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The Battalion

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Opinion: Denied on the basis of scales

Apartment+buildings+usually+allow+fish+and+lizard+companions%2C+so+why+not+snakes%3F+Opinion+columnist+Charis+Adkins+says+domestic+snakes+should+be+granted+equal+animal+rights.
Photo courtesy of Tony Alter

Apartment buildings usually allow fish and lizard companions, so why not snakes? Opinion columnist Charis Adkins says domestic snakes should be granted equal animal rights.

In the eyes of apartment buildings, all pets are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Even in apartments that advertise themselves as “pet friendly,” there is a lot of discrepancy between leases — namely, a lack of serpentine representation.

Pet reptiles are in over 5.5 million households in the U.S. Despite this, they are rarely included in apartments’ pet addendums. Why? It all boils down to public image. People are afraid of reptilian pets. More specifically, people are afraid of snakes.

So, let’s talk about snakes and why this pet discrimination needs to end.

First, to whip out my credentials: I’ve lived with a snake for almost a decade, and, not to brag or anything, but my family has generational ‘snealth.’ That’s like generational wealth, but only as it pertains to owning snakes.

Let’s get the biggies of snake misconception out of the way first, shall we?

No, snakes are not slimy. They’re actually very soft and smooth — if you imagine your aunt’s faux snakeskin purse, that’s almost exactly the right texture.

Next, the thing people are most afraid of: biting. I’ve been bitten by a snake, and by a dog, lizard and horse … though that last one was more of a miscommunication than anything.

Of this strange creature lineup, the order of discomfort is as follows: dog, horse, lizard, snake. I’ve also been nibbled on by my fair share of bugs, several of which are less pleasant than a snake bite. The reason is simple: Most snakes don’t have teeth. I suppose bugs don’t either, but let me tell you, grasshoppers have a mean set of mandibles.

Some snakes have fangs, but these are very thin, and punctures heal within a couple of days. Snake bites are nearly harmless because they don’t hang on or chew once they’ve made contact; they let go immediately.

A domestic snake will only bite if they’re scared or confused, usually as a result of not being held enough or because the end of their shed cycle obstructs their vision.

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the most harmful snakey stereotypes, let’s talk apartment buildings. I’ve only heard two valid concerns: First, the calamity that would follow an escapee, and second, rodent control issues if feeder rats make a getaway.

While snake escapism isn’t unheard of, it can easily be mitigated by requiring a locking cage. All of my family’s snakes have lived in locking vivariums, and none have ever escaped from their cage if it was properly sealed. Of course, the catch is that you must remember to lock it.

However, how is this any different from the small mammal requirement? Apartment buildings allow an assortment of rodents as pets in locked cages, despite our general collegiate incompetence. Why should snakes be any different?

As for rodent control, the main concern is what would happen if a feeder rat escaped. This makes sense, until you realize that the apartments claiming the “oh no rats” defense are the same ones that allow you to keep pet mice.

The first incorrect assumption here is that all snakes eat live rats. Though less common, there are domestic snakes that eat other, non-rodent foods. For example, water snakes and garter snakes are happy with small fish or crawdads, and I bet you can’t guess what you’d feed an African or Indian egg-eating snake.

When snakes do require rats, they only eat on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. So, every couple of weeks, when it’s time to feed your little friend Lemony Snaket, you go to a pet store and buy him a feeder rat.

Unless you’re running a veritable zoo, you don’t keep your own feeder rats. So, they’re actually present in your apartment for much less time than any pet rodent. Moreover, the chances of escape are also slim — where do you think you put the feeder rat when it’s time for your beloved William Snakespeare to eat dinner? On the bare floor of your apartment?

No. Snakes are fed either in their terrarium or in a separate feeding tank. Feeder rat getaways aren’t unheard of, but it’s much less likely than you would think. Besides, most snakes — like most college students — are accustomed to eating frozen meals.

Overall, snakes are sweet, quiet pets and much less of a liability than demonic chihuahuas that will tear up a couch before you can say “Stop that, Mr. Wittles.”

Clearly, this reptilian discrimination is unjustified. It’s time we reviewed our lease’s pet policies and stop this pet apartheid.

Charis Adkins is an English sophomore and opinion columnist for The Battalion.

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