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Council approves exemption for snake rescue service in Alliston home

Posted October 16, 2012

In Orillia they called Jim LaPorte the "snake guy."

Last May, Mr. LaPorte, his wife and two children moved to Heydon Avenue in Alliston where he continues to run a rescue haven for reptiles.

Last night he told New Tecumseth councillors that he wasn't aware of the Town's Wildlife and Prohibited Animals Bylaw which prohibits "all snakes of the families Pythonidae and Boidae (pythons and boa constrictors) when he moved to town, and applied for an exemption to continue his rescue service.

"Right now in my home, I have about 14 reptiles, mostly snakes," said Mr. LaPorte. "It became a passion of mine about 13 years ago. I have certification, I have taken courses to show I am capable of taking care of these exotic animals, and it is one that keeps getting passed over. Since I got hit with cancer in 2005, I just went right out with just the reptiles only, and I'd like to continue doing that in this (town)."

In his report to council recommending an exemption that would allow Mr. LaPorte to keep up to 25 snakes in his home, Steve Kinsella, the Town's Superviser Municipal Law Enforcement, noted "there have been no complaints from area residents on Heydon Avenue with regard to the keeping of snakes at this property."

Ward 1 councillor Bob Marrs was supportive of the exemption and suggested that instead of amending the bylaw for other requests that a licensing provision be established for those qualified to keep exotic animals which could be revoked if they weren't being properly cared for.

"I think it's a service that's required because there are problems with trying to get rescue and it's nice to know that somebody's around that can do it," said Mr. Marrs. "I also know that there's one other person who recently talked to me regarding whether they could have exotic animals because he is one of the people that goes around and shows them and he's moving to town.I would assume if he does make his move, he'll be looking for an exemption. I wonder if we should have something in the process where if people are licensed and if they do not take proper care of them then it's taken away, as opposed to having a bylaw exemption."

Mayor Mike MacEachern said it could be something the Town looks at as long term policy, but "at this point, in the absence of that, having this put forward as an exemption in order to allow Mr. LaPorte to do what he needs to do."

Mr. LaPorte, who tends to the snakes along with his wife, said in response to the question "who do you call" if one or more escaped, "Me."

He said with two children in the house, aged 7 and 10, the snakes are secured in locked containers

"So I make sure even my big snakes - I have a 14.5 ft Burmese and a 10.5 ft Burmese that came in as rescues. I have currently ratchet straps that hold their lids securely down so no matter how much you push on it, it will not open. You would have to actually physically take a hammer and smash the lid open."

Ward 8 councillor Jim Stone said he supported the exemption, and agreed with notion of setting up "some type of licensing down the road. But I was going to suggest maybe putting a screen in your sewer line or something to contain them on your property in some way."

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