Federal government to look at exotic pet store rules, Harper says

MIRAMICHI, N.B. – The federal government will review whether it needs to play a role in how exotic pet stores are regulated following the deaths of two boys who were killed by a snake in northern New Brunswick, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday.

Harper made his comments in Miramichi, N.B., just as zoo staff seized 23 reptiles and euthanized four alligators that belonged to Reptile Ocean in Campbellton, N.B.

An African rock python killed two young brothers in an apartment above the pet store earlier this week.

Harper said such a tragedy should never happen.

“We’re going to look at all that has happened here to get all of the facts,” he said.

“My understanding is that these types of establishments are regulated mainly by provincial governments. But at our level as well, we will try to ascertain exactly what has occurred and if there is a federal role, what needs to be done about that.”

Environment Canada said that 11 years ago, it delivered the python to the store at the centre of the tragedy. That happened even though the species was banned in the province without a special permit.

Environment Canada spokesman Mark Johnson said in an email that the federal department was enlisted to help transport the snake to Reptile Ocean after it was abandoned at the SPCA in Moncton, N.B. He said department records indicate Reptile Ocean was operating as a zoo when the snake arrived at the facility in August 2002.

New Brunswick’s Department of Natural Resources said only accredited zoos can apply for a permit to own a banned species, including the African rock python in question.

But Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums said it is the only recognized national body to accredit zoos in the country and it has no record of Reptile Ocean ever applying for accreditation.

The Natural Resources Department declined to say whether Reptile Ocean was issued a permit for the python. But it has said it was unaware the 45-kilogram snake even existed until four-year-old Noah Barthe and his six-year-old brother Connor were asphyxiated this week by the reptile.

No one from the department was made available for a phone interview.

Spokeswoman Anne Bull declined to say in an email whether Reptile Ocean was ever considered a zoo, citing the ongoing police investigation and privacy concerns. She was unable to say whether unaccredited zoos can legally operate in the province.