Liberals push for exotic animal review after python deaths

New Brunswick's Official opposition has tabled a motion calling for a review of the province's exotic wildlife rules nearly four months after two brothers were killed by an African rock python in Campbellton.

Connor Barthe, 6, and his brother Noah, 4, were killed by an African rock python in August

An Opposition MLA has introduced a motion in the legislature asking for a review of the province's exotic wildlife rules.

Dalhousie-Restigouche East Liberal Donald Arsenault says it has been nearly four months since two young brothers were killed in Campbellton by an African rock python.

Arsenault says it's time for government to clear up questions raised by the tragedy.

"It was very clear that there was a lack of clarity into the role of what each department should do," he said.

"As legislators, [we need to know] if there's anything we can do to lessen the confusion with the legislation and put stricter regulations and enforcement in place for the future."

Noah Barthe, 4, and his brother Connor, 6, were sleeping in an apartment above Reptile Ocean on Aug. 5 when officials believe the snake, which was 4.3 metres long and weighed about 45 kilograms, escaped its enclosure and asphyxiated them.

African rock pythons are not permitted in New Brunswick, the provincial Department of Natural Resources has said. The only exceptions granted would be for accredited zoos, not for someone to keep an illegal exotic animal as a pet, officials said.

Reptile Ocean is an unlicensed zoo and pet store, according to officials.

Premier David Alward promised a review shortly after the boys' deaths. He said the government would look at whether it needs to change its policies or regulations.

Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) has also been pushing for a review.

"There's a real opportunity for them to do something that matters not only in New Brunswick, but right across the country," said CAZA executive director Massimo Bergamini.

New Brunswick could become an example for other provinces to follow, he said.

CAZA gained support for a review from mayors at the Atlantic Mayors Congress last month. But municipalities don't have the ability to demand or enforce national standards for zoos, said Bergamini.

"It's up to the provinces — in New Brunswick and the other Atlantic provinces — the provincial governments to take a hold of this, look at what they have in their books and modernize the rules that are there now," he said.

A spokesperson for the the minister of Natural Resources says the minister can't speak about the motion because the RCMP is still investigating the death of the Barthe brothers.

Arsenault, however, contends the motion has nothing to do with the tragedy itself. "Although there's not doubt that because of the tragedy, we want to make some changes here," he added.

Arsenault hopes to see a report before the end of the legislative session.


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