Why is City of London considering settlement with Reptilia?

Another court postponement to May 24th as City and Reptilia not yet agreed on terms of “offer to settle” in City-initiated legal action

After waiting more than 9 months for the March 18, 2024 trial date in the City of London vs. Reptilia case, the court appearance lasted less than 5 minutes after City lawyers asked for an adjournment and said there was an “offer to settle” between the two parties. No details were provided.

The “offer” was then discussed in a subsequent closed door session of London City Council with no information about the “offer” being made public and no official announcement about how Council voted or what they voted for. While we believe London City Council probably voted in favour of approving the “offer to settle” and that it involves dismissal of the City’s lawsuit, there has still been no official verification from the City.

The intent of the City’s legal action against Reptilia was to seek a declaration that the City’s own Animal Control By-law PH-3 applies to Reptilia (who has claimed it is exempt from the by-law because it holds a provincial license to keep a small number of native reptiles) and, if so, an order requiring that Reptilia comply with the by-law (presumably by removing the prohibited and restricted animals they brought in, despite not having permission to do so).

The fact that the City of London initiated legal action against Reptilia and that City Councils in 2018, 2022 & 2023 said no to changing city by-laws to accommodate Reptilia makes it remarkable that any kind of “offer to settle” could even be on the table.

To date, we are not aware of Reptilia even submitting legal arguments to the court or to the city, so we are left wondering why the city would be considering an “offer to settle.”

Undoing 25 years of effort?

If Council, for some reason, pursues dismissal of the legal action, we believe it would effectively turn back the clock and undo more than 25 years of effort by residents, animal welfare groups and previous London City Councils who worked to make London free of commercial zoos and animal attractions.

London’s Animal Control By-law PH-3 was developed to protect public safety, animal welfare and for other reasons. It is there for a purpose. No business of any kind should be allowed to come to town and ignore local by-laws. If they are, then why have those by-laws in the first place?

And what’s to stop other roadside zoo and animal attraction businesses (and other kinds of businesses) from seeking the same access to the City. London would be hard-pressed to say no to them and, if they did, they’d likely be back in court litigating against someone else on the same issue.

The “offer to settle” was the topic of the court hearing on Friday April 26th but, just like on March 18th, it lasted only a few minutes. In fact, Reptilia didn’t even have their lawyer attend the teleconference. The City’s lawyer, who did attend, said they had not yet reached an agreement and the judge set a new date of May 24th.

So far, the entire discussion about the “offer to settle” has taken place behind closed doors. There have been no public statements made, no details provided and no public consultation, so no one knows what’s been discussed, what arguments and facts are being considered, why the public is being kept in the dark, what the City will do next, or anything else. And the key question about the applicability of London’s by-law to Reptilia will be left unanswered as well, for another exotic animal business operator trying to get into London to exploit.

The City of London can still refuse to approve the “offer to settle,” but whether they do or don’t is up to the residents of London and others who care. We encourage anyone concerned about this to write to the Mayor and following City councilors urging them to follow through with their legal action: 

mayor@london.ca; hmcalister@london.ca; slewis@london.ca; strosow@london.ca; slehman@london.ca; ahopkins@london.ca; sfranke@london.ca; epeloza@london.ca; dferreira@london.ca

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