A man who previously operated a reptile-rescue facility in Abbotsford will join others to rally against provincial government regulations on Monday outside B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.
Hopcraft is due to appear in court as a witness in a civil suit involving Jozef and Bibiana Demcak of Richmond. The pair are challenging the provincial “controlled alien species” regulations that were introduced in 2009 to control the possession, breeding and transportation of exotic pets.
The couple made a living from educational presentations and travelling magic shows that incorporated reptiles, including Burmese pythons, for more than 35 years. But they lost their reptiles – and their business – due to the new laws, which restrict the display and transportation of certain animals.
Hopcraft, known as “the Reptile Guy,” has been through the same thing. For more than 10 years, he made a living by making educational presentations to children in schools and elsewhere with reptiles he had rescued due to abuse or because the owners could no longer keep them.
His collection included a Burmese python, caimans, an alligator, a ring-tailed lemur and more.
But the new regulations meant he could not travel or display them anymore, impairing his ability to earn income and fund their care. Receiving the appropriate accreditation – through the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums – was too costly, as it would have required building a new facility.
Hopcraft was housing more than 100 animals at a warehouse on Peardonville Road in Abbotsford last year when he had to close down due to a lack of funds.
He is now living in Aldergrove and has kept only a few permitted reptiles, such as tortoises, frogs, small boa constrictors and turtles. But they’re not the kind of creatures that people want to pay to see.
“The demand just isn’t there for things you can see in a pet store. It’s really frustrating,” he said.
Hopcraft is mainly concerned that the new laws didn’t take into consideration the rescue component of operations like his.
Many people purchased exotic pets before the regulations were in place, but there is no place for those reptiles to go when people no longer want them or can’t obtain the required permits, he said.
“I agree there should be regulations. Not every little kid should have an alligator, but when it comes to education and rescue, why would you stop it?”
The rally begins at 9 a.m. on Monday, and the case is set to begin at 10 a.m.