Manitoba man kept pythons, alligator in home

The owner of a Manitoba reptile zoo says governments shouldn't jump to ban large pythons after the deaths of two boy believed to have been killed by a python.

Dave Shelvey worries pythons will be unfairly banned after alleged attack on boys

Exnotic animals like pythons and even an alligator were kept by Dave Shelvey in his home prior to building a reptile zoo. (CBC)

The owner of a Manitoba reptile zoo says governments shouldn't jump to ban large pythons after the deaths of two boy believed to have been killed by a python.

Dave Shelvey has as many as 700 snakes, including three African rock pythons, in his Westman Reptile Gardens, located near Shilo, Man. zoo.

He said he's never been afraid to have large snakes and exotic animals around his children — and kept large snakes and even an alligator in his home prior to building his zoo.

"I never, never for a second, was worried about that kind of stuff. They [kids] used to help me clean cages and do all kinds of stuff like that," he said, adding that in North America more people are killed or hurt by dogs.

Selinger seeks ban

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger says he wants to make the African rock python a banned animal in the province.

In Manitoba, it's up to individual municipalities to regulate exotic animals such as the African rock python.

While there is a ban on large snakes in Winnipeg, that isn’t necessarily the law everywhere else in the province. Selinger has asked the provincial veterinarian to consult with municipalities about possible changes.

The veterinarian will be asked "to come back with recommendations by the end of August on what could be done to ensure that the kind of tragedy that occurred in Eastern Canada does not occur here in Manitoba with large snakes like pythons," Selinger said Wednesday.

The province does have regulations under the Wildlife Act to address the housing of dangerous, non-domestic animals.

The chief veterinarian will look at expanding those regulations to ensure children are protected, Selinger said.

Shelvey said his children, now in their late teens, grew up respecting what snakes and reptiles can do.

He calls the deaths of the two New Brunswick boys this week as tragic, but unique.

"It's a terrible thing to have happen but I know whenever something like this happens you get all these people on the bandwagon saying, 'Holy crap, we've got to start banning this stuff.' And that's not entirely fair, either," Shelvey said.

Noah Barthe, 5, and Connor Barthe, 7, were killed by the large African rock python while visiting an apartment upstairs from Reptile Ocean in Campbellton, N.B., on Monday morning, RCMP say.

African rock pythons are not permitted under that province's Exotic Wildlife Regulation. A criminal investigation has been launched.

The last attack on a human by an African rock python was in 2002, when it killed and swallowed a 10-year-old boy in Durban, South Africa. Three years earlier, a smaller rock python killed a three-year-old boy after escaping its enclosure in Centralia, Ill.

The species is the largest in Africa, sometimes growing as long as six metres.

RCMP said the Campbellton python measured between 3.5 and 4.5 metres, and weighed approximately 45 kg. Officials have euthanized the snake.