Snake on a Porch

Not just any snake either.  This was a female tiger rattlesnake.  And it was amongst a batch confiscated from someone somewhere.  Wouldn't you think it would make the news, blogs, something if a dozen or more VERY venomous snakes were confiscated?  If it did, I haven't found it yet.  What DID make the news was when a confiscated (by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife folks) female tiger rattlesnake escaped from Zoo Atlanta.  She didn't just escape her cage, she escaped from the zoo and wasn't found for days.  When she was found, it was by a 2 year old child.  That's not quite how the mainstream media is portraying it for the most part though.

"Zoo Atlanta officials confirm the venomous tiger rattlesnake that escaped from a quarantine building Friday slithered off zoo property and was killed by a neighbor on Sunday. The escape was the direct result of human error...  Zoo Atlanta CEO Raymond King... and Zoo Atlanta Deputy Director Dwight Lawson said they got a surprise shipment of 16 rattlesnakes from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Thursday."  Oh, I see, it was a "surprise" shipment so there's a built-in partial excuse?

"The snake slithered across busy Atlanta Avenue in southeast Atlanta and wound up in the yard of a vacant house. Zoo officials said the homeowner was mowing the yard when he saw and killed the snake."  Oh, I see, the snake went to a "vacant house" so no real danger there.  Uh, wait a minute, the homeowner was mowing the yard?  At a vacant house??  Well, that's possible.

"Zoo officials said they did put out warnings..."  Blah, blah, we did our job and CYA crap.  Yeah, OK, maybe but what they apparently didn't do was get anyone to walk through the adjacent neighborhood and put up a few warning fliers.  Seriously? Snake on the loose and you can't warn the neighbors even in the next block??

What DID they do? Why they proceeded with some kind of FESTIVAL knowing that they had a female tiger rattlesnake on the loose that might be slithering around the festival goers!  Human error?  Yeah, I'd say human errorSSSS; quite a few of them.

And now to another article that tells just a wee bit more in the details department.

"After spending Saturday afternoon at the nearby park that surrounds Zoo Atlanta, the Mower family returned to a house they are renovating across the street from the zoo. When their toddler, Pierce, ran out onto the porch, his mother followed and saw the venomous snake just feet away from her son."  That house isn't sounding so vacant now, huh?  Where'd they get that "mowing the yard" bit?  Oh, I see, the family name is "Mower" so I guess they must mow their yard 24/7...  That is one HELL of a spin job!

"Because of the reptile's nocturnal nature and dislike of people, they said they [zoo staff] believed that if it had exited the building it wouldn't likely be a significant danger to anyone."  Darn, there's that human error thing again!

Apologies from the zoo were apparently forthcoming AFTER it hit the press that the child found the SNAKE.  Was an apology not due otherwise?  Darn, add on some more human error.

"Zoo officials have said a staff member did not properly secure a door to the cage..."  Yep, that would indeed be human error they were so vague about in the beginning.

There's gonna be an inspection and investigation that'll take, oh, about a day and the results will be published, oh, in about a week.  Gee, can't wait.  I'm sure it'll be fair and thorough and these private owners will be held to the same standards as all other private owners.  Yeah, uh huh, sure I'm sure!

"wildlife officials can impose a range of sanctions, ranging from a letter ordering a zoo to make improvements to seizing its animals, imposing a $1,000 fine per violation and revoking its permit for two years in an extreme case"  Let me guess: hand slap, $100 fine, another apology and promises that it will never happen again but they'll be certain that the zoo has learned its lesson so no need for anything tougher than that.  You can bet your boots that if this snake had escaped from a private owner who didn't have NPO status and all the frills of a public zoo that every animal owned by that person or group would already have been seized.  In fact, that's probably the story behind these 16 snakes.

If they were such a problem in private hands, why is there no news story about them escaping from that owner? Why am I reading about the "pros" loosing one of them?  Yeah, yeah, I know.  I should know by now that smaller organizations/groups are just plain less trustworthy than the big NPOs and that these incidences are far less frequent with those organizations.

But are they really?  Honestly, we're beginning to find out there are a LOT of exotic animals in the hands of private owners and I do see incidences involving those animals from time to time.  But then there's the Gorilla that escaped from the Dallas Zoo.  This venomous snake.  A deer was able to jump into the Lion enclosure at the DC Zoo late last year.  A rhinoceros got out of his "home" quite recently.

