Opinion Letters

Poisoned Frogs or Poisoned Minds?

Luke Halstead

Dear editor,

As the vice president of Canada's only federally registered exotic animal rescue charity and the manager of reptiles and dangerous exotics at a private zoo, I am frustratedly writing this letter in response to the article entitled "Pembroke's poison frog controversy" that ran last week. While I understand the necessity of having an agent responsible for animal control, I am very surprised that the City of Pembroke has chosen one as misinformed as Mr. Street.

The controversy over the sale of dart frogs is if anything a non-controversy. The article rightly quotes Rick Lewis of Ricks Hobbies and Aquaria as describing the frogs as harmless, the concentration of the toxins being the result of their native diet.

Mr. Street mentions the idea of toxic wild-caught specimens being brought into the country and into the homes of innocent unsuspecting pet owners. Please allow me to point out how ludicrous this notion is. Many of the species in question are endangered and would require special permits to import. If a hapless importer then wanted invest the money in transporting the frogs for retail (who would then be weak and sick from the long journey), he or she would have to compete with the bustling market of healthy, non-toxic, captive bred animals.

Dart frogs are gorgeous display animals, easily available throughout Ontario (seemingly everywhere except the upper Ottawa Valley) and are often kept safely as pets. I don't understand why Mr. Street feels the need to broadcast this misinformation. He should know better than anyone that these animals pose no risk, and if he is unsure he should be doing the appropriate research.

I regularly work with all types of wildlife from harmless rodents to deadly venomous snakes in my positions at the animal rescue and the zoo. If even the most dangerous of creatures can be kept safely, then why not the safe ones? Why do Pembroke, Petawawa and Laurentian Valley feel the need to ban harmless pets simply because they are different? If common exotic pets were running loose killing people we'd be hearing about it in the news. The only poison coming from this frog controversy is upon the public perception of exotic pet keepers.

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