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Long rebuttal and support of both sides...

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Posted by Rob Carmichael on May 10, 2003 at 09:35:48:

In Reply to: Other (pro) Side of the Venomoid Story (kinda long) posted by AdamUrbanczyk on May 09, 2003 at 20:49:38:

My stance on this subject tends to ride somewhere in the middle (where common sense needs to prevail); that is, I find good arguments on both sides. Wishy-washy? Perhaps, but having worked with venomous herps for a number of years now, AND, working in a public facility setting, I may have a slightly different viewpoint on this subject.

First, Hank Molt has been around for many years and is HIGHLY respected among private and public venomous keepers...and even though some of his claims may come off as a bit edgy, for the most part, I agree with them.

But on the other hand, I feel that this subject has many difficult philisophical and physiological dilemmas that will not soon be answered. The points made by the original post (that is, pertaining to the "naturalness" of keeping a snake in captivity) is a valid one. If there was a good, safe procedure administered only by qualified vets, for those willing to do it, I don't think there would be too much to argue about....I take that back, there would still be lots of arguing when it comes to this subject! If you look at the flip side, from the very anti-venomoid folks, I would like to ask this. Is it any less ethical to keep venomous snakes without keeping the required amount of antivenin no matter how difficult it is to obtain? That, to me, seems just as wrong and hypocritical as the venomoid procedure. Is it right to expect the tax payers or the hospitals (or zoos) to flip the bill (or put their own keepers at risk when their own supplies are diminished) when an irresponsible hot herp owner gets tagged? Our facility experienced this a few years ago when a private keeper got nailed by a venomous snake and we loaned out nearly our entire supply with the promise that our stock would be reimbursed by a nearby wasn't and it took quite a while to get those supplies replenished.

So, if we made the assumption that a safe, non-delibitating procedure were in place, also assuming that these animals would never have a chance to be set free (and perhaps even going one step further, that they won't be bred), can't we also assume that this would be a better avenue to take for the average venomous keeper who won't keep the necessary antivenin on hand or lacks the proper experience (once again, assuming that if people are going to continue selling venomous snakes, young and old people alike who lack the qualifications will find a way to obtain them)? Unfortunately, we must take the assumption that everyone is inherently dishonest so that will be the argument that anti-venomoid folks will use and perhaps they are right. I fully understand the many problems with this statement (two venomoids could be bred and still produce lethal babies, developing poor handling techniques as a result of no longer respecting the harm that these animals are capable of,etc.).

Perhaps the bottom line is that if you are not willing to keep a venomous herp resposibly (meaning: proper secured housing in a secured room with access to direct emergency support, emergency procedures in place, supply of antivenin, knowlege of proper handling/maintenance/feeding procedures, resources, maturity, and on and on...perhaps evena stringent permit system) then perhaps a person should not be allowed to keep a venomous SPECIES (venomous or venomoid alike). Of course, this would probably eliminate 99% of people who currently keep venomous herps for which I will get blasted for making this statement. Oh well, sounds like I am still riding that middle fence. Too bad this subject can't be debated in a calm and logical manner.

On a sidenote: Our facility has taken in several venomoids over the years (confiscations) and we have found that they are just as healthy, robust, active and long lived as their fully venomous cousins. In fact, we have found that these venomoids tend to be much calmer, placid animals to work with (this isn't meant to be confused with lithargic and sick...these animals are the pics of perfect health). We also keep venomous species and prefer to see them in this state. So, from the standpoint that a properly performed venomoid procedure is wrong from a physiological standpoint (assuming that these snakes will be given dead prey in a captive setting), I would have to disagree.

:I have been reading this forum for about 3 years, and this issue has always been contested. Unfortunately we no longer have the clam, mediating voice of people like Jaffo to quell at least some of the very bitter feelings MANY of you have for the vemoiding process and its proponents.

:And while I can respect these strong feelings, I cannot help myself to spot some IMO glaring inconsistencies in the damn-venomoids-to-hell argument. I will try to attack this as logically as I can, and then at the end put my real 2cents in.

:#1 Frank molts massively assuming No-VENONOIDS HERE spiel
:“First and foremost, so-called "venomoid" reptiles are the MOST DANGEROUS reptiles in herpetoculture today.” The last time I checked, venomoid reptiles cannot kill you. By definition they lack venom glands/ducts, right? Okay then. Therefore venomous reptiles are much, much more dangerous. A venomoid cobra will not accidentally find its way out of a cage and manage to deliver a fatal bite to an unsuspecting houseguest. Sure, it will look like a cobra, and most people will believe that it is lethal, but all that matters is that it is not lethal. It could bite 20 people, and have the “victims” all come away with tiny little pinpricks and nothing else. This is exponentially better and safer for the venomous keeping hobby than if a fully loaded snake doing the same thing. Nothing endangers your venomous keeping hobby, in terms of potential legislation prohibiting it, than some rouge hot snake getting out of its cage and killing someone. Venomoid snakes cannot do this. People dying is much more convincing than people being scared. Period.

