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Reptilia zoo coming to London, despite city's private zoo ban

Since 2018, Reptilia, a privately owned zoo, has been trying to open a 25,000 square foot zoo in the Westmount Shopping Centre in London, Ont.

In December of 2018, the London city council rejected the group’s proposal to expand by declining to amend the business licensing bylaw to regulate private and mobile zoos.

Mayor Ed Holder said the company is moving forward with its plans after they obtained a license from the province instead.

“It's not zoning's responsibility or ability to deny a building permit when one is requested," said Holder. "If they got the licensing, which is the requirement, then they can proceed.”

Since Reptilia received a license from the province, city staff issued a building permit to the company in January of 2021.

Reptilia’s President Brian Child said that London's Economic Development Agency (LEDC) sought after Reptilia, encouraging the zoo to expand to London.

“We don’t go to places unless we’re popular and invited because we have so many different places that want a Reptilia," said Child. “The lease that Westmount gave us specifies clearly that their zoning permits our operations.”

Reptilia describes itself as a part of Canada’s largest reptile zoos and conservation centres and they have over 250 species of reptiles.

Child says that they use their reptiles, many of which have been surrendered, for education and teaching purposes. They also have two other locations in Vaughan and Whitby.

Luc Corneli, the principal of McCor Management, told CTV News that the Westmount Shopping Centre is trying to attract new tenancies including "lifestyle, entertainment or community based."

"What we like about Reptilia is that it is both educational and an entertainment facility," said Corneli.

Andrew Sercombe, the manager of media relations with the City of London, stated that in the 2018 report that addressed Reptilia “the intended use was recognized within the ‘Place of Entertainment’ zone category, which is permitted.”

While Wendy Brown, the co-chair of London’s animal welfare advisory committee has many concerns about Reptilia.

“I am not aware of anything that says you’re permitted to have wildlife for entertainment purposes in your care, in your facility," she said. "Using animals for entertainment, that was something that our constituents and the city of London said ‘no’ to a long time ago, which is why we don't see circuses in London.”

Brown argues that it would be illegal for Reptilia to operate under the city's animal control bylaws.

"Section 3.6 of our bylaw says ‘or licensed under another authority’ is being interpreted inappropriately because they have no provincial license for exotic animals and City Council said no to the zoos in 2011 and 2018."

According to the city, "enforcement and conditions of their license will be the responsibility of the province, and any allegations of non-conformity could be subject to a provincial investigation."

Child says their new location will likely open in March or April this year. Top Stories

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