I've seen some criticism of Jungle Island because an ape escaped and then a tiger broke out to chase the ape.  Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Jorge Pino says: "It is fair to say someone would be found responsible."  How odd to see such a statement where no one was injured by the animals (each other and their own panic caused a few boo boos and a panic attack, but no harm from the animals) but nothing similar in the case of a venomous snake found by a toddler.  Might that be a result of the clout of some of the larger NPOs, like ZOOS???

Surely we all know about the whale that killed the trainer at Orlando's Sea World.  There's yet another HUGE NPO with clout and PR ability to fight back.

But here's my recent favorite.  The HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) and friends doesn't like a private sanctuary that has a federal license to exhibit animals.  They send letters to the Feds and whine enough to get the license yanked.  "Mazzola's federal license to exhibit the bear was revoked after animal rights activists  complained about his practice of taking money to let people wrestle Ceasar, another bear he owned. But he was still free to keep the animals."  So, now he can't "exhibit" which means little or no income to care for the animals.  Zoos charge entry fees but the rest of us shouldn't.  Oh, yeah, the activists don't approve of that either but apparently the zoos haven't figured out they are on the wrong side of the fence because their day is coming too.  The day when HSUS and buddies will turn on them is just around the calendar corner and coming faster since the zoos are aiding and abetting the enemy.

"The bear that recently killed a caretaker in a Cleveland suburb... The Ohio bear attack occurred Aug. 19 when caretaker Brent Kandra, 24, took the animal out of its cage for feeding at Mazzola's menagerie...  Most people who work regularly with exotic beasts know and accept the risks..."  Of course they do.  For the most part, this is just the same issue as whether or not people should be allowed to climb mountains, parachute out of planes, or scuba dive.  WE have the right to take risks. 

Don't we all just adore the more "natural" habitats at the zoos?  Well, hey they are a darned sight more risky than steel cages folks and we take and accept the risk every time we pay the gate fee and step into them.  It's a calculated risk.  Not only that but these zoos put entire communities at risk because it IS easier to escape from these newer habitats.  If someone doesn't realize that, well, they're a dumbass and I can't do anything about that.  I am pretty sure most of us are risking more at the zoo than most private owners of exotics because the owners know what to do when things go wrong while we are far more likely to trample each other and go into panic attacks just as happened at Jungle Island.

Now let's take a look at just a touch of hard data, shall we?  "According to a database of publicized exotic-pet escapes and attacks since 1990 kept by the animal rights group  Born Free USA, Ohio ranks fifth in the number of episodes that hurt or killed a human — 14. The leader, Florida, has had 43, followed by Texas with 19, New York with 18 and California with 16. Alabama ties Ohio with 14."  Let's break that down:

Number of people HURT of killed by privately owned escaped exotics in the last 20 years:

  • Florida: 43
  • Texas: 19
  • New York: 18
  • California 16
  • Alabama: 14
  • Ohio: 14

That's a total of 124 INJURIES or deaths for the top 6 states for 20 years; that's 6.2 injuries or deaths per year or about 1/year/state for the WORST 6 states.  I'm not so good at math so double check me on that.  How many people died yesterday in your community in car accidents?  How about in your state for all of last year?  I bet it was a damned site higher than ONE.

Why, pray tell, should we be spending enormous amounts of money to regulate private owners of exotic animals when the risk is this minimal?  I also note that Born Free didn't bother to mention how many of those injuries/deaths were strangers to the animals.  THOSE injuries and deaths are probably 1 in 100 or less.  I suspect you're at least 10,000 times more likely to be run over by your next door neighbor and die than be at any risk of any harm from your neighbor's exotic pets.

The regulars here know that ALL animal owners are under an increasing threat to themselves, their livelihoods, and the very lives of their animals; at risk of summary seizure of the animals which may be summarily killed, at risk of being jailed and basically held hostage pending relinquishment of the animals, at risk from the violence of the government in EXECUTING raids.  You also know there is a growing tendency to accuse animal owners of being "hoarders" and "mentally ill" and that last one is becoming a growing threat all its own.

"A federal judge on Friday ordered mental health treatment for Mazzola as new terms of his probation sentence after pleading guilty in 2009 to transporting a bear to Toledo and selling a skunk without a license."

