I have been following a recent discussion thread on another website regarding the question of whether snakes make good pets. My vote is “No” for various reasons including household safety and respect for the animals. Snakes are not “bad” but they are what they are and it may be that a reptile by nature cannot bond emotionally to a human owner like a dog or cat would. The reptilian brain may not be able to enjoy (or even grasp) the concept of being somebody’s pet. Add to this the stress created for an animal which may be growing at an astronomical rate in an environment which it might be unsuited for, toss in the extra factor of a small child or other domestic pet and chances are that you’ve got Trouble, my Friend, with a capital “T” as is evidenced by the following incidents. These are not urban legends but real events and I have cited my sources at the end.
October 9, 1996 – The Bronx, New York
A 13-foot Burmese python owned by two teenage brothers killed one of them. Grant Williams was discovered lying face down in blood with the snake coiled around his midriff, police said. Pythons can be gentle and safely handled but can grow to very large sizes and Burmese pythons especially “are very hardy and feed very readily.” It is thought that the snake attacked Mr. Williams because it mistook him for food.
September 3, 1997 – Chicago, Illinois
A man whose 8-foot python coiled itself around his neck and began to squeeze was able to scream for help. His sister came to the rescue but was forced to cut off the snake’s head with a butcher knife. When it still wouldn’t let go, she had to cut off another chunk of the animal’s body, which fell to the floor and slithered under a bed.
July 14, 1998 – Chicago, Illinois
An enormous boa constrictor was discovered near a Church’s Fried Chicken Restaurant at 7:00 a.m. Police who intervened caught up with the reptile under a bush in an alley. The snake was taken into custody when an officer dropped it unceremoniously into a garbage can and took it to the Animal Care and Control Commission headquarters, where a doctor pointed out that the snake’s patterns and coloring differentiated it from a python. The snake – which measured from 12 to 14 feet – showed all signs of having been a pet and was probably pretty valuable. (Animal Care & Control said that it deals with about ten snakes a year, mostly “pets who have escaped through vents or pipes.”)
August 29, 1999 – Centralia, Illinois
A three-year-old boy was suffocated by a 7½ foot African Python which was a family pet. Jessie Lee Alton’s body was discovered in the family’s home, bearing compression marks around the chest and bite marks around the neck and ears, indicating that the snake tried to swallow the child.
August 25, 2001 – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
An eight-year-old girl named Amber Mountain died three days after a 10-foot-long Burmese python was found wrapped around her neck. The child failed to regain consciousness and was later declared brain dead. The snake, which was one of five the family owned, apparently had escaped from its tank.
February 3, 2006 – Boynton Beach, Florida
Wayne Vassello was walking his eight-pound rat terrier, Max, and let the dog off a leash near their apartment. A neighbor’s pet python named Diamond had escaped and grabbed the dog’s head, wrapping several coils around him. Although his owner was able to free Max by beating the snake with a golf club, the little dog ran away and was found dead the next day from injuries apparently caused by constriction.
Travesty with a Capital T
I’m not an zoological expert but in my own opinion, the victims of these attacks had a right to a certain modicum of safety in a supposedly civilized environment and the snakes would have been happier living in the jungles and rainforests which had been ordained by nature for them.
Pet Python Squeezes Teen to Death in N.Y., Chicago Tribune, Oct. 10, 1996
Sister Save Man from His Pet Python, Chicago Tribune, Sept. 3, 1997
Jumbo Boa a Fright to Behold but Cagey Cops Put Constrictor in Custody,
Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1998
Centralia family’s Python Suffocates 3-Year-Old Boy, Chgo. Tribune, Aug. 30, 1999
Eight-Year-Old Choked by Pet Python Dies, Chicago Tribune, Aug. 26, 2001
Dog Lost to Python, so Couple Puts Squeeze on Snake Owner,
Chicago Tribune, May 10, 2006