Does ___ Make a Good Pet?

Inevitably, someone who has never kept an exotic pet before will ask this question at least once. What this question really means is “Will this pet snuggle in my lap, be easy to pet and play with, eat food out of a can and be easily house trained?” Exotic pets are exotic for a reason. They are not typical cats and dogs. They require needs that are far different, as well as different kinds of space.

I recently received a disgruntled email from the Center of Biological Diversity. They are pushing for legislation that will ban the trade and import of large constrictors (boas and pythons) across the United States. If such a legislation were to go into effect I would not only be on the phone with the Better Business Bureau immediately, I would also be very angry at all of the foolish people who bought a hatchling burmese python, then got scared of it when it grew to 10 or more feet, and released it into the everglades. The same foolish person was probably told that a burmese python makes a “good” pet.

Don’t get me wrong here, I have three aquatic turtles and a Colombian red tail boa. I did extensive research on how to take care of a boa constrictor long before I got Sophie (that’s her name). She grows to approximately eight feet long, but it is possible for her to grow up to ten feet. Sophie requires a lot of space in her habitat. She needs a water dish she can fit her entire body into for soaking, and plants for hiding. We use aspen bedding so that she can dig/tunnel, generally be comfortable and also because there are no oils or other substances in aspen that her skin can absorb. ALL snakes can absorb toxins into their skin very easily, especially oils. Pine oil could kill Sophie if it got into her body, so we don’t use pine bedding.

So no, Sophie does not make a good pet. She’s interesting, a comfortable challenge, and she is part of our family. But from Sophie’s perspective I’m the human that gives her a rat every three weeks and takes her out of her habitat two to three times a week to let her climb all over me. To Sophie I am not a predator, not food, just a safe animal for her to be around so that she can ensure her survival. Dogs think of you as a companion, cats even think of you as a companion, but snakes do not.

I read an article recently about a female burmese python that was found in the Florida everglades, and he was over twenty feet long. Obviously she was released by her owner who bit off more than he/she could chew, or she escaped. Either way her owner was irresponsible. They did not catch her and try to rehome her. They killed her. She didn’t even attack the people that found her, she was just automatically expendable. And even if she had bitten one of those people, constrictors are not venomous. Snakes bite because they feel their personal space is being invaded, and biting is their last resort. The snake is only a hazard to Florida wildlife when an IDIOT puts the snake in the wild. Snakes don’t sit around plotting against the ecosystem.

I don’t believe banning large constrictors is the solution. I believe banning ownership of snakes with no strings attached is a better solution. A permit can turn off a lot of people very easily, and people who don’t have one get caught pretty quick. Americans are better about calling in animal abuse, neglect and illegal trade/ownership than protecting their own HUMAN children.

Exotic pets don’t make good pets, they make exotic ones. If you have the time, energy, money and responsible personality you can take care of an exotic pet and enjoy doing it.

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