The town of Greater Napanee, Ont., is moving to enact a new law that would restrict what exotic animals residents can keep in their homes in the wake of one local landlord's unexpected discovery.
In March 2021, Lindsay Cuthill, the owner of Red Tree Developments, wrote the town located more than 200 kilometres southwest of Ottawa.
Cuthill had just received the keys to a newly-purchased duplex, she told CBC on Saturday. But when she took a look inside, she had quite a shock.
"We came to find that there was a great big [three-metre] boa constrictor in there, and lots of other snakes," she said. "And there was dogs. None of them were being taken care of properly."
Cuthill said she learned from a bylaw officer there was "no legal standing for us to try and get the animals removed."
Initial list deemed too restrictive
According to the town, the adoption of a new dog control bylaw in 2015 also meant restrictions on keeping exotic animals were repealed.
"Although the reasons for this change are unclear, it appears to stem from enforcement concerns," according to a town report last fall.
Mayor Terry Richardson said Greater Napanee is now looking to fill in that legislative gap, though work on the bylaw was delayed by staff turnover and last fall's municipal election.
"It's a very, very extensive list," Richardson said of the new rule, which could ban everything from elephants to boa constrictors.
"I think when we do the bylaw, we have to make it fairly extensive because we never know what may show up in our communities or in our country, right?"
The list may be too expansive, however, as town council heard at its regular meeting last week.
Public feedback about the draft bylaw showed some felt it was too restrictive. The proposed list of prohibited animals will be revised "to limit only those animals that pose a risk to human safety and well-being," according to a recent town report, by the time the bylaw goes to council for a vote on Jan. 31.
Cuthill said she was unaware of the impending vote but is glad change is afoot.
"Landlords need to have stuff like this in place," she said. "This can help us protect the animals as well."