On August 5, two New Brunswick boys, Noah and Connor Barthe were killed by a four-meter long, 45 kilograms weight African Rock Python in their sleep. The python was euthanized after the attack but a lot of unresolved questions about the death of the children remain. A criminal investigation was launched following the incident, while the tragic deaths lead to numerous questions over exotic animal laws again.
The two young boys were on a sleepover at their friends whose father is the owner of Reptile Ocean, an exotic pet store. It is already clear now that the illegal python was not kept safely in the store, rather it was in the attached apartment in an enclosure not far from the sleeping boys. According to the RCMP the snake escaped through the ventilation system and strangled the two boys while they were asleep.
Most reptile experts are baffled by the attack as these kind of snakes are known  to be more timid than ferocious. African Rock Pythons are said to be less aggressive than many other large snakes and they only attack when they are afraid or hungry. African Rock Pythons don’t kill for passion as a normal behavior. Also the main question is, should we expect a wild reptile to act naturally in an unnatural environment?

Across Canada, regulations governing exotic pets vary widely, for example Ontario controls only the keeping of native species on a provincial level and non-native species including exotic reptiles are controlled on a municipal level. According to the current laws it’s easier to keep an exotic animal, for example a giant snake or a tarantula as a pet than a raccoon. Also a person can keep a three meters long non-venomous snake in Guelph On. as a pet, while in near by Richmond Hill On. it is prohibited.
Many people, including the animal welfare groups are calling for stronger provincial and federal laws to limit or ban the import and sale of exotic species to let them live in peace in their natural environment. In their opinion exotic animals should only be kept in accredited zoos with very strict criteria in terms of the animals welfare and safety. Others, including those who already have an exotic animal at home are strongly against the ban, they say that the safety should be the owner’s responsibility.
While it is important to have a discussion about overseeing and maybe tightening the exotic animal ownership regulations it also would be important to follow and enforce the current regulations. According to the laws of New Brunswick that giant python shouldn’t have been there in the apartment with the boys as it is prohibited. Furthermore, there were another 27 banned species found in the Reptile Ocean pet store during the investigation.

It must be admitted that this is not a unique case as in the middle of August about forty pythons were found in a motel kept in very poor and unsafe conditions owned by a couple with five children, including a baby, as well as two abandoned ball pythons that were discovered In Hamilton,  within a week of each other.

Our heart goes out to Noah and Connor’s family for their loss and we clearly must make changes to insure that such tragedies never happen again.

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