Canada pet shop owner had no permit for killer python

08 августа 2013, 19:04
The owner of a python which is thought to have crushed two infants to death in a Canadian apartment did not have a permit to keep such an animal, AFP reports citing officials.

Brothers Connor and Noah Barthe, aged six and four, were found dead on Monday morning in an apartment in the eastern Canadian city of New Brunswick, above a pet shop.

The pair had been enjoying a sleepover with a friend, the young son of Jean-Claude Savoie, who tends to a private menagerie of exotic animals, including an African rock python.

Police are treating the apartment as a crime scene and an investigation has been launched into how children became exposed to a 13-foot 100-pound (four-meter 45-kilo) predator.

"We were informed that a number of exotic animals were discovered while police were investigating the tragic deaths of the two boys believed killed by an African rock python," said Anne Bull, a spokeswoman for New Brunswick's Department of Natural Resources.

"That species of snake is not permitted in New Brunswick. According to our records, we have never had any involvement with this snake."

The initial police investigation suggests that the beast managed to escape from its terrarium in Savoie's apartment by nosing through a ventilation duct in the ceiling and dropping into the boys' bedroom nearby.

The brothers had spent a day playing with their friend, Savoie's son, and the family's various animals -- including llamas and goats -- before bedding down for the night on a mattress in his home.

Savoie found the young victims dead on Monday morning and alerted the authorities. Veterinary officials seized the snake and euthanized it.

Animal experts have expressed astonishment at the tragedy, many of them noting that, while an African rock python is a dangerous animal capable killing large prey, it would not normally attack humans.

But Marion Desmarcheliere, a professor of zoological medicine and the Atlantic Veterinary College, told AFP the children's day of play could have sealed their fate.

Pythons, she said, have a powerful sense of smell, and if the Barthe children still had the odor of goats upon them after their time in Savoie's mini-zoo this could have awakened the snake's hunting instinct.

"Pythons kill to eat," she said, adding that they can not see very well at night and would have been guided by smell and by the body heat of the young victims.

Police said the snake was a rock python, also known as a python sebae, the biggest snake species in Africa. It is not poisonous, but is hugely strong and capable of killing large animals including antelopes.

It is not known as a man-eater in the wild, but it is widely feared.

An autopsy has confirmed that the children died through asphyxiation, and a police investigation is underway.

The tragic deaths have triggered a wave of emotion in New Brunswick and local people were due to hold a candle-light vigil later Wednesday in memory of the children.

The deaths have also triggered a debate about Canada's patchwork of laws relating to exotic pets, with overlapping federal, provincial and local regulations leading to confusion over ownership and safety rules.

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