On Libertarian Cobra Fanciers

Someone lost his snake.

A white cobra created a media stir this week by slithering through backyards in a Los Angeles suburb for several days.

Animal control officers caught it Thursday and transported it to the Los Angeles Zoo, from where it was transferred to the San Diego Zoo, which is likely to become its permanent home.

The zoo’s reptile experts say this snake probably was raised in captivity, as its white color would make it easy prey for predators. Authorities investigating the incident believe it was an illegal pet.  It isn’t microchipped and hasn’t had its venom glands removed.  The owner hasn’t been identified, but residents of the neighborhood where it was found say they have a neighbor who keeps exotic snakes in his home.

Private ownership of exotic animals is regulated in the United States, both to protect endangered species, and to protect the general public from potentially dangerous animals.  California requires a permit to keep cobras for educational or scientific purposes.  Having one as a pet isn’t allowed.  But in Los Angeles, as elsewhere, there’s a thriving black market in exotic animals and no lack of people willing to flout the law.

About 10 years ago, Harlem police responding to a complaint found a 400-lb. tiger and a 3-foot alligator in a man’s apartment.  The man, who checked into a hospital, initially claimed he’d been bitten by a pit bull.  The animals ended up in sanctuaries and the man ended up in jail.

In 2009, in an infamous case that made national headlines, a Connecticut woman was severely mauled by a friend’s 200-lb. chimpanzee.  At the time, Connecticut did not ban private ownership of chimps or require permits for them.  It does now.

In January 2013, California police arrested a man for using a 5-foot alligator to guard a 34-lb. marijuana stash.  The gator shared a rental house with the man, his wife, and kids.  Charges against the man included not having an exotic animal permit, although that’s probably the least of his legal problems.

In February 2014, an Illinois exotic wildlife park operator was arrested for taking a tiger into a bar.  He apparently had a permit for the park, but nothing in the permit said he could take the tiger for walks downtown or take it into bars.  He ended up in jail, too.

Most of the time though, when you talk about libertarian pet owners, you’re usually talking about pit bulls.  Just last week, a California man was convicted by a jury of murder for the mauling death of a 63-year-old woman by his four pit bulls, which had previously bitten 9 people in a span of 9 months.  The man knew his dogs were dangerous but didn’t care.

Pit bull fanciers are especially aggressive about their “right” to keep these dogs.  Tune into a rightwing radio talk show and you may hear a host bemoaning pit bull bans as an infringement of “freedom.”  There’s a whole movement out there of people who believe they have a “right” to do as they damn please.  Never mind the adage, “Your freedom to swing your arm stops where my nose begins.”

It seems to be ideological, and it closely ties into conservative ideology in general, although I’m not suggesting by any means that conservatives are ipso facto irresponsible pet owners.  But you’d think the idea of regulating private ownership of exotic and dangerous animals ought to be a no-brainer.  How can anyone be against that?  Sadly, plenty of people are.  Still, I’m not convinced it’s really ideological; to me, they look more like people who simply do as they please and don’t give a damn about anyone else.

Most likely, the owner of the peripatetic cobra is in that category, whoever he or she is.Roger Rabbit icon


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