Pet Snake Kills Baby in Florida | Are They Good Pets?

Live peacefully with nature

“You know they call them killer whales
But you seem surprised
When it pinned you down to the bottom of the tank
Where you can’t turn around
It took half your leg and both your lungs”

– From “People Gotta Lot of Nerve” by Neko Case

Making pets of wild animals can be a gamble. A great deal of care must be taken to ensure that they get the food and activity they need in order to live in relative health. This is important because captivity can be stressful for animals accustomed to roaming free. It can also be expensive; be prepared for an online cash advance or personal loan to help close budget gaps torn asunder by exotic animal food bills.

If there is neglect – not giving the animal the necessary care, making sure their enclosure is secure, etc. – accidents and catastrophes can occur. And when a snake kills a baby (Shaunnia Hare) as it did recently in Sumter County, Florida, we see that the risk can far outweigh the reward.

Snakes have been given a bad rap

I blame the Bible first, and I’ll throw the snake-handling cults in with that crowd. The more you mystify a natural, magnificent creature, the more you enforce ignorance over understanding. Humanity’s relationship to the natural world needs to be based on understanding of animal behavior and their needs. We are in a unique position to be benevolent stewards of the countless varieties of life in our world. This position offers great benefits, but it also comes with great responsibility. No, that snake isn’t part of a family tree that leads back to Satan, in much the same way that lightning bolts don’t come from Thor’s hammer.

Sharon Wynne blogs for the St. Petersburg Times the question on the minds of many regarding snakes, particularly the parents of young children: Should they be kept as pets? The unfortunate family whose two-year-old baby was hunted in her crib that horrible night thought it made an attractive pet, and they were devastated by the turn of events.

Attractive animal vs. attractive pet

There’s a huge difference here. Wynne suggests that a Burmese python’s “smooth, shiny scales” would make for an attractive finish on a purse, but I’ll have to disagree. Snakes are marvels of muscle strength, contracting to move, to eat or do most anything else. It’s also amazing to me how they can unhinge their jaws to make room for their meals. Texture, pattern and color are all strong selling points. Yes, a Burmese python is an attractive animal.

But I certainly would never want to own one. Time and expense aside, I have young children. In my mind, there is simply too much risk involved. If the python were to escape its enclosure, I wouldn’t be surprised if it behaved like a wild animal – because that’s what it is! Yes, I know that animals born in captivity can be tamed, but you’re still dealing with a long history of evolution. If an animal feels threatened or is hungry, it will eventually give in to instinct.

Setting a bounty

Here’s something else about animals the size of the snake that kills baby. Not only do they require a lot of specialty food, but they need custom-built enclosures that are quite expensive. Online cash advances and personal loans, anyone? Unfortunately, since all of this is as expensive as it is, there are lots of owners who simply release their pets into the wild. This frequently leads to the animal injuring other animals or people. The final result is typically the euthanization of the ex-pet.

According to National Geographic, American has imported over 144,000 Burmese pythons into the country over the past five years. This only adds to the numbers of animals jettisoned into ecosystems where they don’t belong.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson recently introduced a bill to ban the import of pythons. A similar bill was brought before the state House, as well. There’s even a proposal that would put a bounty on exotic snakes discarded in the Everglades, which will surely draw the Bayou Billys out of the woodwork.

Don’t let docility fool you

Snakes are animals that should be handled with caution. Apparently, the Florida family allowed their little daughter to hold both their Burmese python and their boa constrictor. But that doesn’t mean the snake and child are safe playmates. Wynne reports that the mother’s boyfriend, Charles Darnell, 32, told authorities he had checked on the snake just a few hours the horrible incident. It had escaped its enclosure, so he put it back in, put a quilt over the terrarium and tied it down – even though Florida state law requires the use of a lock.

What Darnell discovered the next morning is a parent’s nightmare made real. The eight-foot Burmese python was wrapped around little Shaunnia Hare, its teeth embedded in her head in order to hang on to its prey. The snake didn’t have an axe to grind with the child, it isn’t an evil creature (or a good one, for that matter). Nature laughs at “good vs. evil.” Survival has neither the time nor the room for such inventions.  The snake was not secured, and it was hungry. It was operating on instinct. Tragically, a little girl died.

As a parent, my instinct says that having large snakes in a home with small children is a horrible idea. I wouldn’t use an online cash advance or personal loan for the best cage money can buy. I simply wouldn’t have a snake that close to my children on a regular basis.

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