Pythons, wolves used in animal therapy at north Whitby not-for-profit will now be re-homed

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Published January 9, 2024 at 12:48 pm

Nova's Ark, Brooklin

Residents near a north Whitby not-for-profit that uses therapy animals in programs for people with special needs are now safe from attack by pythons and bobcats after Nova’s Ark withdrew its request for an exemption from the Town’s Prohibited and Regulated Animals Bylaw.

Nova’s Ark is a registered charity based in Brooklin that provides programs for people of all abilities, including animal-assisted therapy, with 355 animals on site, 74 of which violate the bylaw, including wolves, pythons, a lynx, serval and a bobcat.

The request for an exemption to Whitby’s prohibited animals bylaw drew public delegations by the dozens to a Committee of the Whole Committee of the Whole  meeting last month, with “high volume of registered delegates” delaying the scheduled vote on the issue to January 29.

Nova’s Ark said the prohibited animals will now be rehomed to safe, appropriate facilities “as soon as possible.”

The majority of animals on site, such as horses, donkeys, ponies, ferrets, pigs, and alpacas are permitted under the bylaw and will remain at Nova’s Ark.

Nova’s Ark has been providing programs for people of all ages and abilities who require a unique and personalized learning environment since 2005. The organization, founded by Mary-Ann and Geoff Nova, use many of their 374 animals (as of May), in animal-assisted therapy – including several of the creatures prohibited under the bylaw.

Whitby Mayor Elizabeth Roy said staff had consulted with industry professionals – the World Animal Protection Agency declared the prohibited animals pose a “risk of serious harm” to patrons – as well as the public before issuing the order.

The bylaw exemption request stemmed from a public complaint in 2021.

“I want to thank the team at Nova’s Ark for their cooperation on this matter and their ongoing commitment to providing therapy and programming that meets the individual needs of so many people in our community.”

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