William “Bill” Valliere, who co-founded the The Endangered Animal Sanctuary on Millwood Rd., died aged 73 on Feb. 15 in Grafton, near Cobourg, where the sanctuary had moved.
Lorna Krawchuk, at the time an East York councillor, recalls some of the Leaside history.
I remember going to the Endangered Animal Sanctuary on Millwood Rd. one sunny summer afternoon, probably around 1990.
Bill Valliere led me to the basement to see his larger caged animals.
I walked carefully along the aisle between the cages, only to be really surprised to be hit on the shoulder quite forcefully by one huge paw.
I wasn’t hurt, but got quite a bruise. Lucky for me, the tiger didn’t have claws.
There were other days when I would see Bill out in Trace Manes Park, playing with a young tiger.
Certainly not a usual urban sight.
Immediate neighbours would get understandably perturbed when they’d hear that one of Bill’s huge snakes was loose, and be very glad to hear when it made its way home again.
As Bill’s business grew, he tried to relocate to larger premises.
One of his plans was to move into the Leaside Business Park area.
The Borough of East York turned down that request, because as well as housing the animals, Bill offered tours of his sanctuary to various children’s groups and that sort of visiting wasn’t compatible with the heavy industry of the time.
The Borough of East York was also working at encouraging Bill to leave East York completely.
A bylaw was enacted, with a huge list of prohibited animals on it, and once it was in place, Bill’s business would be in contravention of that bylaw.
In the end, we all won.
Bill found a municipality that didn’t have an exotic animal prohibition bylaw, and moved there, before the borough started enforcing its new bylaw.