A Canberra pet store has been fined $1250 for illegally selling a protected native animal, sparking a government appeal to pet stores to review legislation on the sale of reptiles.
Territory and Municipal Services compliance officers were tipped off the unnamed franchise pet store was selling central bearded dragons, which cannot be legally sold in the ACT.
"The pet store in question imported the lizards from interstate where they are legal to sell, through another store in their franchise," Michael Brice, of TAMS licensing and compliance said.
"The central bearded dragons were seized and the store was issued with an infringement notice for illegally selling a protected native animal and cautioned for importing them into the ACT and keeping them without a licence."
Under ACT law, only the eastern bearded dragon may be sold through pet stores, which are not allowed to sell any reptiles that require a licence to keep.
A review into ACT government rules on reptiles is being conducted by the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, with amendments to the Nature Conservation Act reptile licensing requirements possible.
A TAMS spokeswoman said that no data about the total number of reptile licences in the ACT was available.
Licence holders in the ACT must be able to prove animals have come from a legal source and are not taken from the wild.
Peter Child sells more than 1000 reptiles per year as the owner of Canberra's specialist store Reptiles Inc - which was not the store fined by TAMS - and said local legislation was simple, but could sound confusing.
"In the ACT, a pet store cannot commercially trade with a licensed animal. The only reason why you see bearded dragons, blue tongues and turtles in pet shops is because there is a group of five reptiles which are exempt in the ACT, meaning you don't require a licence," he said.
"Where it gets confusing is that if you're not a reptile keeper … a [pet] shop owner might be unaware that there are five different species of bearded dragons, and that there are seven different species of blue tongues, so they might sell the wrong animal because they can't identify it properly or they're unaware there's even a difference."
While the central bearded dragon is a common and popular pet throughout the world, the local eastern bearded dragon can be harder to source at certain times of the year, and is not as brightly coloured as its relation.
Adding to the confusion is the differing legislation across the border in NSW.
"[In NSW] all reptiles require a licence so they have no exempt species at all, but the application process in NSW is a lot simpler … you can actually register online and get your licence online,'' Mr Child said.
"When you want to own a licensed reptile in the ACT, you have to prove that you know what you're doing, you have to have prior experience with one of the exempt animals and you have to show them a care sheet on how you intend to care for the animal."
Mr Child, who has decades of experience with reptiles, is about to open a store in Queanbeyan where he will be able to sell a greater range of animals.
"People from the ACT can buy animals from NSW and people in NSW can buy animals in the ACT, but … you have to get an import-export permit [to take it interstate]," he explained.