B.C.’s Conservation Officer Service says a man is facing charges under the Wildlife Act following the seizure of hundreds, if not thousands, of exotic animals from a rental home in Surrey Aug. 8.
Maple Ridge veterinarian Dr. Adrian Walton told the Now-Leader he was called to the home by Surrey’s bylaw department after someone saw a “bunch of reptiles out on a deck.”
Walton said after arriving at the home, he quickly realized there was a lot more to the story.
“While we were doing the investigation, you took one quick look in the window and you were seeing this entire room of deli cups full of bugs, basically. Mostly spiders, but you could see some scorpions,” said Walton, who is head veterinarian at Dewdney Animal Hospital, which has experience caring for exotic creatures, albeit not this many.
Walton estimated there were thousands of creatures in the Surrey home.
Because of the condition of the animals, Walton said B.C. Conservation Officer Service got a warrant that was executed around 11 p.m. that evening.
Many animals were in “poor condition,” he said, adding that some containers housing them didn’t have air holes.
“From the bugs perspective, most of the animals were tarantulas and scorpions and these are venomous. Under Surrey bylaws, they’re not legal, so Surrey can’t adopt them out. You’re stuck in a situation of what do you do with these animals? Many were not identifiable, because they were babies. Some animals in there that were highly venomous, that no group is going to adopt out due to liability issues, my understanding is that the decision were made that those animals were not adoptable so they were destroyed.”
While the Maple Ridge clinic cared for many of the animals and insects, many have since been transported to the Victoria Bug Zoo. Others were taken to the Surrey Animal Resource Centre.
Walton said it was “pretty obvious” this was a wholesale situation and that the animals were either arriving or being prepared for shipment.
“This is a situation we deal with in the pet trade – the international and even national transport of animals. What we know from various studies is the mortality rate is approximately 70 per cent,” he told the Now-Leader. “We have serious concerns about the ethics of that. So to see such a large volume of animals, many of which were not in the best of condition, it’s very upsetting to someone who actually sees these animals as incredibly unique creatures. I’m supportive of the people, the local breeders, who raise these animals because they have a love…. You shouldn’t be buying online, you shouldn’t be buying from pet stores, you should be finding local qualified breeders and getting your exotic pets that way. “
As passionate as he is, Walton laughed as he said walking into a home with thousands of spiders at 11 o’clock at night “isn’t exactly my idea of fun.”
“I just went to pick up a couple of turtles, and was hoping to be home for dinner,” he chuckled. “All the weird stuff, somehow Dewdney gets involved.”
In an emailed statement, B.C.’s conservation service said a man who is known to them is facing “multiple charges” under the Wildlife Act in connection to case.
The statement noted was in “unlawful possession of live Schedule A wildlife, namely various turtle species” and that a search warrant was executed. The statement adds that the City of Surrey seized hundreds of spiders, scorpions and centipedes, seeing as they were illegal to possess under the municipal bylaw.
The man’s name has not been released.
While officials wouldn’t pinpoint an exact address of the home, they told the Now-Leader it was in north-east Surrey.
“It is unlawful to possess live wildlife without a permit,” the statement from the conservation service notes, “and hobbyists should check all federal, provincial and municipal regulations prior to purchasing or housing any reptile or amphibian species to ensure they are in compliance with all applicable legislation.”
In a Facebook post, the Victoria Bug Zoo wrote that it plans to begin adopting out the vinegaroons in its care on Sept. 4, for a fee of $40.
“We will adopt out a maximum of two to each person - however, this species is solitary and each should be kept alone in its own enclosure,” reads a post from Victoria Bug Zoo. “Some may be pregnant, we respectfully ask that any vinegaroons that lay eggs be temporarily returned to the zoo so we can care for the babies.”
“To everyone who has already expressed Interest in adopting one of our little friends here, thank you so much for your kindness, and thank you to Dewdney Animal Hospital Ltd. and Adrian for helping us get the word out!”
An earlier Victoria Bug Zoo post noted they had about 15 vinegaroons in their care, which were all in “extremely rough shape when they arrived.”
“It is incredibly sad when animals must pay the price for the poor decisions of humans,” that post reads. “There are, unfortunately, unscrupulous people in the exotic pet trade, and this is why it is important to know who you are supporting when you make a purchase. Research your provider, always choose captive bred where possible, and don’t buy from people who sell illegal or unhealthy animals.”
In a Facebook video, a staff member at Victoria Bug Zoo explains vinegaroons are arachnids, “fairly closely related to spiders and scorpions.”