The coroner who presided over a snake death inquest in Ontario two decades ago says nothing was learned from that tragedy.
Dr. David Evans says the inquest called for changes to municipal, provincial and federal rules regarding exotic pets, but none of the jury's five recommendations was implemented, including the suggestion for an exotic pet registry.
"After the event and the inquest, the local municipality was planning to change their bylaw and they were lobbied so intensively," he said. "It never happened."
Evans made the comments after the recent deaths of two boys in Campbellton, N.B.
Noah Barthe, 4, and his brother, Connor, 6, were killed by an African rock python in an apartment above the exotic pet store, Reptile Ocean. Preliminary autopsy results show they died from asphyxiation, RCMP have said.
It's believed the animal escaped through the top of a glass enclosure and into a ventilation system. The python, which was 4.3 metres long and weighed about 45 kilograms, fell through the ceiling and into the room where the two boys were sleeping.
African rock pythons are illegal under the province's exotic wildlife regulations. A criminal investigation is ongoing.
Evans is urging the provincial government to look at the case very carefully.
No decision on inquest
In 1992, Mark Neville, 28, was asphyxiated by a pet python he kept in his home in Brampton, Ont.
The investigation concluded that Neville had been at his friend's house where there was a pet cat who was shedding. The theory was that when he then put his hand in the cage the snake smelled food and went after Neville.
The case prompted the banning of all pythons and boa constrictors in Brampton, but it didn't lead to a dangerous pet registry, which Evans said would at the very least help emergency personnel.
"Fire, police, paramedics would have, at present, no indication if any exotic animals are kept in any residence when they attend. So it was felt that they should at least be aware that some exotic animals are present," he said.
"Maybe we should look at having another inquest to reinforce to the public and to the parties [what] the recommendations were aimed at," said Evans. "Maybe you should really look at this."
The coroner's office in New Brunswick has said there will be no decision on whether to have an inquest until after legal proceedings are complete.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he'll look into what, if any role the federal government has to play in such matters.
27 illegal animals
New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources officials have said Reptile Ocean did not have a permit to have the African rock python, which is a banned snake in the province.
The department also had no knowledge of the existence of the python prior to this week’s tragedy, officials said.
It was Environment Canada officials who helped the Moncton SPCA move the python to Campbellton after it was discovered on the shelter's doorstep in 2002.
Last week, conservation officers and zoo officials removed 27 illegal animals from Reptile Ocean. Four of them — large American alligators — had to be euthanized on site because no zoos were able to accommodate them, officials said.
The Brampton coroner jury's recommendations included:
- The federal government should prohibit the importation of exotic or harmful animals for sale to the public for their personal possession.
- Legislation at the provincial level should be passed to regulate licensing and accommodating exotic and harmful animals.
- Local authorities should be able to assess the conditions in which exotic animals presently exist by a visual inspection of the premises and have authority to remove them if unsuitable.
- The public should be encouraged to register existing exotic animals in return for information on proper care, handling and habitat.
- A penalty or fine should be established for people who keep exotic animals unregistered and unlicensed.