VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The lawyer of a Mission man also known as “The Reptile Guy” is speaking out after his client was slapped with charges of animal cruelty and violating the Veterinarians Act earlier this month.
Michael Hopcraft was investigated by the BC SPCA after a video came to light, showing him performing a procedure on a python.
“This blood python hadn’t defecated in some six months,” the man’s attorney Jason Tarnow explains. “So the python came in, Mike knew exactly what the issue was with the python and he basically gave it an enema, with the plunger of a syringe, with some mineral oil, and he gave this snake an enema and it was successful.”
He says the snake was relieved of its symptoms — literally — and claims it was not in any distress.
“The snake’s happy and healthy today and it was a fantastic story,” Tarnow adds. “Regardless, the SPCA is of the view that the procedure constituted a medical act as defined under the Veterinary Act of British Columbia and he’s charged. And they also felt the snake was in distress, but in my view the video is there for everybody to see.”
The snake showed no aggression, Tarnow says.
Hopcraft does not have a vet license, and the SPCA says he was performing the procedure without any sedative or pain medication.
Tarnow says his client was actually taught how to perform the “enema” by a veterinarian.
“And that veterinarian seems to be the one who’s liaising with the Crown about this particular case,” he continues. “Mr. Hopcraft had a dispute with this particular veterinarian to my understanding some years ago, and there appears to be a conflict here with this veterinarian, who I won’t name right now.”
When asked whether the Reptile Guy was actually allowed to be performing this type of procedure, Tarnow says a number of veterinarians have come to support Hopcraft.
Tarnow claims the vets are “of the view that what he did was perfectly sound, didn’t constitute… I guess the definition is medical care or a medical act.”
He points out people can go to a store and buy an enema kit themselves, and that it’s not something a doctor would perform.
“The veterinarians that I spoke to… in practice, in their clinic, if an animal needs to have such a procedure done whether it be a snake, or a dog, or whatever, it’s very rare that the veterinarians themselves would perform this, what is an enema. They hand it off to their technicians, their assistants.”
Hopcraft and Tarnow both disagree with the allegations, the latter claiming the SPCA is just trying to damage Hopcraft’s reputation. “And put him out of business.”
This isn’t the first time the SPCA has been called on Hopcraft. Tarnow says they pair have a history.
In 2015, the SCPA says dozens of reptiles were found in distress under Hopcraft’s care. They seized them, but Tarnow adds no charges were ever laid.
“Nevertheless, he cooperated with them and carried on with his business. The problem was, back then, despite there being no charges the SPCA of course put it out there in the public, that they’ve seized the animals.
“Of course, in this province, any allegations or insituations of animal cruelty are difficult and taken so seriously in the public, and rightfully so. But the public doesn’t know that there’s never charges in that particular case, and regardless he suffered from it.”
Tarnow calls the charges “a stretch”.
“Mr. Hopcraft runs his business, Wild Education, he’s known as a reptile guy,” he says, adding his client does a lot of educational work within the community. “It was obviously distressing to my client. This is his business. He’s been doing it for some 18 years and he’s got a fantastic reputation in the community but for his problems with the SPCA, who really don’t seem to like him very much.”
According to Tarnow, Hopcraft’s business has seen cancellations because of the allegations, and claims the SPCA is slandering his client in the media.