Pittsburgh ordinance would regulate reptile ownership
Reptile owners in Pittsburgh would have to register their alligators and snakes with the city under legislation City Council proposed on Monday.
The bill introduced by Councilwoman Darlene Harris, an avowed animal lover from Spring Hill, would also require owners to keep reptiles in secure cages and rooms and post notices to let people know the animals are inside.
A first offense could result in a fine of $300 for each creature. Repeat violators could be assessed a fine of $1,000 per reptile, according to the legislation.
Harris said she began working on the bill before alligators started showing up around the city this year, but those events confirmed regulations are needed.
“It’s a safety issue,” she said. “If say fire, paramedics or police have to get into a place, and something happens where they get out, and they’re either in the house or a neighborhood, someone could be killed.”
At least four alligators — ranging in size from 2.5 feet to 5 feet long — were captured between May and October along the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers and streets in Beechview and Carrick. As of October, at least seven gators had been dropped off at Humane Animal Rescue’s East End location.
“We encouraged the need for this type of legislation here in the city,” said Dan Rossi, Humane Animal Rescue’s CEO. “The biggest reason is these aren’t animals that should be held in people’s homes or unnatural captivity. You can buy these guys at reptile shows for around $110, and they’re a foot, foot and a half long, but eventually they’re going to get bigger, and bigger, and bigger. People don’t have the housing for these animals.”
Rossi said the problem is twofold: The animals are treated inhumanely and it’s dangerous for humans when they are released or escape.
“We’ve been very lucky so far that nobody has been hurt, but as they proliferate and get out there, at some point somebody’s cat or dog, or a person, is going to be hurt by these animals,” he said. “We’re looking at what is humane for an animal and safe for the city of Pittsburgh.”
Under the legislation, owners would have to provide the city’s Animal Care and Control Department with a list of each reptile they own. They must keep the animals in escape-proof containers and rooms.
Owners would have to post notice on each container that a reptile is inside. Entrances to rooms and buildings housing the animals must also be posted with notice that they contain regulated reptiles.
The legislation requires reptile owners and exhibitors to transport them in escape-proof containers. Exhibitors must notify the city at least 48 hours in advance of an event.
Harris, whose term ends in December, said she wants to ensure that animal officers are property trained and equipped to deal with exotic animals.
“Whether it’s research, whether it’s a hospital, whether it’s a home or business, they need to keep tabs on these animals and secure them from getting out anywhere in the city of Pittsburgh,” Harris said.
Council is expected to schedule discussion and a preliminary vote for Dec. 4. Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto, said the mayor only received the bill Monday and would review it before deciding if he will support it.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-564-3080, [email protected] or via Twitter .