By Wayne Pacelle
This Op-Ed is adapted from a post on the blog A Humane Nation, where the content ran before appearing in LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
A New York area animal control officer, under investigation for workers' compensation fraud, attracted headlines last month after law enforcement discovered that he had 850 snakes, including Burmese pythons, in his garage. Richard Parrinello was selling pythons and boa constrictors as pets over the Internet, even though state law forbids the possession of certain species.
It's an extraordinary circumstance, but hardly unique. There are millions of large constricting snakes traded via the Internet through private dealers like Parrinello, at reptile shows, and also at pet stores. In so many cases, those pet dealers are keeping the snakes in warehouse-type conditions, often inside exceptionally small, stacked, plastic containers no larger than a shoe or sweater box, and selling them through websites and at reptile expos.
It's not good for the snakes, and there are all sorts of collateral impacts, mainly public-safety and ecological effects.
Every day, I hear about incidents of snakes on the loose in some community — in recent days, there were incidents in Florida, Massachusetts, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Vermont. A few weeks ago, two young boys were strangled to death by an African rock python in New Brunswick, Canada. And last week, there was a Siberian Husky strangled by a rock python believed to be from an established population of this highly dangerous, non-native snake in Miami-Dade County, Fla., as the dog's owners frantically and helplessly tried to break the vise-like grip of the snake. The family is now grieving and have attested that it was one of the most traumatic experiences of their lives.
At The HSUS, we've logged hundreds of incidents, such as attacks, escapes, or intentional releases of pythons, boa constrictors or anacondas, reported in nearly every state in the country. They've turned up in apartment buildings, gardens, vehicles and high-school football fields. More....