The elderly are accused of being incompetent to care for themselves, threatened with institutionalization.  Here we see the newest trend of mandated, MANDATED, mental health TREATMENT.  Based on what?  OK, he transported a bear across state lines and sold a skunk.  Exactly what mental illness is that indicative of???  If the concept of a judge diagnosing you as mentally ill and mandating treatment doesn't scare your socks off, well all I can say is it damn sure should!

Oh, and this is going on in Ohio where HSUS is spending enormous amounts of money to influence legislation on exotic animals and livestock.  I'm disappointed in our livestock owning brethren for apparently not standing up for the exotic owners in that fight.  Shame on them!  Every foothold that these INSANE activists get is used somewhere else to get more restrictions.  For example, "Since the Florida girl was suffocated by her family's Burmese python last year, it has become illegal for individuals there to own them and six other large, exotic reptile species."  Now the fever to ban exotic reptiles is growing.  If you want the exotic owners to stand with livestock owners, you need to step up and reciprocate!

"The Association of Zoos & Aquariums recommends against exotic pet ownership in part because of the lethal diseases wild animals can carry: distemper and rabies in carnivores; herpes in monkeys; and salmonella in reptiles. Vaccines used on domestic animals often don't work on their wild cousins, the group notes."  Oh, please, like you guys are doing a better job in your big facilities!  "The arrogance of some of these people" as the commercial says about some cancer doctors.  Same deal here.  Yes, there are economies of scale in larger organizations, or at least can be, but there are also serious disadvantages that include spreading responsibility so thin that no one is held accountable.  Good grief, when was the last time you saw a zoo employee or board member jailed? Or even given a TICKET, let alone threatened with court mandated mental health treatment for breaking an animal law or safety provision and they skate right over these laws on a REGULAR basis on the grounds that they know better than anyone else!

"Exotic pet ownership also includes the risk of infectious disease, damage to the environment when pets are set free or escape..."  I'll agree that there's possible environmental damage issues BUT it's nominal compared to the other forms of environmental damages we humans are causing and the answer to this one is simple; teaching responsible ownership and keeping ownership out of the closet so owners have options other than dumping their pets.  That "infectious disease" crap is just that, CRAP.  It's a red herring intended to frighten our growing germ-phobic society.  We'd be much better off focusing on the Bedbug invasion we've got going on that appears to be largely from our misuse of pesticides in the past which is also probably leading to increasing heartworms and other parasites in our dogs, cats, and other pets as well.  Yeah, WE screwed up and our efforts should be on cleaning that up instead of fearing the diseases themselves.  Fortunately, the infectious diseases we haven't mucked around with much, we haven't screwed up into drug resistant forms.  Maybe we should be focused on trying not to do that!

"and a growing financial burden on animal rescue groups that run sanctuaries for animals that are abandoned, he [Born Free USA Executive Vice President Adam Roberts] said."  Another red herring.  If anything, your "growing financial burden" comes from tending animals you helped seize or encouraged to be abandoned because of the draconian anti-owner laws you're pushing.  Don't shoot yourself in the foot and come whining to the rest of us about it.  Leave us and our pets in peace and we might even donate to the animals that are in need of assistance because of circumstances beyond everyone's control.

"Most people who work regularly with exotic beasts know and accept the risks..."

Yes, they do and so do those who regularly work with livestock, pets, and other animals with the odd exception of the animal rights activists who are so self-absorbed and anti-breeding/anti-breeder that they refuse to access the best sources of information to the detriment of the animals, favoring death of the animals to cooperation and collaboration.  Which just goes to prove that it is not one bit about the animals and IS 100% about the INSANE activists and their power trip and control mongering.

We animal owners are adult sentient beings entitled to make choices and even take risks.  Sometimes those risks turn out badly and that should be on US, not the animals.  Those who work with animals understand this concept.

