The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Your Pet Could be Next

3 min read

Your Pet Could Be Next: H.R.2811

Snakes. The word alone causes fear in most people. For reptile enthusiasts like me, the word causes an image of love. I think fondly of my Ball Python, Trinity. It pains me that the government continually tries to make that love a forbidden one—seemingly without reason.

H.R. 699 or, the Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act, was introduced in January, 2009 and defeated in April. Had it passed, it would have put an end to the trade of all exotic and non-native animals in the United States; making most aquarium fish, pet birds, reptiles, rodents and other non native animals illegal.

Now the government is at it again with H.R.2811, The Python Ban Bill.

The original resolution, sponsored by Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fl), would have banned the import, export and interstate movement of all pythons—including Ball pythons—the most widely kept python species.

After a tremendous outcry by snake owners, H.R.2811 was amended to include only Burmese and African rock pythons.

Should this bill pass, it will prohibit people with the listed pet pythons from moving their snakes to a new state; will disallow the owners from crossing state lines when seeking specialized veterinary care; and would also prevent American servicemen serving overseas from bringing their pet pythons back with them after completing their tour of duty.

Finally, this bill will prevent Americans forced to evacuate from bringing their snakes with them should they have to cross a state line.

Faced with these situations, many people would be forced to either break the law, let their snakes loose or euthanize their pets. Many people in the pet python industry would be without jobs.

This inspiration for this bill was not based on empirical evidence. Instead, it is an impulsive reaction to the death of a two-year-old girl killed by a pet Burmese python.

The snake, owned by her mother’s boyfriend, escaped during the night and entered the little girl’s room, constricting and killing the child—biting her several times in the process.

The owner of the python was not licensed to have the snake—violating a Florida law that prohibits owning a Burmese python without a permit. Nor did the cage meet the requirements to properly house the snake.

There are also accounts alleging the animal was not cared for properly or fed regularly.

While I agree this was a tragic accident, can you really blame a hungry, wild predator for acting according to its instinct? Not to mention that its owner was allegedly neglecting the snake and keeping it illegally according to Florida law.

To further compound the problem, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say wild Burmese pythons and other large snakes are being found increasingly throughout Florida.

In a report on January 20, over 1,200 large snakes—including Burmese python—have been removed from the Everglades National Park since the year 2000. Many more have been removed throughout entire state and the Florida Keys.

The escaped non-native reptiles are a threat to Florida’s ecosystem. When released into the wild, they are breeding successfully and preying upon Florida’s native animals.

Florida’s natural disasters can probably account for many snakes that escaped from homes and pet stores. There are even more that are abandoned by uneducated or thoughtless owners.

Obviously Florida’s “you-need-a-permit-to-have-big-snakes” either isn’t working or isn’t being properly enforced.

The United States’ Humane Society cites only 12 deaths caused by three large species of python in the last 30 years. In a 2009 survey by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, there were 33 fatal dog attacks and 130 deaths from fatal accidents with white-tailed deer.

According to the C.D.C, about 35,000 people in the U.S. were killed by guns in 2007. In 2000, tobacco and alcohol killed 520,000 Americans.

With all due respect to the little girl, these statistics prove that there are more deadly and dangerous things in the U.S. than snakes. Where are the government’s diligent efforts to save Americans from those things?