I’m going to step on some toes here, but I feel I need to state my opinion on some things. This is solely MY opinion and any hurt feelings should be addressed to me and not the entire group. If I offend you, sorry you feel that way.
It has been an eventful few days here in East Tennessee. We had a very knowledgeable young man get in over his head. Unfortunately he was too embarrassed to admit he was in trouble, and his animals paid the price. I’ve seen a multitude of reactions. Several were ready to rip him a new one while others offered words of support and advice.
I know for a fact that nobody is being any harder on him than he is himself. None of us is perfect. We all are going to make mistakes. I hope we all can learn from his mistakes and admit we are in trouble before the animals are in danger of having to be put down. We owe it to one another to do whatever we are capable of to help each other. One bad example, in the wrong hands, will hurt everyone of us.
Part of the reason this group is here is to help each other any way we can. If anyone is feeling overwhelmed, speak up. We can’t help you if we don’t know that you need it. If you won’t go out of your way to aid a fellow herper, maybe you don’t belong with us. Luckily that wasn’t the case this time around. The animals have been rescued and will hopefully recover. There was an overwhelming group reaction to save these creatures. If we won’t help each other, nobody else is going to raise a hand.
I only hope that this individual, as well as all those familiar with this situation, can use this as a learning experience and grow into a better herper in the future. I would hate to see the kind of passion that his individual displayed be squashed by this whole situation.
Another, possibly related, situation I have observed is minors in possession of the “giant” constrictors. To me this just seems like we are inviting problems. A large snake is a totally different creature than a ball python or corn snake. There is always the potential for trouble with a 10+ foot animal. Couple this with the keeper being, as the public would view it, a child; and it would be a nightmare. The media would have a field day with a story like this. I realize there are a select few below the age of 18 who are mature enough to deal with this responsibility, but they are few and far between, and a teenager telling me he/she is knowledgeable enough to handle it will not convince me. While I believe we should all legally be allowed to own whatever species we desire, there has to be a limit and in this case I think legal adulthood is that limit.
I am ready to fight for any adult who wishes to own a retic, burm or anaconda. Heck I’ll even go to bat for an experienced handler that wishes to step up to venomous, provided they have the knowledge, experience and ability. But I intend to steer clear of putting a potentially dangerous species in the hands of somebody who might not be mature enough to deal with these animals. I want to see this hobby not only grow, but improve. A big part of that is how the public sees us. Unfortunately, in my opinion, a teenager toting around a 14 foot snake simply because he can, does not reflect well on this community as a whole.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we are a community. We should be doing everything in our power to help one another. Every time one of us bashes another, simply because we don’t agree, it hurts us all. Constructive criticism is one thing, but we’ve all seen the “You’re an idiot for doing that” type of post. That has gone on way too long. If we are going to resist the pressure from outside the community, we can’t be destroying it from the inside.
So, in closing, if you find yourself in over your head, speak up. We have shown we can work together and won’t let you fail. I am always willing to help anyway I can. If you ask a question and I don’t know the answer, I will beat the bushes until I find someone who does. If you know of somebody struggling to care for their animals, reach out to them. Sometimes some friendly advice is all it will take. I feel that all of us in CHET will be more than willing to step up and offer any assistance we can.
If you are still reading this, thank you. You’ve probably figured out that I will speak my mind. If you don’t agree with my ideas, that is your right. I believe we can still find a way to work together. Until next time, goodnight.