Current regulations differ across Canada

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A new organization is taking action after two young boys were killed by a snake in New Brunswick six weeks ago.

Canherp is an organization consisting of reptile hobbyist members who are attempting to come up with a professional mandate to follow in the absence of clear federal government law on reptile ownership.

An African rock python asphyxiated two boys aged four and six while they slept after the snake escaped from its enclosure in a reptile shop.

Since then, public outcry has been heard across the country about the rules surrounding snake ownership in Canada.

Kyle Kirzinger, president of The Alberta Reptile and Amphibian Society, said that the reptile community is still reeling from the tragic event.Kerzinger resizeThe Alberta Reptile and Amphibian Society president, Kyle Kirzinger, shows off a blood python at the Calgary Reptile Expo, which was held on Sept. 21-22. Kirzinger said that one of the goals of the show was the help draw the idea away from snakes being “blood thirsty killers.”

Photo by Roxanne Blackwell

Kirzinger said that he believes more regulations need to be in place regarding ownership of specific animals.

“A zoo maybe can own something like an African rock python… because they have better ways of dealing with it and can give it the enclosure it needs, whereas a normal person, should they be allowed to have an animal that size? I don’t believe so.”

Jim Dyke, owner of J&J Reptiles and acting board member of Canherp, says that Canherp’s ultimate goal would be to work with the government on a federal level to create regulations that are practical for hobbyists, but still keep people safe.

“Most (hobbyist) groups are in agreement with what animals should and shouldn’t be owned (no constrictors, no crocodiles). These regulations (that they hope to create) are for the better of the hobby, the industry, and most importantly the safety of the public,” he said.

Although Kirzinger praised the Alberta government for their detailed bylaws regarding reptile ownership, the rules vary from province to province in Canada– in some cases even city to city. Alberta’s bylaws include a specific list of banned animals, but Kirzinger said some bylaws are vague and lead to confusion.

“Other provinces have size restrictions, such as a reptile must be under six feet, which is an issue because snakes that grow larger than six feet are under that size when they are babies, so it’s perfectly legal to own them,” he said.

Kirzinger hopes that Canherp can help prevent future issues by implementing strict unison guidelines across the country. But until that happens, Kirzinger said they are hoping to learn from the tragedy in New Brunswick.

“We’re trying to turn it into more of a positive on how we can educate the public on the proper care that is needed for these animals,” he said.

“We can look back together and say ‘these are the steps we’re following to make sure that doesn’t happen again.’”

The dos and don’ts of purchasing a reptile


  • Do your research. Read books at the library, talk to breeders and make sure you understand the animal that you’re committing to.
  • Know what supplies you will need – including food. Some snakes eat mice and rats. If that’s something you’re uncomfortable with then you need to reconsider whether it’s the right pet for you.
  • Know the life expectancy of your pet. Kirzinger notes that some tortoises can live to be more than 80 years old, which could mean that it may outlive its owner. Be prepared to deal with those situations.


  • Don’t make an impulse buy. Take your time deciding on what animal fits best with your lifestyle.
  • Don’t give up on your pet if things get difficult. Seek help from experts, and if you aren’t ready to be responsible for that animal’s lifetime care, then you should avoid purchasing in the first place.

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