The New Brunswick government is promising tougher exotic animal laws after two boys were strangled to death by an African rock python, but how those new rules would be enforced remains unclear.
The governing Progressive Conservatives took a step toward strengthening regulations involving exotic wildlife this week, supporting a motion by the Opposition Liberals.
It calls for a government to do a complete review of New Brunswick's Fish and Wildlife Act and other legislation dealing with exotic animals and bring forward any recommended changes to laws or regulations.
The motion was approved in the legislature on Thursday, four months to the day after Noah Barthe, 4, and his brother Conner, 6, of Campbellton, were killed by an African rock python while at a sleepover at a friend's.
No charges have been laid.
"We are working to make sure that this doesn't happen to another family," said Campbellton-Restigouche Centre MLA Greg Davis in the legislature.
But the kind of snake that killed the boys was already illegal in New Brunswick unless kept in an accredited zoo. The deaths occurred in an apartment above Reptile Ocean, an unlicensed zoo and pet store, where its owner lived.
Public Safety Minister Bruce Northrup says the existing rules are difficult to enforce.
'It's hard to police all the houses here in New Brunswick because we really don't know what's going on behind closed doors.'- Public Safety Minister Bruce Northrup
"It's hard to police all the houses here in New Brunswick because we really don't know what's going on behind closed doors," he said.
Northrup could not say, however, how the new, tougher rules would make it any easier for authorities to know what's going on in all those houses.
"Well, that's what we're looking at now, and we've got all the stakeholders together looking at that situation, and many departments are working on it to come up with a good answer for that," he said.
The Liberals wanted the review completed before the legislature adjourns next spring.
"If there's something that we can leave behind for Noah and Conner is leave the politics aside and try and find the right compromise for us to move forward," said Donald Arsenault, the MLA for Dalhousie-Restigouche East, who introduced the motion for the Liberals.
But the government wants to wait until the RCMP and Department of Natural Resources investigations are completed.
"We will take seriously into consideration the recommendation, if there is any, by the RCMP and my department," said Minister of Natural Resources Paul Robichaud.
In the weeks following the deaths, Premier David Alward had promised a provincial review of exotic wildlife regulations.
National zoo group welcomes review
One of the groups to be consulted about the review is Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, which is pushing for national standards for exotic wildlife care and handling to be adopted.
Massimo Bergamini, the executive director of CAZA, met with Alward in Fredericton Thursday to provide his suggestions on how to improve the province's regulations.
"We believe that there needs to be public outreach as part of this so people understand what exotic animals are all about and better training for wildlife officers for front line people who are mandated to enforce the law," he said.
Bergamini said New Brunswick is setting the example for other provinces to follow.