NEWS

Python killing of 2 boys comes after pet-store petition filed

08/06/2013 08:48 EDT | Updated 10/06/2013 05:12 EDT
The City of Campbellton in New Brunswick will look into previous complaints about a local reptile store after two young brothers were killed in what RCMP believe was an attack by a python over the weekend, says the deputy mayor.

Ian Comeau, also chair of the city's public protective services, says he just learned about an online petition to shut down Reptile Ocean over the way its animals were being treated.

Comeau spoke a day after Noah Barthe, 5, and Connor Barthe, 7, were found dead on Monday morning.

RCMP believe the boys were killed by a large African rock python, which is believed to have escaped from Reptile Ocean and made its way through the ventilation system, into the upstairs apartment where the brothers were on a sleepover.

The petition, Shut Down Reptile Ocean, has 185 signatures from around the world.

"I know one thing, that petition never came to council. We never dealt with the complaints," said Comeau.

"So we will be checking that again this morning with our administrator and the clerk in regards to whether we had received complaints to that business."

Autopsies are scheduled to be performed on Tuesday.

A criminal investigation has been launched.

Community seeking answers

Comeau says the community, which has a population of about 7,500 and is on the shores of the Restigouche River, is reacting with shock and disbelief. Citizens want to know what happened, he said.

"You don't expect that to happen in a town like Campbellton or in any town in Canada, so it’s a real tragedy, it’s unbelievable," said Comeau.

"We are going to have to deal with the consequences now in regards to that business and what we will do."

Comeau says he was part of an inspection of Reptile Ocean two years ago when he was a volunteer firefighter.

"Everything seemed to be you know, legal, OK, legitimate and everything else. So something happened on that night for the snake to escape and we’ll certainly go and look at the reasons because the death of these two kids certainly can not go in vain."

He said he was surprised to learn there was an apartment above the pet store.

Reviewing bylaws

"That's something we will be looking at through our bylaws. The RCMP want them this morning in regards to the legality of that business."

Recent New Brunswick laws allow the sale of non-venomous snakes up to three metres long.

Laws regulating the types and sizes of snakes allowed as pets vary across Canada, changing from one community to the next.

In Campbellton, the bylaws allowed for a "zoo" at Reptile Ocean, said Comeau.

"During school time a lot of kids would go there with their teachers and visit all of the reptiles he had. Apparently he sold some smaller reptiles and food for the reptiles, so it was allowed. Knowing what we know today, I don’t know if we would have allowed it, but you know it’s always things like that that happen and then you know you question yourself," he said.

"We will be looking at all those avenues and everything else to make sure things like that don't happen again and make sure the neighbours, the public are safe."

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