Originally slated for a vote, the town will make time for further discussion after pushback from local and national groups.
Friday update: Leland Town Council pulled the exotic animal item from its consent agenda Thursday evening so staff can review the topic further.
LELAND — A routine update to Leland’s animal code caught the attention of the United States Association of Reptile Keepers.
The proposed ordinance update would ban ownership of exotic animals in town limits.
United States Association of Reptile Keepers caught wind of the proposed ban this week and issued a call-to-action alert, calling the policy “illogical” and “overreaching.”
Local groups, including Fresh Start Farm and Rescue (which is based in Pender County but conducts reptile rescue and education events around the Cape Fear region) also reached out to the town.
Though the proposed exotic animal ban appears on the Town of Leland’s regular Council’s consent agenda for Thursday’s meeting, the town announced Wednesday it will discuss the topic further.
“After hearing some concerns and questions from citizens, Council intends to give this proposed ordinance some further consideration and discussion,” Leland Mayor Brenda Bozeman said in a statement. “We take feedback from our residents seriously and want to ensure we give time and attention to this matter before making any decisions.”
Leland’s current code does not regulate what types of animals can be owned in town limits. The proposed regulation, put forth by the Leland Police Department, would make it illegal for anyone to own any “venomous reptile or any other wild or exotic animal” in town limits, with an exception for pet shop owners, veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitators and for zoological, or research purposes.
The code defines an exotic or wild animal to be: any animal that would ordinarily be confined to a zoo or wilderness in the world; any specious non-indigenous to the United States or North America; an animal that would cause fear in a reasonable person; and mammals or nonvenomous reptiles that weigh over 50 pounds at maturity.
It names certain species banned, including monkeys, raccoons, squirrels, ocelots, bobcats, wolves, hybrid wolves, venomous reptiles, and “constrictor snakes of the Boidae and Pythonidae species.”
“The vagueness would allow animal control to enforce this upon all reptile owners,” the United States Association of Reptile Keepers wrote in its action alert. The association claims one in every 20 U.S. households has an exotic pet reptile. Popular pets including Greek tortoises, leopard geckos, bearded dragons, and more would not be permitted in town limits under the proposal, according to the association.
Hilary Snow, Leland’s spokesperson, said the Police Department’s recommendation was not prompted by any event.
“This was just a routine updating of ordinances that all departments do on a pretty regular basis,” Snow said Wednesday. Snow said the update is based on research on like-sized municipalities. “It’s modeled off of research done on municipalities that are a similar size,” Snow said. “We’re making sure we’re up to date with our ordinance and have clear language.”
After hearing feedback, Snow said Leland will take time discussing the proposed animal code.”It’s an effort to be proactive, not reactive,” she said.
Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at email@example.com