Animals to be removed from pet shop beneath apartment where python killed boys

CAMPBELLTON, N.B. – Wildlife crews were preparing Thursday to remove more than a dozen animals from an exotic pet store in Campbellton, N.B., days after two boys were asphyxiated by an African rock python in an apartment upstairs.

Bruce Dougan, the manager of the Magnetic Hill Zoo in Moncton, N.B., said he has been enlisted to help identify and remove 16 animals that the shop didn’t have permits for.

Dougan, who went in and out of Reptile Ocean on Thursday, said there are four large American alligators, six crocodiles, some tortoises, turtles and snakes in the shop.

“There are quite a few animals here,” Dougan said.

He said the tortoises will be going to his zoo, while the rest of the animals seized will be taken to the Indian River Reptile Zoo in Ontario. A U-Haul truck from Ontario later arrived at the scene.

New Brunswick’s Natural Resources Department has obtained a warrant to search the store and said if any illegal animals are found, they would be seized and relocated to accredited zoos. The building has been cordoned off with police tape since four-year-old Noah Barthe and his six-year-old brother Connor were found dead Monday morning in an apartment above the store.

The apartment and store are owned by Jean-Claude Savoie, a family friend of the boys who took them shopping and to a farm before hosting a sleepover Sunday along with his son. Savoie could not be reached for comment.

Citing preliminary results of autopsies on the boys, police say the children were asphyxiated by a 45-kilogram African rock python that escaped its glass tank inside the home. The RCMP say the snake slithered through a ventilation system but fell through a ceiling and into the living room where the boys slept.

Since 1992, the African rock python has been banned in New Brunswick unless a permit is obtained. Only accredited zoos can obtain such a permit, said Anne Bull, a spokeswoman for the province’s Natural Resources Department.

Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, the only nationally-recognized body in the country that grants accreditation for zoos, said Reptile Ocean was never accredited nor requested accreditation.

The Natural Resources Department said it was not aware that the African rock python was being kept in the apartment prior to the deaths of the boys.

A funeral service for the boys is scheduled for Saturday.