The deaths of two New Brunswick boys killed by a massive python last summer have prompted Atlantic Canada mayors to call for a task force on the private ownership of exotic animals.
The region's top civic leaders passed a resolution at their Atlantic Mayors Congress in Sydney, N.S., last week, CBC News reports.
"It was an opportune time to do this, knowing full well what has taken place in Campbellton and hopefully we are going to be able to put safeguards in place with our governments so that's never going to happen again," Campbellton Mayor Bruce MacIntosh told CBC News.
But is a task force really necessary? What would it add to what's already known about the issues around people keeping everything from giant snakes to tigers and monkeys as pets?
The deaths last August of six-year-old Connor Barthe and his four-year-old brother Noah shocked the entire country.
The boys were attending a sleepover at a friend's home, an apartment above a pet store. The 4.3-metre African rock python weighing 45 kilograms escaped its enclosure in the apartment and crawled into the ceiling ventilation system, then fell through into the room where the children were sleeping.
An autopsy showed the boys died of asphyxiation, though it was not made clear whether the snake strangled them or they were crushed under its weight. The python was euthanized.
The RCMP opened an investigation into the deaths but CBC News said no charges have been laid.
Canada bans the importation of a number of endangered animals, such as tigers, but snakes and most other reptiles can be brought in with the necessary paperwork.
But the problem as many see it is the checkerboard of provincial laws governing exotic pets, which often are bred in Canada. British Columbia, for instance, implemented a stringent ban after a woman was killed by a privately-owned tiger in 2007.
In the wake of the Barthe boys' deaths, Ontario said it would also review its regulations.
[ Related: Ontario to review laws governing exotic pets
The Atlantic mayors want a task force to address the patchwork of rules, come up with more stringent ones, then take whatever recommendations it produces to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and to a meeting of all Canadian premiers, CBC News said.
The task-force idea is being endorsed by Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA), which represents accredited zoological facilities.
"The mayors know first hand the public safety, animal welfare and environmental issues that can arise when exotic animals are not properly cared for; just as they know that municipal governments do not have the legislative authority or the inspection and enforcement resources adequate to the task," executive director Massimo Bergamini said in a news release.
"We're confident that this strong support will help break down the policy and political silos that have created the current patchwork of hard-to-understand-and-enforce rules and regulations across the country."
Bergamini said CAZA will bolster the effort through lobbying.
The task force might be useful if it focuses on a plan of action rather than rehashing the concern about inconsistencies in the law from province to province.
It remains to be seen if it will go further and question whether Canadians should have the right to own exotic animals, even if they act responsibly.
A blanket ban would probably be difficult to enforce but it's worth discussing. After all, some jurisdictions ban potentially dangerous dogs. It may not be fair to some but sometimes public safety trumps individual freedom.