08/15/2013 07:13 EDT | Updated 10/15/2013 05:12 EDT

Deadly N.B. python case raises enforcement questions

The mayor of Campbellton, N.B., says he has asked the RCMP to look into whether the city or another level of government should have been enforcing the city’s animal control bylaw.

The move comes after an African rock python kept in an apartment above Reptile Ocean escaped its enclosure and asphyxiated Noah Barthe, 4, and his brother Connor, 6.

Bylaw S-3, adopted in 2005, says “no person shall have, keep or possess” a variety of prohibited animals, including a “venomous or constrictor reptile … upon the street or in any public place.”

In an interview with CBC News, Mayor Bruce MacIntosh wouldn’t say whether the python would violate the ban on constrictor reptiles in public places.

“That’s part and parcel of the ongoing investigation from the RCMP,” he said. “We’ve asked them to look at all avenues in regards to that building and the reptiles that were there.”

The 2005 animal control bylaw contains no definition of a “public place.”

African rock pythons are not permitted in New Brunswick unless an exemption to an existing provincial ban has been granted.

A Department of Natural Resources official has said the only exceptions granted would be for accredited zoos, not for someone to keep an illegal exotic animal as a pet.

Reptile Ocean is a privately owned business, which has been described as an urban zoo and pet store.

Its 1996 zoning approval by the city's planning commission authorizes “the displaying of exotic animals to the public for educational purposes … similar to an institutional use.”

MacIntosh says the RCMP investigation is also looking at issues such as provincial government licensing.

He would not say whether the city itself has responsibility for enforcing its own bylaws.

“That’s something that we will find out,” he said. “No one here has the answers for that, and we’re asking them as part of their investigation to come back and tell exactly who’s responsible for it.”

Campbellton employs one full-time bylaw enforcement officer.

The African rock python was found near the Barthe brothers in the living room of an apartment above Reptile Ocean on Aug. 5.

It's believed the animal escaped through the top of a glass enclosure and into a ventilation system. The python, which was 4.3 metres long and weighed about 45 kilograms, fell through the ceiling and into the room where the two boys were sleeping.

Earlier this week, a former employee of Reptile Ocean alleged that the python escaped because of human error involving a missing ventilation fan in its enclosure.