Today's post is brought on by an article in today's Dagbladet which, unfortunately, seems not to have been run in the online edition. The text of the article is here (in Norwegian). Thanks to my friend Dag-Erling for texting me about the article, although I had in fact seen it already on my way to work ... but it's the thought that counts. :-)
Anyway. The article is about the proposed change in legislation which will make reptiles legal as pets in this country. Or I should say, reptiles in private ownership. 'Reptiles as pets' is a misleading term. :-) At the moment, reptiles are completely illegal for anyone to own in this country except zoos with official permits. I've been planning a post about that in which I want to go into more detail on that law and its history and consequences, so I won't talk too much about that here. It's enough to know that reptiles are illegal, except for turtles, for which permits may be and are given to those who can prove allergies that prevent them from keeping furry animals (I myself am in fact allergic even though I had a dog for twelve years). Norway is pretty much unique in the world in having these restrictions. It is nonsensical and counterproductive. As I say, more on that later.
The article is about the proposed alterations to the law, and some reactions to them. The organization forced to handle the law and its consequences is called Mattilsynet ... a relatively acceptable translation of which would be, let's see ... the Food Authority? OK, so let's call them FA from now on. :-) This body, which has a very schizophrenic attitude towards the law, has been asked by the Department of Agriculture to draw up a list of species - the number was debated, but ended up on 30 - which can be kept acceptably in this country, the so-called 'positive list'. My herpetology group, the Norwegian Herpetology Association (NHF, website here) has been working with the FA to create this list for them. We of course are strongly in favor of the changes. ;-) There are other groups, though, who are strongly against ... and it's the dumbassery spouted by that side that inspired me to write this blog post today.
The FA have realized that something needs to change ... something needs to be done ... because at present, although there is a total ban on all herptile species, there are at least 100,000 reptiles in private ownership in this country. Yes, that figure is correct. One hundred thousand - and that's a conservative estimate. A huge field of animal husbandry with a high level of activity over which the authorities in this country have absolutely zero control. That is not good. I am so glad that there is leadership in the FA now that is capable of seeing that.
However, there's always another point of view. In this debate represented by Dyrevernsalliansen*, the Alliance for Animal Protection, and their fearless (and apparently brainless) leader Live Kleveland. She/they have had the highly biased and AFAIK underqualified biologist Clifford Warwick review the list. His report shows, and I quote Kleveland:
Should one weird hobby really count for that much? According to a report [...]** we must accept a certain number of deaths as a consequence of allowing [these animals]. They may carry diseases that can transfer to humans, and in that case illness in humans and in some cases deaths will be inevitable. OMFG. Can she not hear herself talk?
A few years ago a little boy, I think he was seven, was pretty much torn to pieces by a pack of huskies whose outdoor enclosure left something to be desired. A tragedy, of course. But do you know what? If we're going to have extensive dog ownership in this country - and we obviously are - then some young children will be killed. We must accept a certain number of deaths as a consequence of allowing these animals. Where's the debate??
Personally, I believe that there should be restrictions on all forms of animal ownership. Today only one group, the herptiles, have any sort of restrictions on them, whereas the other groups, birds, fish, rodents, cats and of course dogs, which arguably do more damage to humans than any other species we associate closely with, are basically a free for all. IMO this is wrong. No one should be allowed to just keep whatever pets they choose unless they can prove that they can and will care for the animal acceptably. There are any number of dog owners in this country who should never have been allowed to even puppysit for a weekend. Where's the debate??
In closing, a few word from Are Hogner, owner and director of the one zoo we have here in the capital, Oslo Reptile Park, also quoted in the article. It's now no longer a question of whether it will be made legal, but about when it will become legal.
Indeed. And long overdue it is.
*This organization is of course, like their comrades at home and abroad, a group of extremists and borderline terrorists, although to my knowledge they have never been convicted of any criminal activity.
**I have left part of this quote out because it is non-essential and I suspect that the information in it is a lie.
7 minutes ago