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COLUMN

Happytown

We generally stay away from the trailer-trash beat – we live close enough to Bithlo as it is – but after the July 14 conviction of a 21-year-old Sumter County woman and her 34-year-old boyfriend on charges of third degree murder, manslaughter and child neglect for allowing a giant Burmese pet pythonto strangle their 2-year-old girl in 2009, we have to pipe up. Back in February, we spent a solid three hours in an awfully depressing warehouse at the Central Florida Fairgrounds, surrounded by reptiles and their reptilian owners (see “Growing Pains,” Feb. 3) selling exotic, rare snakes to anyone that could show them the money. Serpents, we say! We came to the obvious conclusion that this easy access to a trove of exotic and insanely powerful reptiles would be the industry’s boon and bane; that is, a boon when responsible, caring and fur-hating individuals discovered reptiles and trained them only to strangle burglars, but a bane when jocks, rednecks and Guidos discovered the snakes and used them as lassos, necklaces, in games of tug-of-war, etc.

Unfortunately, like all the cars that don’t blow up in Baghdad, you don’t hear about the responsible snake owners in the news, unless you subscribe to Herp Nation magazine. So, upon the news of the convictions, we called the president of the United States Association of Reptile Keepers, Andrew Wyatt, to get his thoughts on what he thought of the couple awful enough to allow its python to get free and kill a child. “You can’t regulate or fix stupid,”Wyatt said. “It sounds like they got what they deserved … I’m sure there’s a special place in hell reserved for them in the afterlife as well.”

Part of his anger, naturally, pertained not only to the crushed 2-year-old but to the condition of the snake – “hungry and emaciated,” according to Wyatt, who managed to keep his composure when he uttered the words. But most of his anger stems from the still-pending motion filed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the boa constrictor – of which Wyatt says there are a million in the U.S. held as pets – as “injurious species,” which would ban their importation as well as their shipment over state lines. Listen, feds: This guy has a lawyer and a Washington lobbyist. Don’t fuck with snakes, and he won’t fuck with you.

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