Posted by: petsweekly | October 16, 2010

My Rattlesnake Experience Today

Today was a fun day. I attended a couple of major adoption events, got to play with puppies and kittens, and had a fantabulous dinner at my Grandma’s house. But during the day, I saw something a little disturbing and now I’m thinking I should have done more to act on it.

Here’s what happened. I’m meandering along, minding my own business, perusing the many booths at one of the events. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I hear it – that long, steady rattle of a Western Diamondback as it warns me away from its area.

My first reaction is confusion. After all, I’m in the middle of an adoption event. Then, I look around to see where the noise coming from, knowing that despite standing in the middle of a parking lot, I stand a much better chance of  getting struck by a rattler than of winning the lottery. So, my senses are on high alert.

Then, at a nearby booth, I see them. Two giant rattlesnakes cramped together in a tiny, hot little wooden-framed cage with chicken wire around it.

The people manning the booth specialize in snake aversion therapy for dogs, and first let me say, I agree with these programs 110%.   I’ve seen snakebit dogs (and people) and trust me when I say it never has a happy ending.  I personally believe that every person who has a pet is responsible to train pets on how to avoid the “local wildlife.”  In Arizona, that happens to include Rattlers.

So I’m absolutely supportive of the program and I wasn’t opposed to the people advertising their services. I was, however, very disturbed at how upset the two snakes were and I was even a little angry that they were there…

First off, I don’t think it’s necessary to bring two Western Diamondbacks to an adoption event. It’s far too dangerous. People are letting kids run around, sticking their hands into everything. Dogs are wandering around with their noses in everything, and the snakes were not happy.  So – anyone or any animal could run up and stick their hand (or paw) close enough to get hurt before the people watching the snakes said, “watch the snakes.”

You see, I have been snake trained. Well, trained to avoid them, anyway. I know what to look for, listen for, and most importantly – what I need to stay the hell away from.  Being around the snakes didn’t bother me.

What did bother me were how obviously upset the snakes were at being thrust into those conditions.

Now, let me preface this by saying, I don’t know much about snakes because to be completely honest, they make me nervous. I know it’s unfair and illogical, and I’m sure there are some really nice snakes out there.  I just don’t want to meet any of them.

But regardless of how I feel about them, I never want to see one mistreated or uncomfortable.  It rubs me the wrong way.  The snakes I saw today were very unhappy. No, not just unhappy – they were uncomfortable, hostile, and obviously distressed.  And the person in charge of these snakes was very unconcerned about the snakes being unhappy. So of course, me being me, I have to say something…

“I think your snakes are getting a little too hot in this sun,” I say, trying not to sound angry.

A grunt from the large woman manning the booth. “Yup.”

“Well, don’t you think you should move the cage into the shade?” I ask, keeping my distance, but watching as one of the snakes raise up in striking position, it’s tail rattling away.

Another grunt. “Probably.”

“Well, then why don’t you move them?”

Picking up on my frustration, the lady shifts in her seat, but makes no move to relocate said snakes. “They’re fine. One of them is about to shed and they’re both due to eat.”

Silence… Then, “Well, then how about you take them on home and get them some food and let them shed in peace?”

The woman glares at me, but makes no move to do anything. Finally, after a few minutes of nothing happening, I move on with a loud apology to the snakes. But, I didn’t do anything else.

Now, again – I don’t know anything about snakes. Maybe they were just fine. Maybe they were just being snakes. But, then again, maybe I should have raised the same kind of hell I would have raised if it were a soft, furry little creature sitting in that cage – hungry and tired and grumpy and shedding.

Maybe I should have called in someone who knew what they were doing with snakes. Like a vet (and there were plenty there). Or maybe the vets should have taken it upon themselves to do something? Maybe I don’t know what the hell I’m saying and I should have kept my nose out of it completely? I don’t know…

All I know is that the snakes did not appear to be happy, rested snakes. Maybe there are no happy, rested snakes. But, is it okay to add to their misery just because they are snakes?

Thoughts from the snake experts? How do you tell if a Rattler is happy? And what would you have done?

And most importantly, how do we move past the thought that just because something doesn’t have fur doesn’t mean we shouldn’t protect it?


  1. With the reaction and obvious disinterest of the snakes caretaker, (and I use that term VERY lightly) you went as far as you were comfortable doing. Certainly, with all the vets there, one of them should have spoken up, but, you just never know how people will react these days, do you?
    It never ceases to amaze me at how many people involved in the rescue and care of animals (reptiles included), don’t know how to provide proper care, or just don’t seem to give a damn.
    Thanks for saying something…maybe she’ll give thought to sun vs/ shade next time…one can hope.

  2. Hey chick. At least you said something, even though it sounds like it fell on deaf ears. I’ve learned a lot about snakes in the last year, if only because Ian adores them. For a start, a distressed snake will not eat. Any reptile centre with a decent standard keeps the snakes in a climate controlled area for their health (they can’t control their own body temperature like mammals can) and they keep the snakes behind one way glass because people and animals wandering near them makes them very anxious. Sounds like these snakes were being used to draw in potential customer interest without a care about the snakes themselves. Nasty!

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