To think that we are always in control of any situation involving an animal is the height of human arrogance.
A video making the rounds on social media has prompted quite a debate. Some people think it’s cute. Others think it’s an accident waiting to happen.
The video in question, which has gotten more than 1.4 million views, shows a young child sitting on a sofa with what appears to be some sort of albino boa constrictor or python. As the camera rolls, the little child says “do it,” and the snake appears to “yawn.”
I’ve shared the post on my business page, so you can draw your own conclusions.
Here’s what I think
For what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve said publicly:
An objective and realistic assessment of any situation involving a small child and any animal, is that animals can be unpredictable, no matter how well they’ve been looked after and no matter how well “informed” their handlers/owners are. Animals act on instinct, accidents happen, and people (and the animals) get hurt. The only way to minimize the risk is to avoid potentially risky behavior. This is not a condemnation of snakes; the same thing can be said about dogs, cats, horses and other “mainstream” pets. To me a little common sense goes a long way. But that’s just me. We all have choices.
Just because this snake seems docile in this photo does not guarantee that this is “safe,” or that nothing will go wrong. To think that we are always in control of any situation involving an animal is the height of human arrogance.
What I haven’t said publicly (until now) is that it is one thing for adults to take risks. For an adult to put a child at risk is another thing altogether…
What are the odds?
With that in mind, I scoured the Internet in search of pet python and/or boa constrictor-related deaths and injuries in the United States. Here’s what I found.
According to the Humane Society, incidents involving large “captive constrictors” resulted in 17 deaths in the United States between 1978 and 2012. Most of the fatal encounters (12) happened between 1990 and 2012.
Citing various sources in a 69-page report, the Humane Society summarized dozens of fatal and non-fatal incidents reported in 45 states. Here are just a few.
July 1, 2009/Sumter County, Florida: A 2-year-old girl was killed in her crib by an
8½-foot Burmese python who escaped from an enclosure in her home. Weighing
only 13 pounds, the snake was determined to be severely underweight. The snake
had been purchased seven years earlier at a flea market. The child’s mother and her boyfriend were convicted of third degree murder, manslaughter and child neglect and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
August 22, 2001/Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania: An 8-year-old girl was
strangled by her father’s 11-foot, 26-pound pet Burmese python. The child had
been left home alone, and the snake broke through the top of the cage. Paramedics said she was not breathing when they arrived; she was taken to a hospital and placed on a ventilator until she was pronounced brain-dead two days later. An autopsy showed the cause of death was compression of her neck and chest.
August 29, 1999/Centralia, Illinois: A couple’s 1-year-old, 7½-foot African rock
python escaped from an enclosure and killed their 3-year-old son while he was
sleeping. They had obtained the snake three months earlier.
July 20, 1993/Commerce City, Colorado: A 15-year-old was killed by his brother’s
11½-foot pet Burmese python. He had snake bites on his body, and an autopsy
found he was suffocated. The 8-year-old snake had been a family pet since she was only a foot long.
August 11, 1997/Anaheim, California: A 10-year-old boy was attacked by his pet 12-
foot, 65-pound African rock python. The python, who was described “as thick as a
man’s thigh,” latched onto the boy’s hand and coiled tightly around his arm as he
was giving him a bowl of water. The boy’s older brother stabbed the snake several
times while waiting for paramedics to arrive. Worried that the snake would break
his arm, paramedics decapitated the snake with a kitchen knife. The boy was
treated at a medical center. One paramedic commented this was the third child he
has rescued “from the suffocating embrace of pythons.”
August 30, 2008/Las Vegas, Nevada: A 13-year-old girl visiting her father was
attacked by a pet Burmese python while she was sleeping in a bed. Responding to
the commotion, her father and uncle were unable to uncoil the snake. They
decapitated the approximately 15-foot snake with a butcher knife to rescue the girl. The teenager was hospitalized overnight with bruised ribs and a swollen abdomen. The snake reportedly escaped from a large tank with locks. The same day, a student zookeeper in Venezuela was crushed to death by a Burmese python.
I rest my case…
And with all of that being said, I rest my case. But please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below (and in the court of public opinion, of course)…