Ontario will review laws governing exotic pets owned within the province.

Currently, the responsibility for dealing with exotic animals falls to individual municipalities, which each have their own bylaws and enforcement.

Tuesday, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and Ministry Natural Resources announced they would form a working group "to examine the current structure and whether any changes need to be made."

Last week, a 45-kilogram African rock python, which had escaped from its glass enclosure in an apartment above Reptile Ocean in Campbellton, N.B., killed Noah Barthe, 4, and his six-year-old brother, Connor in their sleep.

"The recent events in New Brunswick have touched many Ontario families who need to know that the rules are in place to help avoid such tragedies in our own province," the trio of Ontario ministries said in a joint statement issued Tuesday morning.

The Ontario government will seek input from what it called key stakeholders, including municipalities, and report back this fall with options for moving forward.

"The safety and well-being of all Ontarians is of greatest importance," the joint statement said.

Across Canada, regulations governing exotic pets vary widely, and animal welfare groups have long argued for stronger regulations.

"It's a bit of a mess," Rob Laidlaw, the executive director of Zoocheck Canada, told CBC News last week. "There's a lot of exotics that come in, many of them the regular pet trade stock, that are for all intents and purposes completely unregulated."

Current Ontario laws are largely designed to protect for native species and prohibit their ownership.

Current bylaws unknown

Chad Drouillard owns Chad’s Exotics in LaSalle, Ont., just west of Windsor and has been in the pet industry for 30 years.

He estimates that 90 per cent of people looking for an exotic pet don't know their municipality's exotic pet bylaws.

"A lot of people have questions. I always tell them to go back to their municipality and never take my word on it," Drouillard said.

He called a provincial law "a good thing, as long as they don't go too crazy."

"There’s ways to go about this without penalizing people," he said.

Drouillard said he could accept a complete ban on snakes longer than 2.5 metres (eight feet) and any venomous or poisonous animal.

That's what's happened in the Town of Essex, just southeast of Windsor. It was one of the most recent municipalities to ban exotic pets.

Prohibited animal species in that town now include animals that:

  • are venomous or poisonous and whose venom or poison is medically significant to humans or domestic animals;
  • pose a real or potentially hazardous threat to humans, domestic animals or farm animals;
  • pose a real or potentially hazardous threat to the local eco-system;
  • are cited in the Control List as published by the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment Canada;
  • are prohibited or controlled by federal or provincial legislation.

The bylaw also bans snakes that reach an adult length larger than three metres and all lizards which reach an adult length larger than two metres.

The bylaw, which passed in December 2012, will be grandfathered in.

Anyone in Essex who currently owns an exotic pet can continue to do so until it dies. But the owner must register the pet with the town for an annual fee of $25.