on other snake species for further evidence.

Ball pythons- 10-15 years in the wild. About 30 years in captivity. 2-3x lifespan in captivity.
source

Corn Snake- 6-8 years in the wild. About 15 years in captivity. ~2x lifespan in captivity.
source

Boa Constrictor- About 20 years in the wild. 25-35 years in captivity. Additional 5-15 years in captivity.
source

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Maybe I’m just completely cynical when it comes to politicians, but you’ve left out a really important weapon in your arsenal. Money. It’s always about the tax revenues. Don’t like the new subdivision going up? Too bad, property tax revenue out weighs local public voices. Don’t like the mayor designating a new business district? Too bad, tax revenue again.

Point is, while this is not, and should not be, your main point, it is an important one. You should make note of how much business is done. Not just buying and selling animals, but all the support infrastructure that both breeders and pet owners spend money on. As well, there is the fact that the pet industry as a whole is constantly creating new businesses and jobs everywhere. From rack builders to rat breeders to dog walkers to pet groomers. These businesses don’t exist without the pet industry, and they employ lots of people and make money and, most importantly to your local politicians, pay taxes. I know college kids, personally, short on money and with no job offers, who started their own dog walking business. How many exotic keepers have turned their hobby into more? Not just becoming breeders, but producing, marketing, and selling all the other products related to our hobby, while employing others, sometimes people who have no other real skills or opportunities. Exotic pet expos/conventions generate money in their local economy in businesses that have nothing to do with pets, hotels, restaurants, the expo facility, etc.

While you are making your point to local politicians about how pets improve our lives, how exotic pets get kids interested in science, how many of the exotics wouldn’t be capable of becoming an invasive species in the frigid far north up there in Santa land, you should also remember to drop your carefully collected numbers about the potential tax revenues and job numbers, and how those will go elsewhere…

Regardless, keep fighting the good fight! Good luck, and never let up on them. Being a citizen in a democratic country isn’t easy, it takes constant work on the part of concerned citizens to keep the idiocy trimmed back and the important issues on the table and being dealt with. :+1: :+1: :fist:

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