Snake owners in Florida, and indeed the United States, should be aware of Senate Bill S. 373, introduced in by Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) on Feb. 3, 2009. This bill addresses the topic of a ban on the importation and interstate trade of snakes of the species Python genera (basically, all pythons, harmful or otherwise). In accordance with the Lacey Act, these snakes would be labeled injurious to humans, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, or wildlife, and would thereby be subject to extermination. But what does this mean for pet owners? Well, if the law passes, it will be illegal to own a python, so you’ll have to get rid of it. Unfortunately, it will also be illegal to sell it or transport it across state lines. So this pretty much only leaves you one legal option, which is euthanization.
But let’s start at the beginning. The feral population of Burmese pythons in Florida’s Everglades began to grow noticeably in the 1990s, after holding facilities were destroyed in Hurricane Andrew (1992) and several snakes escaped into the wild. Since then, these snakes have bred to an unmanageable degree, with the population swelling to an estimated 100,000. And the major problem seems to be their penchant for snacking on anything and everything that comes into their path, from rodents to the local pet population. However, the major fear is the possibility of the snakes spreading to other states. According to Nelson, S. 373 is based on a controversial climate-matching study which predicts the spread of the Burmese python across the southern United States. Something Nelson fails to mention is that the study includes the Indian python, which thrives in a much broader climate range than the Burmese python, prompting critics to question its validity as a basis for the bill.
Whether or not the snakes will spread, it certainly seems that something must be done to control their population in Florida. However, this bill does not appear to hold the key. For starters, what do they think will happen if the bill passes? Will thousands of disgruntled pet owners simply turn their snakes over for slaughter? It is much more likely that they will give their pets a fighting chance by releasing them into the wild, exacerbating an already astronomical problem. Aside from that, snakes tend to be notoriously difficult to capture and kill, and there are no provisions in the bill that address this issue. So the real question seems to be, is this bill really going to solve the current problems posed by the feral python population in Florida, or is it just going to punish responsible pet owners?