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Snakes might have a place as pets, but not in Hawaii

By Cynthia Oi

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 06:27 p.m. HST, Aug 05, 2011



People love their pets. They lavish dogs and cats with the best foods they can afford, ornament them in cute collars, if not T-shirts and other human-oriented attire, and come Halloween, dress Fido and Felix in elaborate costumes.

Peewee pooch owners have special purses in which to tote their pets, though I suppose practicality has much to do with carrying the tiny things, since legs only six inches long don't move them along quickly.

Pets are a big business, judging from the ads on television and other media for pseudo-bacon snacks, gourmet vittles made from organic meats, suede-covered beds and ramps so old, creaky-boned Prince can comfortably get on the sofa for lounging.

Cat people are hawked mesh trays to remove yucky kitty leavings from litter boxes with odor-removing disposal bags as a bonus. (Dog owners are left to use plastic bags from the grocery store or from this newspaper to pick up droppings.)

Fish fanciers don't consider their aquarium denizens pets, but collections of colorful or unusual finned creatures for observation and perhaps breeding. In any case, a wet, gill-pumping gourami or gasping neon tetra isn't an animal for cuddling.

Neither are exotic birds for that matter, and I contend that birds, even if bred for human amusement rather than taken from the wild, cross the line of fitting candidates for pets. Though I know people who trade kisses with their beaked avian friends, birds with clipped wings housed in a cage are quite sad creatures.

If birds cross the line, snakes and lizards zoom way past the horizon. Yet it appears that a good number of these reptiles attract humans.

Google "snakes for sale" and millions of results pop up, offering pythons, corns and poisonous serpents for delivery.

Same goes for lizards, frogs and newts.

I don't get it.

Maybe it's a macho thing, a need to have an intimidating beastie to feel virile and strong, although I'm sure there are women who are charmed by snakes and goggle-eyed lizards.

But really, who wants to wrap their arms around a constrictor that might squeeze back a little too hard? Who finds coziness in stroking the bony plates of a triple-horned chameleon?

I admit, I dislike scaly, slithering critters. While dogs and cats and even birds provide some measure of companionship, I can't imagine nestling on the couch next to a python or skink.

Still, my prejudice should not be the measure of acceptance for reptiles like the 14 recently surrendered to authorities here. Even if they were cute, the issue is that they are harmful to native species and the island ecosystem.

Businesses that trade in these living organisms don't much care that they are illegal here; a sale of a $900 python is big money. Shipping companies, the Postal Service and state authorities are incapable of monitoring packages for such critters.

So keeping out these unfortunate animals who would likely spend their lives in tight, enclosed spaces or, if loosed, would become nasty hazards in the environment is up to the individual. If you're thinking you'd like a snake, snap out of it.

Cynthia Oi can be reached at coi@staradvertiser.com.






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