Can More Be Done to Protect the Public from Aggressive Animals?

Last week the human and animal and human worlds stood still in unison as two young boys were killed by a 100-pound python as they slept above an exotic pet shop. A funeral was held on 9 June for the Canadian youngsters, Connor and his brother Noah Barthe (6 and 4 years old), after the 4.3 metre long snake escaped its glass enclosure, slithered into the ventilation system and caused the pair to die of asphyxiation.

Canadian Prime Minister Harper called the incident a “strange and terrible event” saying that he feels “very deeply” for the boys’ family. The snake has now been killed by a vet.


Reactions and Regulation

Spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, Steven Benteau told CBC News that African rock pythons are not permitted under the province’s Exotic Wildlife Regulation. It’s also unearthed that the store where the devastating incident occurred, Reptile Ocean played host to 27 other illegal animals. Despite this, the pet-store owner Jean-Claude Savoie, told a television station that he didn’t hear a sound and discovered the “horrific scene” when he went into his living room on Monday morning. The occurrence is being treated as a criminal investigation.

Anne Bull, a spokeswoman for the New Brunswick’s Natural Resources department said her department had no knowledge of the existence of the snake prior to this week’s tragedy despite the fact that snake python has been illegal in the province since 2009. Surely the untimely death of two young boys should warrant a stronger law on the owners of dangerous and illegal pets as well as more protection for the public against such animals?


Dangerous Dogs

Here in the UK, legal powers for the Police to tackle dangerous animals and their owners to improve the safety and protection of the public were published in April this year. Irresponsible owners of domestic dogs now face the Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Bill which makes it an offence to be in possession of an animal that’s hazardously out of control in any place including private property. By implementing the private property clause into the Bill, the authorities now have the power to guard the public from unsafe animals whatever their location at the point of attack or dangerous behaviour.

But what happens if hazardous behaviour is out of character for a pet and the first time they become out of control, someone gets injured? In the recent case in Canada, there is no question that pet store owner Jean-Claude Savoie was at fault for illegally inhabiting a python and therefore indirectly caused the deaths of the Barthe boys. Should the same law be enforced on pets who unexpectedly strike once as for pet owners who have reoffended with regards to how they treat their animal(s) and their animal’s attitude?

This change in the law will give protection to the healthcare, postal and utility professionals who visit private properties for work. If convicted, pet owners could face an unlimited fine and/or up to two years in jail. However there will be no protection for trespassers such as burglars who are attacked by a householder’s dog as they have already committed an offence prior to being attacked.


Protecting the Public… Even in Private

Animal Welfare Minister Lord de Mauley said “Out of control dogs are just as much a threat on private property as in public place…extending the law so…owners who allow their dogs to be dangerously out of control anywhere can be brought to justice.”

The Government is bringing in compulsory micro-chipping for all dogs from 6 April 2016 to help reunite owners with lost or stolen pets, relieve the burden on animal charities and promote responsible dog ownership. But why are the government waiting nearly 3 years to bring their plan to action? It’s no secret that government funding is lacking currently, yet surely the protection of the public and prevention of animal attacks should be a priority?

Since August last year, owners of dangerous dogs that attack people in public will face stiffer penalties, including up to 18 months in prison but as is with many British laws, the harshest penalty is rarely utilised and some owners remain irresponsible. Those who use their pet in as a weapon will be sentenced for assault, more dangerous dogs will be put down and largest compensation for victims needs to be put into practise.


Despite how many pet rehabilitation programmes and charities exist to protect both pets and people, the latest laws need to be truly enforced in Britain and hopefully influence the regulations of other countries. It’s utterly unacceptable that a pet store owner managed to keep nearly 30 illegal animals for almost 4 years with no input from authorities. The deaths of the Barthe brothers could easily have been prevented and surely, the safety of people as well as their pets should be paramount to governments, both in Britain and oversees.

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