Some years ago, I heard a loud, rather frantic knocking at my door. I rushed to open it and found my next-door neighbor standing on my doorstep with gloves on and a pillowcase in hand. He had stopped by to warn me that his “pet” python had escaped the tank in which he kept him confined and was now on the loose. As if this weren’t alarming enough, he admitted that he had been out of town for “a couple weeks” and wasn’t exactly sure when Bruno the snake had finally gotten hungry enough to make a break for it. Could I keep an eye out?
Well, I slept with one eye open until Bruno was found—weeks later, emaciated and dead, behind the dryers in the apartment building’s laundry room. I was appalled when my careless neighbor blithely announced his intentions to buy a “replacement.” It was only after the other tenants protested that his plan was derailed. Unfortunately, many novelty pets meet the same ghastly end as Bruno. There are no good reasons to buy a snake, but there are many reasons not to:
1. It’s a dirty business.
Breeders sell animals en masse, and most reptiles are stolen from their native habitats for a lucrative industry that treats sensitive and fragile animals with little more care than car parts. During a PETA investigation of a California dealer called Global Captive Breeders, snakes and other reptiles were so neglected that, in many cases, even their deaths went unnoticed. Enclosures were filled with rotting carcasses teeming with maggots.
2. Snakes have specialized needs.
Even though dealers looking to make a profit may minimize what reptiles need, snakes require spectrum lighting and precise diets. They shun contact with humans, and being held, touched, petted, or passed around is stressful and leaves them prone to illness and injury. And since snakes don’t whine, yelp, or flinch, injuries may go unnoticed and untreated.
3. A killing cycle.
Snakes eat rabbits, mice, and crickets, animals you’ll have to purchase at a pet store, further bolstering the industry.
4. Captivity is cruel.
Rather than exploring lush jungles and swamps and experiencing all the sensory pleasures that they’re so keenly attuned to, captive snakes are relegated to aquariums in which they can’t even stretch out to full length, much less move around or climb.
5. Sky-high mortality.
A study published by the U.K.’s Royal Society of Biology found that at least 75 percent of pet snakes, lizards, tortoises, and turtles die within one year in a human home. It’s believed that most of these newly acquired animals die from stress related to captivity.
“Must-have pets” become inconvenient burdens very quickly. Most snakes end up being ignored and neglected in dark basements or garages. And many are simply tossed outside like trash, left to starve or die of exposure or predation—and those who survive may wreak havoc on local ecosystems.
Please, never buy a snake or any animal from a pet store and ask friends and family not to support this deadly industry, either.