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D.C. allows school to keep classroom pets

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Photo - The D.C. Department of Health told an elementary school that it must remove its pet lizards, frogs and other creatures. (Getty Images)
The D.C. Department of Health told an elementary school that it must remove its pet lizards, frogs and other creatures. (Getty Images)
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

An elementary school in Northeast Washington will be able to keep 37 classroom pets that health regulators tried to expel from the campus, after the D.C. Council signed off on emergency legislation Wednesday that clarifies the status of the animals under the law.

"The school will be reassured that [for] classroom animals, whether it be a guinea pig or a rabbit or even a snake, the city isn't going to show up and confiscate them and take them somewhere across the District border to dispose of them," Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells, the measure's author, told The Washington Examiner.

The Examiner first reported earlier this week that the D.C. Department of Health had ordered Miner Elementary School to remove eight species -- including frogs, tadpoles and chameleons -- from its classrooms immediately because they weren't in compliance with a city law placing limits on animal possession.

The agency warned the public school in the Kingman Park neighborhood that it would search the campus for illegal animals and cautioned, "Any animals that are prohibited in the District of Columbia will be seized."

The episode set off a tug-of-war between the health department and DC Public Schools, which vowed not to eject the animals because they were "integral to the indoor and outdoor learning environments at Miner."

The incident mystified Wells, who quickly pushed legislation to clarify city law and allow the animals to stay.

"I'm surprised there was any confusion," Wells said. "It was pretty silly all around."

Wells' proposal, which Mayor Vincent Gray is expected to sign, cleared the council on an 11-1 vote, with only at-large Councilman Vincent Orange dissenting.

After the vote, Orange said he didn't want to act without complete information.

"I wanted to have a better statement from the health department on their position," Orange said. "This is the first I heard about it. I didn't think [other lawmakers] had a well-presented presentation to say why we're doing this."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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