"Bronstein and a zookeeper were inside the cage of the dragon, a 10-foot- long rare Indonesian lizard, on a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo when the creature attacked."  If you don't work with animals regularly, do NOT get in the cage!  There's one of those Zoo "pros" letting a guy IN THE CAGE with a KOMODO DRAGON.  I know that one was a long time back but it just goes to show we all have to learn along the way.  Still, some of these zoos have some pretty poor records on escapes and safety.
"Among the roughly 2,400 animal exhibitors currently licensed by the USDA, only 200 are accredited by the AZA"  The AZA is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  That means 1 in 12 of the licensed exhibits is what most of us would call a "zoo".  "The fact remains that no matter how many safety measures zoos take, accidents are bound to happen."  But we keep going to zoos, don't we?
  • July 14, 2007: A zookeeper in the San Antonio Zoo suffers multiple bite wounds to the head from a 244-pound Sumatran tiger after he forgets to lock a series of gates before releasing the animal into the yard.
  • February 24, 2007: A zookeeper is fatally mauled after a 140-pound jaguar at the Denver Zoo gets into the employee access hallway through an open cage door. Officials report that the zookeeper failed to follow important safety protocols in forgetting to keep two locked doors between herself and the jaguar, and failing to visually locate the jaguar before opening an access door.
  • December 22, 2006: The National Zoo in Washington is locked down when a leopard is discovered missing from its wiremesh enclosure. Luckily, it is found sleeping near the exhibit half an hour later.
  • September 10, 2005: Three chimpanzees from Zoo Nebraska are shot and killed after they escape from their cage. A fourth chimp is safely returned to the enclosure shortly thereafter. The primates broke out of their cage by lifting a padlock that was not properly closed after cleaning.
  • March 18, 2004: Dallas is thrown into a scare after a 340-pound gorilla named Jabari escapes from his enclosure at the "Wilds of Africa" exhibit at the Dallas Zoo. The giant snatches a toddler with his teeth and attacks three other people before being shot and killed by police.
  • September 28, 2003: A 300-pound gorilla named Little Joe crosses a moat, scales a 12-foot wall lined with electric wires and breaks through two sets of doors to escape from his enclosure at Boston's Franklin Park zoo. A 2-year-old girl and a zoo employee suffer cuts and bruises when they are thrown and dragged across the ground. Remarkably, this was the second time in a matter of weeks that Little Joe got loose.

Now add the escapes from AZA zoos mentioned above (and most of those examples are AZA zoos).  There are 12 times as many private owner licensed exhibitors and untold numbers of private owners of exotic animals.  Who's odds are more likely to result in an injury or death?  Looks pretty clear to me that injury or death from an escaped exotic animal is far more likely to be from an escaped exotic animal that escaped from an AZA zoo; NOT from a private owner, licensed or not!  So what's the motive behind prohibiting ownership of exotic animals?  Same as behind seizing dogs, cats, and livestock.  $$$ and power and control. Plain and simple.

You know, if the zoo community doesn't want to get behind us, well, that's their choice but WE, the private owners, are a much larger group.  Let the zoo community sink or swim on its own if it doesn't want to get on the OWNER side of the fence.  I'm thinking they've got pretty poor odds given their piss poor safety records.

"Most people who work regularly with exotic beasts know and accept the risks..."

Yes they do and they should have every right to do so.  These animals that are under threat are PRIVATE PROPERTY.  If and when an owner does something that harms someone who hasn't consented, THAT is when we hold people accountable in these great United States and not a minute before.  We do not force people into a tiny robotic model of "mainstream" because doing so would tank our freedoms and our economy.  Oh, yeah, it seems that is exactly what we are currently doing.  Then it's damn well time to stop and get back to being the great and creative and diverse country that prospers.

Enjoy the zoos while you can, if you like, but please remember they aren't as safe as you think and jumping in a tiger enclosure could be quite hazardous to your health.  I find the next video indicative of far more than that.  Caging humans isn't the greatest idea either.

If you're easily offended, please don't watch the next video.  (Hint: That's a language warning. It's a comedian, not an animal attack video. :)

We now know what he describes isn't quite what happened in the Tatiana escape and attack but the fact remains that we humans are sentient animals but we can revert or devolve into more basic animals if pushed to it.  I, for one, can be every bit as protective of my animals as they are of me; perhaps even more so.  Our homes are our self imposed cages, our habitats.  We are unlikely to be nice to those who jump into them without permission or invite.

My apologies for the lack of postings of late.  The heat, weather extremes, weather changes, and life generally can just kick the stuffing out of me sometimes and it takes a bit of time to come back up from that.  Once again, it didn't kill me so stronger I shall be.

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