20 venomous snakes seized from north-end Toronto home
One person faces charges after authorities removed 20 “extremely dangerous and venomous” snakes from a home in Toronto’s north end.
The City of Toronto’s Municipal Licensing & Standards department raided an undisclosed residence in the Bathurst Street and Steeles Avenue area of North York Tuesday, where they discovered 20 live and 18 dead prohibited reptiles.
“When we found out that a quantity of venomous snakes had been imported and were in the city of Toronto we were significantly concerned,” Tracey Cook, executive director of Toronto Municipal Licensing and Standards.
“These reptiles and other animals are prohibited in the city, the public safety concern was significant and that’s why we took the step to procure a search warrant to seize them.”
Officials were tipped off by the Canada Border Services Agency that the snakes had been imported from Asia and were destined for an undisclosed Toronto address.
A search warrant was then obtained and executed with the help of Toronto police and officials from the Toronto Zoo and Toronto Public Health.
The city said the snakes included a variety of vipers, puff adders, cobras and rattlesnakes. The reptiles are now in the care of Toronto Animal Services.
Cook said zoo experts helped handle the snakes and identify the different species, adding they were located in a room in the house both in containers and in a terrarium.
“It looked like they were reasonably appropriately housed, it appears, so they weren’t slithering all over a house,” she said, adding the fact they were already contained was “helpful.”
“There was no immediate indication that they were being mistreated … but the fact is they’re not permitted in the city, they’re not permitted for a reason. These snakes are not indigenous to this climate. It’s just not good for anybody.”
Cook said the seizure drew safety concerns given the tragic deaths of New Brunswick boys Noah Barthe, four, and Connor Barthe, six, who were killed by an African rock python after it escaped its enclosure in August 2013.
The unidentified person who was in possession of the snakes has been charged with 20 counts of keeping prohibited animals under the city’s municipal code, and is scheduled to appear in a Toronto court on Jan. 27.
Officials said each of the charges carries a maximum fine of $5,000 and the final destination of the snakes will be determined during the court process.
Cook said the 18 deceased snakes were presumed to have died in transit. The snakes themselves came from all over the world, including parts of Africa and Asia, and even included a spitting cobra that she said could shoot venom at a distance of up to three metres .
There are currently no federal or provincial laws prohibiting the importation of the snakes into Canada, but Toronto prohibits all venomous and poisonous snakes and any snakes that reach an adult length of more than than three metres
The city is seeking the public’s help in finding locations where prohibited animals are kept and anyone with information is asked to report them to 311.
“The issue is, these are prohibited animals, they’re in the city, they’re prohibited for a reason, we have public safety concerns and they should not be here,” Cook said. “And if people are aware of it they need to let us know.”
Officials said they would be conducting public consultations on prohibited animals in Toronto during the next several months and a full list is available on the city’s website.
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