Pet Python Kills Child: Time for a Change

Here’s the video of the tragic event that is rocking the reptile-keeping world.

(Here’s the news story). The snake appears to be an adolescent albino Burmese python.  At 8.5 feet, it’s about the size most people who keep them like.  Fortunately, there have been very few deaths from giant pythons in the United States, but this episode underscores the lack of responsibility leaders in the reptile industry have shown in making Burmese and reticulated pythons cornerstones of the reptile trade, selling tens of thousands to teenagers and other inappropriate buyers every year. 

There has recently been some excessive state and federal legislation floating around to eliminate keeping exotic animals of any kind (a hamster is technically exotic, so is a boa constrictor and a leopard gecko).  That legislation overshoots its mark in many respects (find out more at USARK) but its genesis can be traced to many in the reptile industry–big and small–who sell reptile species totally inappropriate to the average keeper (giant pythons, anacondas, large monitor lizards, alligators, venomous).  If that’s not enough head-in-the-sand leadership, some prominent dealers regularly import from known wildlife smugglers–exporters who also traffic some of the world’s rarest plants, birds and mammals. 

It might not have been possible to avoid this terrible death, but it may well have been possible to avoid the Everglades python story, the Cape Coral Nile Monitor story, and others that seem destined to doom legitimate reptile keeping.  Leaders in the industry need to (1) stop selling giant or venomous reptiles to non-experts, (2) stop importing anything from smugglers, and (3) as we do with most wild game, stop selling commercial-scale, wild-caught reptiles, period.  Saying these things may cost me a couple friends, but I believe they are necessary in today’s world, and the right thing to do.  There is no Second Amendment protection here.  If the industry doesn’t better regulate itself, someone else surely will do it instead. And tragedies like this one will certainly continue.

If you’ve got a view on this please post it (click comments below).  And check out PIJAC and HSUS for differing views.

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One Response to “Pet Python Kills Child: Time for a Change”

  1. Bryan Christy Says:

    Tom Crutchfield sent me this response with permission to post it:

    Bryan,

    I just wanted to go on record as agreeing with you on many points in your blog. There is little need to import large quantities of inexpensive herps for the pet trade anymore. We produce here in the U.S. enough to satisfy the current demand. The only exceptions are very cheap lizards and amphibians which have almost a 100% mortality once they arrive here. Personally I import only on rare occasions and for species that will either be kept to breed here at the Farm or to be sold to other breeders. I personally regret in years past importing herps that were purchased by customers on a whim rather than a real justified interest. It is also abundantly clear that if we don’t regulate ourselves someone will do it for us. The current bills that are proposed far exceed the parameters of common sense and would in their current form devastate the Herp Industry and likely open a Pandora’s Box of invasives the like of which I can only imagine. Also the economy would be dealt a crippling blow due to all the support industries that overnight would be put out of business. All in all your stand just makes good common sense and one need not be an academic to understand the issues. It is refreshing to read a well written and common sense approach to the plethora of problems facing us today. Thank you for your time and consideration……TC

    http://www.tomcrutchfield.com