Thursday, August 8, 2013

Python Kills Two Sleeping Boys

This is an horrible story but inevitable given enough time.  The majority of the animal kingdom happens to have no place in the living space of humanity and when brought in and displayed, it is clear that they are not living in paradise.   We have habituated a small handful and even they can be problematic.

It is actually absurd that we keep reptiles about at all.  Worse the larger ones which are certainly dangerous have now been released into convivial habitat in the South and will disturb us forever.

I think that animal husbandry needs to be sharply limited to those with which we have a long successful history outside of defined domestication breeding programs.  Anything else is no favor to the creature involved and otherwise produces unwelcome hidden costs.

African rock python ownership at centre of debate after death of two New Brunswick boys      

By Matthew Coutts

The small New Brunswick community of Campbellton prepares to remember two young boys who are believed to have been strangled to death by an escaped python, while questions still swirl about the snake itself and the dangers of reptile ownership.

Details that came to light this week suggest the four-metre African rock python, which was euthanized after the apparent attack, was kept as an illegal pet in an apartment above the Reptile Ocean pet store.

Another report suggested this was not the first time the python had escaped its enclosure, leading to questions about how the illegal pet managed to stay with its owner.

Connor Barthe, 6, and brother Noah, 4, were sleeping over at the apartment Sunday night when the 45 kilogram snake escaped its enclosure and found its way into the living room, where the boys were sleeping.

RCMP said they believe the python escaped by making its way into the ventilation system before falling through the roof into the living room. RCMP said it appeared the boys had been strangled by the snake, but were waiting for the results of an autopsy to confirm.

Bry Loyst, curator of Ontario's Indian River Reptile Zoo, told QMI Agency that this wasn't the first time the python had escaped into the ventilation system. Loyst told the news agency that he was assisting police with the investigation and had been briefed on the case.

"This was an accident waiting to happen," he said.

National Geographic calls the African rock python "one of the world's most vicious snakes." And in many provinces, the breed is either prohibited as a pet or legal ownership is limited to snakes of a certain size. In New Brunswick, the African rock python is excluded from a list of acceptable exotic pets, making its ownership illegal.

Melissa Matlow, spokeswoman for the World Society for the Protection of Animals in Canada, said the country's patchwork of regulations makes the question of ownership confusing and enforcement of the laws cumbersome.

"I don't think any province that allows these animals as pets is doing a very good job at preventing problems in the first place," Matlow told Yahoo! Canada News.

"No one is doing unannounced annual inspections to ensure these animals are kept properly and no province is requiring the people who want these animals to show proof that they have the knowledge, the training, the finances and the facilities to keep these animals properly.

"If the province wants to allow people to have these animals then they had better regulate it, and none of them are doing that properly. And if you think of what is needed to keep the public safe, I just don't think it is economically viable. It just doesn't make any sense. That is why I advocate for an outright ban."

Matlow is not alone in her concerns. A number of experienced reptile owners recently participated in a discussion about exotic pet ownership and warned the African rock python makes for a dangerous pet.

"The vast majority of snakes are harmless and keeping them as pets represents no danger to anything or anyone," Yahoo! Canada reader AD wrote. "What often slips below the radar are the ‘giant’ species such as Burmese, reticulated, rock Pythons, Anacondas in particular. These animals can and have killed humans since the dawn of time. They are far, far more dangerous than even cobras and most other venomous animals due to their immense physical power which cannot be countered by a hospital treatment."

Philip wrote that he used to own a constrictor snake and would be sure to handle it every day. "Never had an accident but there is always the possibility. Education is the key to owning any pet."

Alex, an exotic pet owner, says that some exotic animals are unfairly tarnished by such tragedies, although he agrees some owners should be screened.

"People have to see though that this is a very rare occurrence and was probably caused by negligence or forgetfulness of the owner of the snake. Yes, snakes can be dangerous and so can lizards, but so can any breed of dog or cat or any other animal for that matter. The bottom line is that they are all animals and will behave as such," Alex wrote.

Jean-Claude Savoie is also an experience reptile handler. He is the owner of the pet store, and resident of the apartment where the boys were found dead. He and his son were sleeping in other rooms and were not harmed.

Savoie told reporters he found the python and captured it for officials. The children's uncle told theCanadian Press that Savoie, a family friend, had taken the kids to a petting zoo the previous day. Reptile experts have suggested that if the children smelled like animals, it could have attracted the snake.

Connor and Noah will be remembered at a vigil planned for tonight, at a park about four blocks from where they were found dead. About four blocks from where officials seized an escaped African rock python. Four blocks from a pet store operated by an “experienced” reptile owner.

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