Let critters crawl at campgrounds


Rhode Island is tackling a case of pet prejudice.

Sure, cats and dogs are more common than birds, rodents and reptiles, but does that mean they’re better? Of course it doesn’t.

So why is it that under current state law, only cats and dogs are allowed in state-run campgrounds? Two cats, two dogs, or one of each: those are the only options campers have.

But what if you have a parakeet? Or a hermit crab?

Well, if you bring them in your RV to a state campground, you’re breaking the law, and could get asked to leave the premises.

That’s what happened to Tom Wharton, the owner of an 18-year-old cockatoo named Tootsie. Wharton has been camping with his bird since she was a chick, and said he never had complaints before. But last summer, someone squawked and got Wharton kicked out of the campground.

But Rep. Joe Trillo is coming to the rescue of these less fortunate companion pets. He’s introduced a bill that would allow any pet that weighs 35 pounds or less to accompany their owner to a campground.

The bill has proponents who say it’s a logical and reasonable law to enact, but there are those who fear the worst.

What if someone brings a snake and it gets loose? What if someone owns a rooster that “Cock-a-doodle-doos” at the crack of dawn?

These things aren’t impossible, but they are improbable.

And to boot, these poor reptiles and roosters are always getting a bad rap.

There was legislation introduced by Sen. John Tassoni that would outlaw large reptiles like boas and pythons, which got backing from the RISPCA. And Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson drafted legislation that would permit ownership of chickens on five acres of land, but not roosters. Why? Uncontrollable population expansion and, of course, that pesky “Cock-a-doodle-doo-ing.”

But forget about the roosters and reptiles. When you look at the law currently on the books, the animals that are allowed at campgrounds now are just as troublesome as those that aren’t. Dogs can bite and cats can scratch. Dogs bark. Cats can get loose. There are problems, but we hope they don’t happen, and most of the time, they don’t.

What it boils down to really is not so much what type of animal it is, but who owns it. Can the human be responsible for their pet?

As long as the owner of the pet is competent and respectful of their neighbors, campers can peacefully co-exist with the tarantula, chinchilla or micro-pig that’s living next door.


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