Among the pets I have kept over the years have been snakes. I started out with small snakes, corn snakes in a dizzying array of jewel-like colors. I then expanded, adding a couple of albino California king snakes, lovely lavender and yellow-banded snakes. I soon became interested in ball pythons, a subspecies that offered a myriad of interesting morphs and breeding possibilities. Finally, I wandered into the world of giant snakes and purchased two reticulated pythons, an albino lavender female and a tiger-patterned male that was heterogynous for lavender.
I had dreams of hatching a 100-egg clutch of lovely little lavender retics and selling them at $750 a copy. However, as Alfie (albino lavender female) began to grow, I soon realized that a man of my age and health probably should not try to handle a large constrictor. So once Alfie hit 7 feet, I re-homed her and her intended mate with a young man capable of dealing with a 200-pound, 18-foot long, T Rex without legs. It turned out to be a timely decision. After a 12-foot Burmese python killed a 2-year-old girl in Florida, and widely publicized infestation of the Everglades by Burmese pythons, a wave of hysteria resulted in the total ban of interstate transportation of many of the large constrictors. Although Python Reticulatus was spared, the impact on the snake trade was instantaneous. Well-established breeders with inventories of dozens of big snakes were suddenly out of business.
There have been 23 deaths involving constrictors in the US in the last 25 years. There were 34 fatalities as the result of dog attacks in the US in 2012. Just last week I saw a headline screaming “Jogger Killed by Pack of Dogs.” While the “Pit Bull” is demonized by those outside our world, only 16 of the 34 fatalities last year were attributed to pit bulls, and half of those were categorized as “pit-bull mixes,” aka of unknown heritage. Nonetheless, the number of cities banning pit bulls is growing every year. Denver CO has confiscated and killed 3,400 dogs thought to be pit bulls since passing a ban. Nearby Aurora CO also includes the Cane Corso in its banned breeds.
I can’t help but see parallels with the tragic events in Newtown CT. We all are horrified when an innocent life is brutally taken. Our humanity demands that we take action. I support that, but I want that action to be well thought out, and, most importantly, effective. I know that the vast majority of large-snake, dog and gun owners are responsible individuals, but the few who are not will cause us to lose our pets and guns if we do not take action. I’m afraid the big-snake lobby is doomed, but we in the dog world can act and ensure our dogs, especially our large breeds, are placed in responsible homes. Did I mention that one of those fatalities in 2012 was caused by a Labrador-Golden Retriever mix? I am not going to embroil myself in a second amendment debate, EXCEPT to point out that the right to keep a dog is not in the Bill of Rights. Do I really have to argue that dog ownership is essential to my pursuit of happiness?
And that’s today’s Back Story.