NEWS

Pet store linked to boys' python deaths to be searched

08/08/2013 11:16 EDT | Updated 10/08/2013 05:12 EDT
The New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources has obtained a warrant to search the Reptile Ocean building in Campbellton where two boys died Monday after apparently being strangled by a python that escaped an enclosure.

A number of exotic animals were discovered while the police were investigating the deaths of the two boys believed killed by an African rock python on Monday morning, communications officer Anne Bull said in a statement.

“If we discover illegal exotic animals, they will be seized, and efforts will be made to relocate them to accredited zoos,” Bull said.

Experts from the Magnetic Hill Zoo in Moncton and the Indian River Reptile Zoo in Peterborough, Ont., help DNR determine which animals are dangerous and which are not allowed in the province.

Some animals could go to accredited zoos in Toronto and Calgary, said an official with Indian Reptile River Zoo.

Meanwhile, there are many lingering questions about how an illegal python arrived in Campbellton, and why it was being kept in the apartment above the exotic pet store.

The banned reptile was likely given to the owner of Reptile Ocean by wildlife authorities for safekeeping, according to a former employee.

In appropriate cage

“This is an animal that was removed from the home to prevent this from happening, and it landed in a zoo,” said Marc Doiron, who now runs Isaac’s Ark, a snake breeding facility in Moncton.

“When this came to his doorstep he had to take it somewhere. He had to take it into the zoo … that animal was in an appropriate cage from the best of my knowledge.”

Doiron said the python should have been removed from the building as soon as Reptile Ocean changed from a zoo to a store and stopped applying for a zoo permit.

In the statement from DNR, Bull said the department never had any involvement with the python, according to its records.

The province also had no knowledge of the existence of the python prior to this week’s tragedy, said Bull.

Environment Canada confirms the Moncton SPCA discovered a python on its doorstep in 2002, and officials helped the SPCA move the snake to Campbellton.

Permit never issued, SPCA says

The New Brunswick SPCA, which issues licences to pet stores, said the business never had a pet store permit.

However, Doiron said Reptile Ocean changed over to a pet store after a period of renovations several years ago.

“I don’t know who is at fault but I am not ready to blame the owner, I’m not ready to blame the snake," he said.

“I am ready to blame the government officials that saw the paperwork go through and said, ‘You are transitioning from a zoo to a store, and you are taking care of animals in which we have placed in your custody,’” said Doiron.

Gerry Redmond, a former wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources, said he inspected Reptile Ocean twice in the late 1990s.

One inspection was done in 1996 when the owner, Jean-Claude Savoie, wanted to open a reptile exhibit, said Redmond.

Redmond said he doubted it would have met the minimum standards required to be considered a zoo.

“I don’t think they have ever met the requirements. They might have been given a temporary permit to either get themselves up to speed or get out of business,” said Redmond.

“I could look back and say, ‘Why didn’t I do more to shut that down? Those two kids could be alive today.’ I just felt terrible.

“It’s a thing that happens. Maybe even if we had all the rules and regulations in place, it still could have been an accident that would have happened.”

Preliminary autopsy results on the two New Brunswick boys who were killed after the python escaped its enclosure show they died from asphyxiation, RCMP said Wednesday.

The pathologist completed the autopsies on Noah Barthe, 4½, and Connor Barthe, 6 on Tuesday.

A vigil held for the two boys in Campbellton on Wednesday evening drew hundreds of people.

The vigil lasted just over half an hour, and included family friends, prayers from the local church and comments from the deputy mayor. One young boy, who was a friend of the deceased brothers, spoke and asked that all the toys that had been donated be given to the boys in heaven.

Under the weight of the tragedy one woman said it was good to see people coming together.

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