People are freaking out about this video of a little girl and her pet python, but what do experts say about keeping these reptiles as family pets?
A dad who took to social media claiming his 4-year-old daughter is "perfectly safe" hanging out with their 12-foot pet python is understandably shaking things up on the Internet.
Ed Taoka shared a video of his little girl curled up on the sofa with a very large yellow snake and says the reptile is far more interested in rats than it is in his daughter. This may be true, but we're guessing many parents would be pretty reticent to put their kids in this situation.
Taoka did say in his post, "Interaction with any animal and child must always be supervised." And it's clear from his YouTube channel that he is well-acquainted with caring for reptiles.
Anthony Pilny, DVM, ABVP, of the The Center for Avian & Exotic Medicine in New York City, told Parents.com that any pet can present a potential safety risk to both kids and adults. "Unpredictable behaviors happen. That a small risk exists is a given with any animal, snake or otherwise," he said. "I would assume they never leave the child and snake together unattended."
It's worth noting that the little girl, who is seen helping to care for the family's reptiles on YouTube, doesn't seem at all uncomfortable about cuddling with a snake that would send the reptile-phobic among us running for the hills. Even though at one point in the video, the python opens its mouth, which would be enough to scare me into a coma.
"No we have never been bitten," Toaka assures people in his post. In fact, he claims the animal, named Cher, was simply yawning.
He goes on to say in his post, "These are tame (by dictionary definition), captive bred, pet snakes. They have been handled nearly everyday [sic] – multiple times a day since they were babies. There are more dangerous issues with other animals such as dogs and horses to children than non-venomous snakes."
That may be because fewer people own snakes than dogs, though. Consider that just 3 percent of U.S. homes have a turtle, snake, or lizard as a pet.
"In general, snakes are tame and docile and unlikely to bite for no reason," Dr. Pilny said. "[They're] also unlikely to see a person as a meal, especially one the size of a 4-year-old. The snake's size is likely what bothers people because they think the snake could eat her, but that is very unlikely. The possibility of accidental strangulation exists as well, but again [is] unlikely."
Look, many parents wouldn't want their kids to be around snakes, and wouldn't be overly interested in having pythons as pets. But Internet comments claiming this is completely unsafe are not biblical truth. Instead, let's consider that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises you to keep reptiles out of homes with kiddos under age 5, in part because reptiles carry germs, like salmonella, that can be harmful to little ones.
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After that, talk to your child's pediatrician and a veterinarian to determine if a snake is an appropriate family pet for you, and how to properly care for it, especially around kids.
"I don't see any issue with having a snake with a child if that is the pet they choose, and if they teach the child about pet care and responsibility," Dr. Pilny said. "Parents must also know the temperament of their pets to determine safety and the likelihood of potential issues. Common sense is invaluable with any pet."