January, 2016 – Snakes as pets

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Paws-itive PressBarbaraMasi

Snakes as Pets

By Barbara Masi

Although there are so many people with dogs and cats as pets, there are others who decide on a more unusual pet and I want to discuss some of these in my articles.   This month we will talk about snakes as pets.

Carolee Ellison is a teacher at South Tech and her classes are in Veterinary Assisting.  Her students go on to work in many of our local veterinarian offices.  She is an advocate for all animals and has many in the classroom – including 2 Ball Pythons (not the type found in the Everglades), 1 Dumeril’s Boa and 1 Red Tail Boa

Carolee has shared some of the pros and cons of snake ownership

Pros Cons
No allergies Can bite
Easy to keep/clean Can escape if not secure
Some are inexpensive Some are very expensive
Eat 2 – 4 weeks Rats/mice
Exotic pet Not warm and cuddly

“At the end of my second year teaching Veterinary Assisting to high school students at South Tech Academy, one of my graduating students was going to an out-of-state college.  Her parents informed her that she could not keep any of her “pets” at home.” Carolee explained.   “This student gave me her Red-tailed boa to enjoy as a pet, and to teach other students about snakes.  Chinoa was only about 4 feet long when I got him 7 years ago.  He is now over 6 feet and is still one of my most mellow snakes.”

January 1

Carolee’s snakes are handled by students every day and also go to events where people are encouraged to have their picture taken holding one of them.   They have helped many people overcome their fear of snakes.

Some of what she teaches the students Carolee shared with me for this article:

  • When handled daily, snakes can become accustomed to humans
  • Venomous snakes have 2 large fangs (hollow teeth), that inject venom into its prey.  The secretion begins digestion before the snake consumes it.
  • Constrictor snakes wrap around their prey and squeeze every time the animal exhales.  Death is due to asphyxiation, not crushing.  They also have a row of teeth that are curved inward to draw the food into its mouth.
  • Due to being cold-blooded, they require less energy and hence less food, so most adult snakes only need to be fed every 2 – 4 weeks.
  • Owners of snakes should take their snakes to a veterinarian that is familiar with herpetology.  Dr. Rolfe and Dr. Porcher are two vets that handle exotic animals (including reptiles) in our area.  It is important to make a “well-pet” visit to establish yourself as a client and to get a healthy baseline of your pet.  When sickness, injury or an emergency occurs, the vet will be familiar with your snake and better able to treat it.
  • Most common pet snakes:

o   Corn snakes

o   Ball pythons

o   Red-tail boas

o   King snakes

  • Always do research on any snake you are considering:

o   Life span

o   Full grown size

o   Caging needs

o   Remember:  each snake is an individual – while available information is generalized, your snake may not exactly fit the breed description

January 3

  • If you do not want your snake anymore DO NOT RELEASE IT INTO THE WILD!!!!!  Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission (myFWC.com) holds an Amnesty Day once a year when non-native reptiles can be surrendered
  • Always feed frozen/thawed or stunned food.  If a snake is not feeding (not hungry, shedding, ill), it may be attacked by live mice/rats.  Also, during feeding, your snake can be injured.  If using frozen food, thaw it in a warm water bath – DO NOT MICROWAVE, the bones will become too hot.
  • There are many websites devoted to herpetology including ReptileMagazine.com (lots of care sheets for many breeds), and FloridaBackyardSnakes.com (great site to identify any snakes you see in the wild).
  • Purchase domestic-bred snakes instead of wild-caught.  They are healthier, hardier, and acclimate to change better.
  • Do your research before getting your pet snake so you can enjoy the rewards of owning an interesting, exotic pet
  • Great resource:  www.floridabackyardsnakes.com

While most people think of dogs and cats as pets, reptiles offer a different companion animal experience.  Consider taking a walk on the wild side and add a snake to your menagerie.

January 2

© Barbara Masi 2016