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Some exotic animals banned in city

Rose-hair tarantulas, emperor scorpions and non-venomous snakes up to 10 feet long are welcome in the city of Oak Harbor.

But under a new ordinance, rattlesnakes, ostriches, grizzly bears, alligators, coyote hybrids, raccoons and even panda bears are banned from living as pets in city residents’ homes or backyards.

Oak Harbor City Council members adopted the new exotic animal ordinance Tuesday night. It was a revision of the originally proposed ordinance, which was criticized by a local pet store owner and a number of people who have snakes and other pets that would have been banned.

Brian Knoll, owner of Island Pet Center, said he was pleased with the version of the ordinance that was adopted. “It’s a terrific compromise,” he said.

Under the ordinance, non-venomous snakes are limited to 10 feet in length. Under the original proposal, they were limited to four feet.

Originally, the proposed ordinance banned all venomous pets, but Knoll and others complained that it’s unfair to forbid such pets as tarantulas and scorpions. While they are technically venomous, the type of tarantulas and scorpions sold at Knoll’s store are docile and not dangerous to people. A tarantula’s bite, he said, is like a bee sting.

“My real concern was the elimination of commonly-kept pet animals,” he said.

In fact, Assistant City Attorney Allison Cumberbatch announced to the council that rose-hair tarantulas are “a favorite of Councilmember Crider.”

In response to the concerns, the ordinance was changed to state “all venomous snakes, reptiles, insects and spiders capable of inflicting serious physical harm or death to humans are prohibited.”

Also, the ordinance states that owners of critters allowed by the ordinance are responsible for maintaining housing and confinement to prevent escape. “Any at-large status would constitute proof of a violation,” it states.

“We believe this is a moderate approach to offer a level of safety to members of our community,” Police Chief Steve Almon said.

Almon said police officers won’t be going door-to-door, searching homes for pet cobras or crocodiles. The ordinance gives them the ability to respond if someone complains about the tiger next door eating dogs, for example.

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