Don’t let problem pets become wild animals

By Jennifer Meyer

The news lately has been depressing, yet predictable. Hurricanes, the Iraq War and the Senate confirmation process are all very interesting and newsworthy, but one news story has me hooked: “Python Bursts After Trying to Eat Gator.”

The plot: python versus alligator. The outcome: python swallows alligator whole and then blows up. According to the Miami Herald, the snake’s head was also missing. Awesome! Now this is news!

To my excitement, there have been many more python stories in the news. For instance has reported “Python Eats Pet Siamese Cat” and “10 Foot Python Roams Southside Neighborhood.”

In Miami a 10-foot African rock python wanted some Thanksgiving dinner and swallowed a turkey. The turkey did not agree with it and the snake could not move. But wait, why are all these incidents happening? Why is the media making these pythons look like gangsters terrorizing smaller animals and children?

It is because most of these pythons, with the previous exception, are Burmese pythons.

They came to this country to be used as pets and people have been throwing them into swamps and forests when they have become too big to handle or when they just don’t want them anymore.

The wildlife preservation workers are infuriated. It has become part of their job to remove the pythons and keep them from eating animals and people bigger than them.

When the pythons are released into an environment that does not suit their needs, what happens?

The Miami Herald reported that the pythons are fighting alligators to be at the top of the food chain. They have a good chance at this since the pythons are multiplying rapidly and proving they can eat alligators, however, digestion results vary.

Is discarding unwanted pets into foreign ecosystems animal cruelty?

When a pet owner releases their pet into the wild, the pet is left on its own to survive. It may have to eat different kinds of food than it is used to or find an unusual home.

If the pet is unusual, such as a fish one can only buy at Wal-Mart, and it is released into the East Lagoon, how is it going to survive? There are no other fish of its species there, so it most likely won’t reproduce. It is possible the fish might be forced to eat something it should not and blow up.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare warns pet owners to never release their pet into the wild.

They say your pet will be highly stressed and frightened in an unknown environment. They also say your former pet could catch diseases that wild animals are immune to.

Releasing your pet into the wild is an illegal act. It is a death sentence for your pet as well as native animals.

Are Burmese pythons becoming an unwanted problem or should they be allowed to freely live among native species? Some believe capturing animals and putting them in zoos is animal cruelty.

If the animal can survive and breed in its new habitat, should it be left alone or should it be captured for endangering other animals and humans?

If pet owners educated themselves about animals before they bought them, these problems would not be the new hot topic in the news. Stop discarding your pets into the wild.

Instead, help them by returning them to pet stores or animal rescue shelters.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.