The Difference Between a Bad Pet and a Bad Owner

So, I’ve been a bad blogger and let my personal life completely override my ability to blog, lately.  It’s been a crazy couple of months, to put it in brief.  But I’m trying to get back into it, and today I saw a little piece on the news that got me mad enough to want to rant here.

This is the piece I’m talking about.

And here it is on another news website.

To give you the story in brief:  this week there have been two incidents of loose pet snakes being discovered in apartment buildings, both of which happen to be just a few blocks from where I live.  One was a corn snake, apparently discovered coming “through the wall” (I’m assuming a heating vent of some sort), while another was a ball python, found in a bathroom.

As is usually the case with such stories, the news outlets have completely ignored the reality of the situation (that these snakes are harmless to humans, completely legal to keep, non-aggressive, etc).  Instead they’ve focused on interviews with “terrified” residents, and labeled the animals as “pests” and “dangerous”.  They’ve stirred up anti-snake sentiment, which of course (being as I’m a snake owner and enthusiast) gets my hackles up.

What really bothers me about the coverage of this story is that the focus is in completely the wrong place.  The real question is:  why were these snakes loose in the first place?  Why has no owner stepped forwards to claim them?  If someone’s pet had managed to get out of its cage, why did that person not tell their neighbors, and ask them to be on the lookout for the missing critter?  This is, quite clearly, a case of bad and irresponsible ownership — it’s the humans, not the snakes, who are to blame.

While it hasn’t happened yet, I’m sure that in the coming days there will be an uproar as panicked residents, egged on by the biased journalism, begin the hue and cry for harder crackdowns on reptile owners, tougher restrictions on which pets can be kept in apartment buildings, and other general witch-huntery.  The comments on the stories that I linked to above already show signs of it — people freaking out because their children and pets are at risk from these “dangerous” animals.  Seriously, people?  Maybe if you have a pet rat — but somebody’s loose cat is much more likely to be a danger, in that case.  Cats will kill for fun.  Snakes only kill if they’re hungry.

In fact, a dog or cat (considered perfectly acceptable pets, by most people) is certainly a much more dangerous animal than any legal-to-own reptile, and also much more likely to escape — snakes are generally kept in tanks which are designed to be escape-proof, while your mammalian friend likely roams free about your home or apartment, and may even be allowed to go outside unsupervised.  People are bitten by dogs or scratched by cats all the time, but it doesn’t make the news, nor does it start a witch-hunt scenario with all and sundry calling for “dangerous” dogs and cats to be banned.  If a dog bites, it’s generally the owner who is blamed, because it is the human being who is responsible for training, restraining, and generally keeping control over their pet.  The same should be true of reptiles and other exotics.

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