Exotic animal management report makes 29 recommendations

The New Brunswick government is being urged to toughen up exotic animal management rules, according to a new report.

Tougher laws were promised after Barthe brothers were killed by escaped python in Campbellton in 2013

A report has been tabled on how exotic species should be managed in this province. The report by the exotic animals task force lists 29 recommendations, including better coordination by government agencies and a comprehensive record of dangerous species in zoos, pet shops and private collections. 4:51

New Brunswick's exotic animal task force is calling on the provincial government to toughen up exotic animal management rules, in a new report, released on Tuesday.

Liberal cabinet minister Donald Arseneault speaks at the release of the exotic animal task force report in Moncton on Tuesday. (Kate Letterick/CBC)
The task force, which was struck after two young brothers from Campbellton were killed by an African rock python nearly two years ago, has made 29 recommendations.

Among them: a comprehensive accounting of exotic species at retail outlets, public displays, and farming operations across the province, as well as better education about what is legal to own.

Other themes include:

  • Interagency co-ordination
  • Inspection and enforcement framework
  • Documentation of policies and procedures
  • Legislation

The existing system for the management of exotic animals in the province is basically sound, according to the report, which was dedicated to the memory of Connor Barthe, 6, and his brother Noah Barthe, 4.

"Despite this, significant gaps exist in how the system in New Brunswick is implemented," the report states.

Natural Resources Minister Denis Landry was quick to accept all 29 recommendations of the report, which was presented in Moncton by Energy and Mines Minister Donald Arseneault and task force chair Bruce Dougan.

Connor Barthe, 6, and his brother Noah, 4, were killed in August 2013 after an African rock python escaped from its cage while they slept.
Landry says the first step will be striking a committee to help the government ensure the recommendations are implemented as soon as possible.

"We're going to give the proper time to this new committee to give us the proper recommendations," he said.

"It's nice to put regulations and laws in place and if you don't have the people in place to make those regulations or those laws to be followed, what's the worth to put them in place?"

The former Progressive Conservative government promised tougher exotic animal laws following the deaths of the Barthe brothers in August 2013.

The boys were asphyxiated when an African rock python escaped from its enclosure in an apartment above the Reptile Ocean pet store, where they were sleeping.

Officials with the Department of Natural Resources have said Reptile Ocean was an unlicensed zoo and pet store.

The six-member exotic animal task force was struck last July and its recommendations were expected in March.

Could set a national standard

Campbellton Mayor Bruce MacIntosh says the new regulations could set a standard that will benefit the entire country.

"It's a very unfortunate, horrific, happening that no one ever expected and these things do happen and hopefully they don't happen to other communities and I know in speaking with people in municipalities in Quebec and Ontario, they're very interested in this report also."

Campbellton Deputy Mayor Ian Comeau says he's cautiously optimistic about the report, but it remains to be seen how each of the recommendations will be implemented.

Council will be meeting to discuss the report and its possible implications, he said.

He says the community continues to mourn the Barthe brothers, but the report gives them hope the boys' deaths have not been in vain.

Comeau says he sees the grandmother of the Barthe brothers regularly and often passes the father of Jean-Claude Savoie — the owner of the python and former owner of Reptile Ocean, which is now boarded up.

Savoie, 38, was charged in April with criminal negligence causing death.

The pending legal proceedings will be difficult on the families and the city, said Comeau.

"They know that there is something coming and that it will be painful, especially when those pictures will come out in the fall during the preliminary inquiry," he said.

Savoie's judge and jury trial is scheduled for Nov. 24 to 27 in Campbellton provincial court.

A conviction of criminal negligence causing death carries a maximum life sentence.

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