Council quashes reptile zoo’s hopes to move into London

A black mamba is one of more than 200 venomous snakes cared for at the Indian River Reptile Zoo in Peterborough County, Ont. John Hanley / Global News

Animal advocates are applauding city council’s decision to stop a reptile zoo that had been eyeing an expansion into Westmount Mall.

Two separate votes on the matter failed during Tuesday’s meeting: one that would have staff gather more public feedback and information about zoos and mobile zoos in London, and another that would have had staff craft draft bylaws.

The company, Reptilia, has operations in Vaughan and Whitby already.

READ MORE: Scarborough family wakes up to snake in bedroom

“As most of us are aware, Westmount Mall has had it very rough the past few years,” said Ward 10 Coun. Paul Van Meerbeergen, a representative of the southwest community where the mall is located.

Van Meerbergen said Reptilia would be something of a “renaissance” for the mall, while nearby schools would benefit from its education and field trip based curriculum.

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“[It’s] a very reputable company, they know how to treat the animals, it’ll be employment opportunities. I think this is win win win in all directions,” he said.

But the idea wasn’t a winner around the entire horseshoe.

“We know better,” said Ward 12 Coun. Elizabeth Peloza. “There’s plenty of animals for adoption in this city. We already have an overburdened system of ones looking for homes. We know there’s so much better education opportunities before us.”

READ MORE: Gibbon that went missing from Ontario zoo five months ago located in Quebec

Ward 6 Coun. Phil Squire meanwhile, said he’d been a customer of mobile zoos when his children were younger.

“One of them came to my home, and the other we saw at the Western Fair. But I didn’t realize at the time, and I should have, that we’re dealing with animals that are living their lives in what I call large Tupperware,” he said.

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“Someone has a big plastic container and all of a sudden a wild animal comes out of this thing and that’s treated as some kind of education experience? I can’t support that anymore.”

A motion to have staff look into how the city could regulate zoos failed 9-5, with support from Mayor Ed Holder and councillors Michael van Holst, Jesse Helmer, Maureen Cassidy, and Van Meerbergen.

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