The recent horrifying story about two Canadian boys, five and seven years old, being strangled to death by a 100-pound pet-store python is a shocking tragedy and a terrible reminder that snakes are not domesticated pets.
Though it was first said the snake had made its way from a pet store to the apartment above, where the children were sleeping, reports now indicate the snake was kept in a ceiling-high glass cage inside the apartment.
The boys had been handling other animals from the pet store that day and authorities believe this might have attracted the snake.
Clearly, keeping these stealthy reptiles in homes, especially those with children and babies in them, is an unnecessary risk. With their sharp fangs, highly toxic venom, and powerful muscle strength, these silent predators are intended for life in the wild.
And yet, snakes are one of the most common “pet” reptiles. A 2012 report revealed that more than 1,110 snakes live in U.S. homes, which is nearly double from the 2007 record. However, forcing these creatures into captivity will not turn them into domesticated family members.
At least 20,000 deaths occur worldwide from snakebites each year, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States, the Humane Society has documented 17 people who have died in snake attacks since 1978. Seven of those fatalities were children, including four babies who were sleeping in their cribs when squeezed to death by large constrictors.
In total, 34 snake attacks involving children have been cited. The report explains, “Youngsters have been attacked while playing in their yards, compressed to the point of unconsciousness, nearly blinded when bitten in the face, and suffered numerous other painful, traumatic, and disfiguring injuries.”
With all that said, snakes are not out to get us; there are even stories of pet pythons coming to their owners’ rescue. But these creatures fare much better when left in their natural environment—not cramped in a cage.