Goodness Snakes, Toughen Serpent Rules
Published: Feb 7, 2007
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission is poised to pass a new rule banning people from keeping tigers and alligators in residential neighborhoods, which is a good thing.
The commission should apply the same logic to venomous snakes.
The state began tightening its exotic pet restrictions after a series of incidents involving pythons, anacondas and Nile monitor lizards that have been dumped into the wild where they now thrive.
But more needs to be done.
Imagine learning that your next-door neighbor had 15 venomous snakes and some crocodiles in his home. That’s what happened to residents in a Town N’ Country mobile home park three years ago. They made the discovery after the owner was nearly killed by an African black mamba. And they were shocked to hear that keeping a poisonous snake in their neighborhood was perfectly legal.
Poisonous snakes have no business as pets and should be included in the restrictions on exotic pets. Imagine firefighters answering an emergency call, only to come face to face with a deadly viper.
At a minimum, the state should make it easy to find out who has permits for these snakes. Hillsborough County keeps a database of dangerous dogs. The same should hold for venomous snakes. The difference is that the state holds sole regulatory power over snakes.
People are entitled to have dangerous hobbies, but the public deserves a bigger buffer from dangerous playthings.
Tighten rules on wildlife
By A TIMES EDITORIAL (St. Pete Times)
Published February 7, 2007
Imagine hearing that your neighbor was bitten by a deadly black mamba snake, one of 15 poisonous snakes kept at his house. It happened in a Tampa mobile home community. Or consider children frolicking on the Starkey Elementary School playground in Pinellas County, unaware that tigers and other big cats pace in chain-link cages nearby. In both instances, the proximity of dangerous animals to unsuspecting adults and children is perfectly legal.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will meet today to consider tougher rules for people seeking permits to keep dangerous wildlife in captivity. And while the changes recommended by the commission’s staff are an improvement over existing regulations, they don’t go far enough to protect Floridians.
Now, any animal no matter how dangerous can be kept in a residential neighborhood as long as minimal lot size and caging requirements are met. The commission staff would exclude "Class 1 Wildlife" (the largest wild animals) from residential areas, but still allow "Class 2 Wildlife" and poisonous snakes to be kept there. That means animals as dangerous as cheetahs, hyenas and cobras could be in cages a few dozen feet from your door.
One group arguing for tougher regulations is the Florida Animal Control Association, the officials in each county who must deal with nuisance and unwanted animals. The residential restriction "should be on any animal that is a danger to families or pets," said Bill Armstrong, Hillsborough’s director of animal services and a spokesman for the association.
Those animal experts have some other helpful suggestions the Wildlife Commission should consider before it passes a final rule. Houses that harbor dangerous animals in cages should have signs indicating so in plain public view, and their locations should be posted on the commission’s Web site. Owners of dangerous animals should be required to report escaped animals immediately, and a disaster preparedness plan filed with emergency responders should be at the ready.
While accidents such as the one with the black mamba are not common, they aren’t unheard of, either. Escaped pythons have become a nuisance in the Everglades, where they threaten native wildlife, pets and maybe, one day, humans.
The Wildlife Commission owes it to unsuspecting Florida residents to provide more protection.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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