Exotic animal laws focus of new task force review

The Department of Natural Resources has struck a six-person task force that will review the province’s exotic animal laws and regulations in light of the death of two young brothers in Campbellton last year.

Magnetic Hill Zoo's Bruce Dougan will lead the 6-person task force

The Department of Natural Resources has struck a six-person task force that will review the province’s exotic animal laws and regulations in light of the death of two young brothers in Campbellton last year.

Natural Resources Minister Paul Robichaud announced that Bruce Dougan, the manager of Moncton’s Magnetic Hill Zoo, would lead the special committee on Wednesday.

Robichaud said in a statement the provincial government was waiting for the RCMP to turn the investigation file over to the Crown prosecutor before making the announcement, which happened on Tuesday.

"Our government thought it was crucial to advise the public that we are looking at our current regulations to strengthen them and to identify a task force that will help to ensure that this does not happen again,” Robichaud said in a statement.

Public Safety Minister Bruce Northrup said last December that there would be tougher rules governing exotic pets in the province.

Connor Barthe, 6, and Noah, 4, were killed last August after an African rock python escaped from its cage in a pet store located in a building where the boys were sleeping.

Reptile Ocean was an unlicensed zoo and pet store, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Jean-Claude Savoie, the owner of Reptile Ocean pet store, has not been charged in relation to their deaths but was a subject of a criminal investigation. 

The Legislative Assembly passed a unanimous motion last year calling for a committee to examine the province’s exotic animal rules following the deaths.

Dougan will be joined by three bureaucrats and two other outside experts on the task force. The other members are:

  • Hilary Howes, the New Brunswick SPCA’s executive director
  • Nelson Poirier, a retired veterinarian from Moncton
  • Mike Sullivan, the director of the Department of Natural Resource’s fish and wildlife division
  • Ken Bryenton, a Department of Environment and Local Government policy advisor
  • Mike Johnston, the executive director of Inspection and Enforcement with the Department of Public Safety

The task force will be responsible for reviewing laws that govern exotic animals and recommend whether any amendments are needed “to oversee captive exotic animals within the province.”

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