Later, Gators: Council Green-Lights Ban On Ownership Of Crocs, Other Species
After more than a year of delay, the scales have finally tipped in favor of a proposed Pittsburgh ordinance that would largely ban ownership of crocodiles and other species within city limits. Pittsburgh City Council gave the bill its preliminary approval Wednesday.
Councilor Bruce Kraus sponsored the bill early last year, making amendments to a bill that former Councilor Darlene Harris passed after alligators were found roaming in city neighborhoods. Harris' bill spelled out housing and storage requirements for people who wanted to own the animals, but the Kraus measure goes farther, by outright banning almost anyone from owning the animals in the future.
Kraus' bill would grandfather in most of those who currently have such animals, and it does make an exception for organizations who have certification from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. But that would exclude the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, which does not have AZA certification due to a long-running dispute with the organization over the zoo's treatment of elephants.
The zoo did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. But City Councilor Deb Gross, who sits on the zoo board, raised the concern in council.
“I want to draw members' attention to the fact that the Pittsburgh Zoo is not accredited by the AZA,” she said. “I believe I would be more comfortable with this bill if we again implored the zoo to pursue the AZA accreditation but allow some time period specified in the legislation.”
Kraus countered that the ban would have no immediate effect on the zoo.
“The ordinance grandfathers all reptilians that are presently owned and housed at the zoo,” Kraus said. “And the only effect the ordinance would have on the zoo are any new purchases or acquisitions of reptilians.”
The bill's sudden return to the council agenda, after repeated votes to hold the measure over the past year, caught some by surprise. Kraus did not return calls for comment after the meeting Wednesday. But supporters were on hand to tout the measure during public comment, including Dan Rossi, the CEO of Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh. He said he supports the bill, because his organization isn't equipped to handle the animals, which are sometimes abandoned when they grow larger.
“In 2019 we received eight crocodiles/gators here,” he told council. “We are set up to deal with dogs, cats, bunnies, companion animals. We don’t have the capacity to deal with large and dangerous animals to this degree and this level.”
Council gave the bill prelimniary approval — Gross and Theresa Kail-Smith abstained — and the measure is slated for a final vote next Tuesday.
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