Born Free USA calls for national crackdown; reports growing numbers of pet snake incidents and inconsistent regulation on ownership, seriously endangering public and environment

Apart from being a danger to humans, snakes have become a major threat to native wildlife. In Florida, Burmese pythons (like this one, one of the largest caught) that were released have been breeding and are now considered a pest.

Incidents involving "pet" snakes in the USA causing injury or death to humans, or escaping and putting communities and the environment in danger, are on the rise, according to Born Free USA, a leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. On the heels of the latest incident reported this week in Florida where a 60 pound family dog was killed by a 10 foot long snake - the 58th snake incident tracked by Born Free USA this year - the organization is calling for a nationwide crackdown on keeping of snakes as pets.

Born Free USA's exotic animal incidents database ( has tracked more than 600 incidents involving reptiles in less than a decade and an astounding number of them, nearly 75%, involved snakes. The organization has been monitoring incidents involving exotic and wild animal escapes and attacks including reptiles, big cats, and primates and sees a steady rise in snake ownership - particularly deadly boa constrictors and pythons.

Actual numbers much higher

According to Adam Roberts, Executive Vice President, Born Free USA, "Clearly this is a national problem and we can only assume that the actual numbers, when factoring in unreported events, are much higher. We are seriously concerned about the epidemic of owning deadly snakes. Large snake ownership remains unregulated or poorly regulated across the country. While there are 40 states with some regulation pertaining to private ownership of snakes, some have fairly strict laws (Hawaii, Alaska, and California) while others are quite vague and lenient (Georgia and Idaho). And in most states, the restrictions are only for venomous snakes."

"Snakes are wild animals who cannot be trained and at any time can display their normal wild behaviour, which may include a poisonous bite or strangulation," he adds

19 deaths

Born Free USA has tracked 471 dangerous incidents involving snakes based on public and media reports of incidents since 1995. There have been at least 19 human deaths including a two year old girl strangled by the family's 12 foot python in 2009 and a man bitten by his own poisonous snakes in Virginia last year.

In 2012 Born Free USA tracked 106 incidents involving snakes, a record year in the database. Previous years were 82 (2011); 9 (2010) and 20 (2009) (more at Incidents this year are already at 58 and predictions from Born Free USA are that this will get worse. This summer alone, deadly pet snakes escaped and were on the loose in New Hampshire, Michigan, Massachusetts, Florida, Wisconsin and Oregon.

Major problem with invasive snakes in Florida

Controlling these invasive snakes is critical because they cause major economic losses and expenditures and threaten endangered and indigenous species and the ecosystem overall. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that millions of dollars have already been spent to work on solutions for this growing problem. It is not only cruel for the animal to be confined in a home or a cage, but also we know that when an 'owner' gets tired or frustrated with the animal, they may release the snake outdoors. That ecological impact is severe right now. In Florida, there is currently a "war" on snakes who are decimating the ecosystem and believed to have been pet snakes. They are wreaking havoc, posing danger to humans, pets, wildlife and the environment at large.

Roberts adds, "It is simply too easy in most states for unprepared individuals to purchase potentially dangerous snakes They are being imported from Asia, Australia, Africa and Central America; they are kept in inappropriate caging; they escape; they kill; and they pose a threat to the natural ecosystem. What will it take for legislators to put an end to this unjustifiable animal ownership?"