Brandon Millichamp, President of The Alberta Reptile and Amphibian Society (T.A.R.A.S.), gave a presentation on Friday, July 8 in Redcliff at the Alberta Reptile Symposium.
The mission of T.A.R.A.S. is to support conservation efforts, educate and promote pet welfare, as well as provide education, funding and resources. They offer representation for municipal, provincial, and federal laws. They also support other organizations, such as Canherp, The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada, The Alberta Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy, and The Veterans Food Bank of Calgary (helping Veterans to feed their animals).
One of their main goals is conservation because, as Millichamp said, “if we don’t conserve ecosystems, we aren’t going to be able to see these animals in the wild. Reptile and amphibian conservation is not well funded, and often overlooked because they are such small animals and aren’t very charismatic. People don’t see them as important. They are important because they support the ecosystem, but aren’t furry, large, and cute.”
At the two yearly expos they hold, care sheets are on offer for those who have reptiles or amphibians at home. The two Calgary Reptile Expos are how they fund the society. “We generate quite a bit of income from that,” stated Millichamp, “but we put that into donations to conservation groups, and different programs.”
Millichamp warns that it is illegal to keep any native, wild species in captivity in Alberta. “We have so many captive bred animals already, that you will be better off keeping those than killing a native salamander or other species, unless it is injured, that is a bit of a different story.” If you have an injured reptile or amphibian, reach out to T.A.R.A.S., Snakes on a Plain or other conservation organizations rather than attempting to care and feed for the animal yourself.
Each municipality has its own bylaws regarding pet keeping. Oftentimes when people acquire a new pet, they don’t ensure to check the bylaws, warns Millichamp. “Check the bylaws as they do change, and if they are changing, having your say or contact us. We are a long-time Society and can help you have your say. Many municipalities are just banning things without full information. T.A.R.A.S. is starting to represent the community in unfair bylaws, provincial laws, and federal laws.”
Proposed Bill S241 is becoming an issue, which Millichamp says is being driven by an organization trying to prevent all pet ownership. The first reading of the bill was completed on March 22, 2022. It is an “An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act,” according to http://www.parl.ca/legisinfo/en/bill/44-1/s-241. Millichamp says they are primarily focusing on Alberta right now due to the animal cruelty issues that arose recently due to a fire.
“Bill S241 is basically to keep small zoos from keeping animals. I do agree that some zoos aren’t the best but there are lots that do great work,” said Millichamp. The bill will also affect keepers and will be effective across Canada. The grandfather clause will come into effect for those who already have newly restricted animals, but they will no longer be able to show them, which Millichamp feels is unfair.
T.A.R.A.S. is always looking for new members and volunteers. They only have about 80 members right now and need more to help. All members get free admission to the two expos held each year in Calgary. All meetings are done on Zoom, making them more accessible to members across the province. To find more information about the society and to get in touch, visit their website at albertareptiles.ca