City Council Passes Legislation That Enforces Reptile Animal Registration

Dec 3, 2019

Pittsburgh City Council has approved legislation to require residents who own certain reptiles to register and secure them. The bill was sponsored by Councilor Darlene Harris, who said the bill was in the works before the first of seven alligators were found loose in the city this year

"I thought it was necessary that people know if their neighbors have these types of reptiles," Harris said after Tuesday's council meeting.

The bill requires owners of animals like venomous snakes or alligators to register them with the city's Bureau of Animal Care and Control office. Owners must also keep them in escape-proof housing and transportation and put up warning signs on their property.  The warning signs must have both the animal's scientific and common names listed, and a written bite protocol and escape recovery plan. Penalties for violating the requirements could result in up to a $1,000 fine.

The legislation marks a final legislative accomplishment for Harris, who will depart council at the end of the year after she lost the Democratic primary this past spring. Harris, who has long portrayed herself as a champion for animals, said that the regulations were "necessary now, and it's for the protection of the reptile."

Council President Bruce Kraus, who has often feuded with Harris, was the only "no" vote. He said he'd heard doubts about the bill.

"I work with Humane Animal Rescue on a regular basis," Kraus said after the meeting. "They had some questions about the ordinance and they weren't sure that it was written in the best way possible. So I just wanted to clear my head."

Dan Rossi, the CEO of Humane Animal Rescue, said the bill is a good first step, but that future legislation should go further.

"This day and age, there's really no reason to own an alligator in Pittsburgh," he said. "We need to look at a larger ban for the animals. ... Ultimately they're going to end up getting 6, 8 feet in length. Most people don't have the substantial housing to house animals like that."

The bill now heads to the desk of Mayor Bill Peduto, whose office said he will review it.