:Other funny quotes of Frank’s:
:-“People who obtain venomoid snakes are often tempted to keep them in a state or jurisdiction which prohibits venomous snakes by species.” Hah how does he know what people are often tempted to do? Little generalizing aren’t we?

:-“"Venomoids" appeal mostly to the young and very inexperienced; often first time collectors. These are the people most likely to attempt their own crude procedures at rendering a specimen "venomoid" that would result in the death of the snake, or even worse, the incomplete removal of all the venom delivering apparatus, leaving the snake still potentially lethal.” – Hah again. How does wanting to own a venomoid snake make me inclined to start performing the procedure myself on other snakes? Where does he get this stuff?

:-“It would be pretty tempting for some 18 year old punk, wanting to up stage his buddy who took his Albino Python to the Mall, to take his "venomoid" 5 foot Albino Cobra to the park, mall, school or a party to impress his friends.” Again, taking some huge liberties. There’s no doubt someone like this exists, however this person would be the same kid that takes a gun to school – not representative of the population whatsoever and therefore not material to make judgment on, much less a generalization.

:-“And for what? A venomoid snake is no longer venomous. Why the attraction? It is just a snake and a pretty pathetic one at that.” So is he saying that the only attraction to a venomous snake is because it has venom? Because it’s dangerous? This sounds much, much more macho-motivated than keeping any venomoid snake. Snakes are beautiful! Can’t that be an attraction?

:#2 The myth of macho.
:This is always brought up, the notion of people putting venomoid king cobras down their pants to show off in front of their friends. While I am sure there are those who want venomoids for this purpose – and it’s a stupid purpose at that – I believe these people are in the definite minority. The majority of people who do have an interest in venomoids simply want a snake that they can look at and take care of without worrying about someone dying. I can hear the learn-how-to-hook-and-tail-like-the-rest-of-us-did rants as I type this, however for the record this method or standard procedure obviously isn’t adequate. People follow procedures to the T and still get bit and hospitalized or worse.

:#3 The “We might as well de-tusk our elephants” hypocrisy
:This argument seems to constantly come mostly from those newer to the debate. Why don’t we de-claw our tigers, or de-tooth or great white sharks, or de-spot or giraffes?

:PEOPLE! We are not keeping elephants, tigers, sharks, or giraffes in cages in our houses! How can you possibly compare such acts to rendering a snake non-lethal? Venomous snakes are not and never will be domesticated animals. Cats and dogs are. Mambas are not. Anti-venomoid arguers go on and on about how inhumane and unnatural such a procedure is? But what is unnatural? Keeping a magnificent snake in a newspaper lined plywood box in your basement with a 60watt bulb or heat rock to keep it company? That doesn’t sound like a mangrove swamp, desert scrub, or rainforest environment to me. The conscious decision to remove these animals from their environment (and it doesn’t matter if they’re captive bred, they deserve to be in the natural environment just as much as they wild-caught counterparts) compromises their well being at every level. If people really cared about their snakes, they would let them go, or not keep them at all. They are not domesticated animals.

:I personally would have no problem purchasing a venomoid snake that was altered by a veterinarian. I am not in support of so-called garage surgeons that use the newspaper and playdoh that budman so deafeningly rambles on about. To me no amount of training with metal sticks accounts for the massive liability of owning a lethal animal. And such an argument against this, from what most of the very anti-venomoid people on this forum maintain, appears to be one stemming from not only an elitist attitude towards the herp-hobby but also some convoluted sense of self-righteousness. They have no problem keeping a stunning 12ft orange-headed king cobra in a box with a window and some mulch, but when asked to remove the VENOM-GLANDS-THAT-IT-DOESN’T-NEED-BECAUSE-IT-IS-NOT-IN-THE-JUNGLE-ANY-MORE-AND-IT-FEEDS-ON-PRE-KILLED-RATS-OFF-PILSTRUMS (smacks self in forehead) ---no no that is inhumane. Giving the snake its opportunity to kill a person, that’s cool though.

:This argument is not one that will be settled ever, although I find it unfortunate that so many of the anti-venomoid people don’t realize that the demand for these animals exists now and probably always will. So instead of starting some kind of witch hunt, what would be more beneficial to everyone and the snakes that you care so much for would be some official or strictly documented procedures on how to go about the process in the best way possible. The more people like budman (sorry I am exemplifying you- you’ve just been posting a lot recently) and whoever else rant and rave, the more underground such procedures go – something nobody wants.

:That’s all I can think of writing for now, although I am sure I will get some interesting and hopefully poignant responses.

:Adam Urbanczyk

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