July 22, 2014 5:42 pm
Updated: July 23, 2014 5:06 pm

UPDATED: Province establishing task force to review exotic animal rules

CAMPBELLTON, N.B. – The RCMP in New Brunswick say they have investigated the deaths of two boys who were asphyxiated by a python and have handed the case to the Crown to determine whether charges should be laid.

“It’s something unusual that our investigators would not be accustomed to dealing with and investigating,” said RCMP Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh. “Our work is done and the file is now with the Crown Prosecutors Office to evaluate and determine if criminal charges are warranted.

“That’s their responsibility.”

She said in some cases RCMP have made recommendations on charges to the Crown, but couldn’t confirm if that was case in this investigation.

VIDEO GALLERY: New Brunswick python deaths investigation

Noah Barthe, 4, and his six-year-old brother Connor were killed last August in Campbellton after a 45-kilogram African rock python escaped its enclosure inside an apartment where they were staying for a sleepover.

The apartment was owned by Jean-Claude Savoie, a friend of the children. Savoie also owned the Reptile Ocean exotic pet store located below the apartment.

An RCMP cruiser sits outside Reptile Ocean in Campbellton, N.B., on August 6, 2013.

John LeBlanc/The Canadian Press

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Global News

Premier David Alward responded to questions Wednesday on whether the process has taken too long.

“The investigation is independent and because of that it was important for us to allow that investigation to follow its course,” he said. “The department of natural resources and other departments have been doing their work over the last months too.”

Lawyer told ‘months ago’ no charges would be laid

Leslie Matchim, Jean-Claude Savoie’s lawyer, said he was told in December and again in January that ‘no charges were forthcoming’ by the RCMP’s lead investigator in the case.

“I was told a press release was being drawn up. I was awaiting anxiously for that public meeting,” he said in an interview with Global News.

Matchim said he was then told the lead investigator was removed from the case.

“It puts me in a very awkward position with my client. I was told something I thought was firm. When I told my client, I saw his relief. Certainly it doesn’t bring comfort, but it’s a small relief.

“You can imagine my face when my client asked me why he was hearing media reports that this was only now being handed to the Crown.”

Province establishing task force to review exotic animal rules

The province has announced they are establishing a task force to review New Brunswick’s exotic animal laws and regulations.

The task force’s mandate will be to review existing legislation in the province, including the Fish and Wildlife Act, to see if amendments are needed.

It will look at regulations, programs and policies that pertain to the import, export, possession and trade of live exotic animals, as well as regulations related to human health, public safety and animal welfare. It will then report back to the government with specific recommendations for amendments or improvements to legislation.

The new task force will be chaired by Bruce Dougan, the manager of the Magnetic Hill Zoo in Moncton, and will also include:

  • Hilary Howes, executive director of the New Brunswick SPCA
  • Nelson Poirier, a retired veterinarian from Moncton with 35 years experience
  • Mike Sullivan, the director of the Fish and Wildlife division of the Department of Natural Resources
  • Ken Bryenton, a policy advisor with the Department of Environment and Local Government
  • Mike Johnston, executive director of Inspection and Enforcement with the Department of Public Safety

Since 1992, African rock pythons have been banned in New Brunswick unless a permit is obtained. Only accredited zoos can obtain such a permit.

A total of 23 reptiles that were banned without a permit in New Brunswick were seized from the pet shop after the deaths of the boys. Four American alligators that were also taken from the store were euthanized.

With files from The Canadian Press.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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