Should Venomous Snakes Be Kept Privately?
In the reptile hobby community, there is no bigger discussion than the captive care of venomous snakes by private owners. Venomous snakes are dangerous animal, there is no doubt to that, but they are also peaceful and fascinating creatures’. Keeping venomous snakes privately is a sensitive topic and in many countries regulated by law. It is often looked at as the ultimate challenge by many reptile hobbyists. Some others, like myself, are just fascinated by their beauty, behavior and biological wonderfulness.
In this article, I want to present my personal views based on my experiences and opinions on the topic of private ownership. Venomous animals kept in research facilities by professionals are not part of this discussion.
First off, I want to address one very important aspect; the law.
Restrictions by law – are they necessary?
Should the private ownership of venomous snakes be restricted?
I personally believe that it definitely should be restricted, but definitely not banned. By restriction, I mean that there should be several laws and steps in place that filter the responsible keepers from the risk-taking idiots. It could be in the form of courses, regular checks or controls and levels of experience in snake keeping that should be presented by the future owner. These restrictions should take a considerable amount of effort to pass and get a license and this basically has two main reasons;
#1 It would filter out the idiots looking for an adrenaline rush or cool asset.
Many accidents that happen privately with venomous snakes are not induced by the snake at all, but by irresponsible actions of the keeper. In general, venomous snakes common in captivity are very reluctant to bite and most species have to be provoked intensively before they strike. Often times, accidents happen when they involve individuals who were looking for a cool asset and handling the animal highly risky, irresponsibly or to show off. There are many irresponsible snakes keepers that ignore all rules for proper care of venomous snakes, like proper housing, and just want to keep a cool animal. These cases are always the ones that reach publicity because the animal got loose, attacked a second person or bit its irresponsible owner.
However, these accidents and individuals are far from the responsible venomous snake owner community, since being prepared for accidents, proper housing and distance form secondary persons are extremely important.
#2 It would not keep responsible keepers from living their dream
Opposed to the people who are just looking for the thrill and cool asset, there are many snake lovers out there that actually just extremely fascinated by these creatures’ and want to admire them in a save, but private environment. I would add myself to this group because I am not interested in getting bit or showing off the animal, but just enjoying caring for such a fascinating creature and love to privately admire every aspect of their lives. There is amount of controls, courses or experience I would not be ready to acquire to get a license to keep such a beautiful animal. And although there remains some risk, it can be almost erase by proper care, effort and responsibility. Of course, accidents happen to professionals two, but in most cases they involve either wild and aggressive animals, or species that are not suited or common in private captivity, sine responsible owners know what animals to keep their hands off.
A great example for what I mean by restrictions is actually active in my home country, Switzerland. Here I had to take a full day course from highly responsible and experienced keepers to learn all about security and handling. This course now entitled me to file and application for a license for a list of 5 desired species. After acquiring the license, I was able to purchase and legally keep the five desired species for two years, after which I can add more animals to my license. Personally, I think this is enough to keep idiot from getting a venomous snake since it takes time, expenses and effort to get a license. At the same time, it does not prevent someone like me from keeping an animal of their dreams.
Now secondly, I want to address what it takes to keep venomous snakes and whether it is the right decision for you.
What does it take to privately keep venomous snakes?
First off, it requires a lot of responsibility. Of course, mistakes do happen to anyone but they shouldn’ happen to you in this hobby. You must make sure that there are all kinds of little securities in place that prevent you from walking into making mistakes. This includes being prepared for all scenarios, including an emergency protocol, housing security checks and personal controls of you state before you handle a venomous and potentially dangerous snake. You are also responsible for keeping your animal from harming anybody else, which includes not showing it off or handling it irresponsibly.
Secondly, you must have some level of experience with handling snakes and some kind of mentor. Look for someone with experience in your area or go online and look for courses in snake handling and keeping. In the best scenario, you should keep a number of non-venomous, aggressive snakes before you take on venomous animal so that you are prepared and experienced in handling. All these things will be necessary to prepare you for your actual venomous snake and the difficulties you will encounter when keeping it.
Lastly, it takes a great deal of knowledge and fascination to out value the risk and effort it takes.
I personally think that this is one of the most important points. Keeping venomous snakes is certainly a risky business for anyone, not matter how experienced. And although you can definitely minimize your risk greatly, there remains that uncontrollable aspect in the behavior of venomous snakes. If you want to keep venomous snakes, make sure you want it baldly. I don’t mean following a temporary fascination, you should be a venomous snake nut, wanting to know everything about them for a long time. Only if you really love them enough, so much so that people ask you how you could be so obsessed with them, it is worth the taking the risk to keep them.
If you are now thinking to yourself ‘I believe I fulfil all these requirements’, go ahead and take the time to get into this beautiful hobby, it is one of the most rewarding and beautiful activities out there.
Here are some books I can personally recommend for any venomous snake nut (just click on the link to get your copy):
And for advanced venomous creatures’ obsession there is certainly no better treat than ‘Venomous Reptiles & Their Toxins’ by Brian G. Fry!
In conclusion, I believe that keeping venomous snakes privately should be allowed, but restricted. It should take enough to filter the idiots from the snake nuts and lovers that are not just looking for a thrill. An even then, it takes responsibility, effort, experience and an obsession to be ready to keep venomous snakes safely. But if you are fully dedicated to it, it is one of the most rewarding and beautiful experiences in the world.