Why? If you ever plan to own a venomous snake, this will be a question that you will answer for a lifetime. Why would you risk your life? Why keep an animal that can kill you? Why not keep a normal, non-venomous snake? These are all questions that you will be forced to answer, not just to random strangers you meet, but to your friends, family, and anyone else who has an affiliation with you. However, by that point, you should have no problem answering any of those questions because you should have already answered them for yourself.
I have kept many different species of reptiles over the years, but I’ve always primarily had my focus on snakes. I never knew what it was about them, but they always fascinated me. A creature so beautiful, so feared, so powerful, and so terribly misunderstood; yet they still have impacted our history throughout the centuries. The Holy Bible gave its most feared character the image of a serpent; an image still recognized today. The Egyptians rulers emulated the hoods of cobras. This symbol of a flared cobra’s hood given to their sculptures was know as a uraeus; a sign of protection and their absolute power. Countless gods throughout Africa, Asia, South & North America, and Australia talk about gods with serpent heads and reptilian skin. My point is that snakes have always been a part of our civilization, whether they were feared, respected, or both. To me, I saw their beauty and the role they served on this world and it made me want to learn as much as I could; hopefully helping to contribute in some way, regardless of how big or small.
During my time in college, I was keeping many kinds of pythons. I majored in chemistry, with a focus on biochemistry, with the hopes of attending veterinarian school. Unfortunately, life had other plans for me and vet school never came to be, but I did still graduate with my chemistry/biochem degree and a new idea: Snake venom. I had been working with snakes for several years by this point and now that I had my degree, I wanted to start exploring my options with pharmaceutical research as a possibility. I knew there were several progresses made in medicine because of research on snake venom and that was what initially drew me in. However, what made me absolutely sure was seeing the work that was being done with Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s a subject that is quite close to my heart. My grandfather has been suffering from it for many years, with the disease now in its late stages, all we can do is helplessly watch. For years, I saw what it did first hand, not just to my grandfather, but to my mother and her family as well. When you see it ravage the body and mind and know there isn’t anything you can do, it is a truly helpless feeling. I will never forget when he didn’t remember who I was. My heart broke, but it made me more determined than ever. At that point, I knew that I would do whatever it would take to own venomous snakes safely and responsibly. It didn’t matter if it would take a year or ten, I had made a commitment. It made all those questions I discussed earlier easy to answer. I have one life to give, so I decided to devote it to raising these snakes and learning all I could.
With my story being told about why I keep venomous snakes, here are things that you must do and consider before you even think about purchasing one. These are steps you must take not only for your safety, but also for the good of the hobby as well as the legal aspect of keeping venomous snakes.
The first thing you must consider is where you live. It’s not just a matter of what state you live in (although that’s where you need to start), you will need to consider county, township, city, borough, or any other local ordinances or laws. The laws might not always be fair, but they are still the law. If you break them by owning a venomous snake where you legally can’t, you aren’t just hurting yourself, but rather the entire hobby. You will just be adding fuel to the flames for politicians and private organizations to try to add more restrictions and bans.
The next thing you need to do is to try to find a mentor and “do your homework” as they say. A mentor is someone who has responsibly and safely kept venomous snakes for many years that can give you hands-on, supervised experience with handling and caring for the snakes on a day-to-day basis. It is important to remember to find a mentor who keeps the same kind of snakes you are interested in; it doesn’t make much sense to train with rattlesnakes when you are wanting to keep cobras! While you are doing this kind of training, you need to start doing research into the animals you want to keep, including either purchasing or putting together “bite protocols” for emergency situations. Bite protocols are brief binders that are made for each species you keep that, in the event of a bite, you can provide to an emergency doctor to help save your life. Bite protocols are best left made by professionals and you can find very well made ones online. In addition to bite protocols, you need to put together an emergency contact list, as well as having a plan in place (like a fire drill) in the event of an envenomation. These are probably the most important things you can do when owning a venomous snake as it could very well save your life.
One of the last steps that you need to take before finally purchasing your first venomous snake is to designate a certain room in your home that will strictly be used as your “snake room” to isolate them. Your snake room, depending on your state and local laws, may require certain amenities to ensure that the snake is secure at all times. Regardless of the laws, it should be your responsibility to go through your snake room with a “fine-tooth comb,” looking for any possible way to make it sealed tight, as well as identifying any problem areas that could complicate things if a snake were to escape. First, your room needs to not only be under lock & key, but any doors that lead into the room need to be clearly marked “keep out” or “danger: venomous reptiles inside.” This will be the primary deterrent to keeping any unwanted guests out! Also, the doors need to have some form of door-sweeps attached; snakes are extremely flexible and can squeeze under very tight doors! The sweeps will help ensure that, should there be an escape, the snake will be confined to the room. It is also a good idea to put ¼’ mesh over all vents, holes, or any other gaps in the walls or structure of the room. Lastly, it is a good idea to have the design of your room set-up to allow the most function, while also creating the least amount of hiding places. This is just another way to help ensure that if there were to be an escape, the snake will be isolated to the room; ensuring both a safe return for the snake and a stress-free, safe capture for the keeper.
As with any animal that you are considering adding to your life, whether it be a new puppy for the family or an exotic & deadly cobra, you must always do your research! You must make sure that you will be able to care for your new snake throughout its entire life, both financially and responsibly.
Keeping venomous snakes can be a very rewarding experience. Depending on your reasons; whether for the pleasure of keeping, breeding, or the desire to extract venom, it is a niche in the reptile community that has the potential for growth and a vast amount of exploration for new and exciting things. I do not claim to be an expert. In fact, I strive to learn new things everyday in this field; but I think that’s what also makes it special. There’s no single right way, but with our collective techniques and cooperation, we can help perfect our craft. Hopefully, after reading this brief article, you can gain a better understanding of what it takes to successfully keep these amazing creatures.
Editor’s Note: RepTImes.com, It’s Authors, Writers, or Website Owners are not responsible for any injury or death related to the keeping of venomous snakes.