Small child and snake video: harmless fun or accident in the making?

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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:

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

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.

Fatal encounters…

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.

Non-fatal encounters

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)…


Source(s): http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/wildlife/captive/constrictor-snake-attacks.pdf

http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/wildlife/…/captive-constrictor-snake-incidents.pdf

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For some New Yorkers a dog or cat just won’t do

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For some reason, some New Yorkers insist on taking pet ownership to another level. A dog or cat just won’t do. Gerbils, hamsters, ferrets or birds don’t cut it, either.

These New Yorkers only go for unusual pets — whether it’s illegal to have them or not. And in most cases, it is.

Life in the concrete jungle

According to a recent New York Post article, the city has responded to nearly 400 exotic animal complaints since January 2016.

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Most of the complaints (more than 150) were about people keeping roosters in the concrete jungle. There were 36 complaints about snakes and 30 about turtles.

In one case, a Queens man came to the city’s attention after his neighbors reported that he had roosters.

The man, Mark Singh, denies he did anything wrong, however.

“You feed chickens and they give you eggs. So why not keep chickens?” he wondered. “ One of my neighbors nursed baby raccoons for two years — and they have rabies,” Singh told the Post.

In another case, city health inspectors responded to a report of a Staten Island man who was allegedly keeping venomous snakes as pets. The accused, Gregory Johnson, said he had a permit to keep them.

“The city’s Health Code forbids keeping any animals that are “naturally inclined and capable of inflicting harm” on humans. Rooster keepers face fines of $1,000,” the Post reported.

Exotic pet complaints — by the numbers

According to the Post, the number of reports about illegal pets made to a New York City tip line made from January 1, 2016 to date is roughly the same as those made during the same time period for 2015-2016.

However, there have been more complaints in the Bronx and Queens, and fewer complaints in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

In addition to banning potentially harmful animals, the city’s Health Code identifies illegal pets as “any native or exotic wildlife whose possession or sale is prohibited because they are designated as protected or endangered pursuant to any federal, state or local law, regulation, or rule.”

Any animal classified as an illegal pet by the New York Health Department “cannot be sold, given, received, kept, harbored or exhibited in New York City” unless they are kept in an approved facility.

Some of the animals that can be kept as pets include dogs, cats, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, domesticated rabbits and fowl or small birds such as parakeets, parrots, canaries and finches. However, it is only legal to keep these animals as pets as long as “possession of the animal is not otherwise prohibited by law, including federal, state and local laws regulating domestic animals and livestock or protecting wildlife and endangered species.”

For more information about illegal pets in New York city, click here.

Skunks as pets? What cute little stinkers

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This has got to be my favorite topic to date. I mean, I’ve heard about people keeping all sorts of interesting pets — pigs, snakes, ferrets, birds, gerbils, rabbits and even rats. But skunks? I’ve never met anyone who has a pet skunk. Or even anyone who wants one for that matter.

Apparently it isn’t all that unusual though. The website skunk-info.org lists seventeen states where ownership of “captive-bred pet skunks is allowed.” If a change reportedly being considered by Tennessee lawmakers actually occurs,  the Volunteer State could soon join that list.

According to one news account, the proposed legislation calls for relaxation of existing rules that currently forbid “importation, possession, or transfer of live skunks so that skunk ownership and propagation may be regulated by the wildlife resources commission under its rules for Class II wildlife.”

So far the idea has garnered a mixed reaction and that’s understandable. There are pros and cons to all pet ownership, even for those of us that only have dogs or cats.

In Brief Legal Writing Services owner Alexandra Bogdanovic's cat, Eli.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli under the Christmas Tree. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

The bottom line is that if you’re thinking of getting something more unusual than the average house cat or dog, you’d better know what you’re in for. If you’re serious about getting a skunk, you can find plenty of information on the Internet.  At exoticpets.about.com, you can find advice about skunk behavior, health,  and more. Among other things, there is information about whether or not pet skunks should be spayed or neutered, finding a vet who can treat them, and the proper vaccinations for pet skunks and how to make sure the new addition to your family isn’t a real little stinker.

As far as I know, you can’t have a pet skunk in Connecticut. But that’s fine with me. I’ve got my hands full with Eli.