Target: USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
Goal: Outlaw the practice of removing the fangs and/or venom glands of venomous snakes
Though not common, venomous snakes are occasionally kept as pets alongside their less-dangerous counterparts. Capable of inflicting venomous bites—which can be fatal, and difficult to treat, especially among the rarer species—the sale of venomous snakes as pets is illegal in most states. Other states do allow possession of exotic snakes, with certain restrictions, as pets or for educational purposes. However, because of the danger of bites, snakes are often defanged to make them more appealing. Demand an end to this cruel and frequently life-threatening procedure.
Kept as pets and sold through the exotic pet trade, sometimes illegally, defanged snakes are rendered relatively harmless by removing their fangs and/or venom glands, a procedure that can lead to serious, life-threatening dental infections. Snakes do not stop producing venom if their glands are not removed; venom still pools in their mouths, and can potentially cause harm to handlers. Fangs can and do grow back, and so owners may opt to remove the venom glands entirely for increased safety. Many snakes stop eating after their venom glands are removed, as venom is meant to aid in the digestive process, further compromising the health of snakes. The procedure may also cause long-lasting discomfort to such a degree that a snake simply cannot eat without experiencing severe pain.
Furthermore, unlicensed practitioners, especially in the illegal exotic pet trade, may attempt to defang venomous snakes themselves. Such crude procedures can result in broken jaws or swollen, painful mouths, dental infections, or damaged teeth. Fangs may still remain intact as well, endangering unknowing owners who purchase these animals.
Defanged snakes are also used in snake-avoidance training for dogs, but there are more humane methods to prevent bites in this sort of training, such as fastening a snake’s mouth shut. Though still stressful, it is far less drastic and more humane than removing a snake’s fangs and venom glands.
Venomous snakes are dangerous pets, and subjecting them to defanging to make them more appealing is unconscionable and inhumane. It puts their lives at risk, and causes long-lasting suffering when pain continues to persist, or animals die of painful infections. No animal should be subjected to these risks simply so they might be kept as exotic and interesting pets, and this practice must be outlawed.
Dear Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack,
Venomous snakes will always have an allure as dangerous, exotic pets, but those same qualities make them difficult and possibly even deadly to handle. As a result, many venomous snakes are defanged to make them more appealing. Defanging is the removal of the venom glands, and/or the fangs of venomous snakes, rendering them relatively harmless. Though ownership of exotic, venomous snakes is regulated and banned in several states, defanging is not.
Not only can the procedure cause fatal infection, but it can also result in death by starvation, as many snakes refuse to eat afterward. Pain may persist after the procedure as well. Their digestion is also compromised by the lack of venom that helps break down prey, which can negatively impact the health of these animals.
I ask that you outlaw this practice, entirely, and ban the sale of defanged snakes. It is cruel and inhumane, subjecting snakes to physical pain and depriving them of a much-needed digestive aid. Maiming an animal for the simple expedient of making them more appealing to inexperienced owners is ethically wrong and unconscionable. Defanged snakes may be safer to handle, but that safety comes at the cost of suffering and, often, a slow death.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Renaud d’Avout d’Auerstaedt via Wikimedia Commons