Taking your pet snake out for some fresh air and sunshine only seems like the right thing to do for an animal that spends almost its entire life in a tiny enclosure.
Many owners of pet snakes take their animals outdoors to get sunshine for making vitamin D, or to let their pets do a little exploring.
Taking Your Pet Snake Out in Public
Any time you take your snake out in public, however, you need to obey local ordinances and to observe safety precautions.
You will have an easier time if misunderstandings arise if you are considerate of your neighbors’ feelings, even if you don’t share them.
It is usually legal to take your snake out in public, as long as you avoid situations in which random people and pets would be forced to encounter your snake up close.
You can’t, for example, let your snake sun in a dog park. You can’t take an uncaged snake on the subway, or take your snake for a “walk” through a playground on a leash.
If you do take your pet snake outdoors, you need to have control over it at all times.
And in many jurisdictions, it is always illegal to take a venomous snake or a constrictor snake into any public place at all.
It only takes one unfortunate incident for local, state and provincial, and even national authorities to enact draconian laws to restrict the rights of snake owners.
For your own freedom to own a snake and for the rights of all snake owners, you always need to present yourself and your snake as safe and positive addition to the community.
When you are new to keeping snakes, you are likely to have some very specific questions about what you can and can’t do with your snake in public.
In this article, we will consider the rules and regulations that govern what you can do with your pet snake.
Why Do People Take Their Pet Snakes Out in Public?
It’s never necessary to take your pet snake on a walk the way you would walk your dog every day.
Pet snakes don’t need to go outside to use the toilet (they do that in their enclosures), and they don’t stay on a leash.
But there are other reasons snake owners take their snakes outdoors in public.
- You want to show off your snake to your friends. If you have a large snake, it will certainly be more impressive all sprawled out on grass or concrete. It is safer for your snake and your friends, however, to do this indoors, especially if they do not know how to handle snakes.
- You don’t want to leave your snake alone. This is an understandable impulse, but understand that your snake is OK without company.
- You want to educate the public about keeping snakes as pets. This is the best reason for taking your snake out in public. Just be sure that you aren’t forcing your snake on anyone. Let interested people come up to you to see your snake, where public display of snakes is permitted.
Remember, shopping malls, stores, your neighbor’s lawn, and most buildings open to the public are private property.
Public spaces, with looser rules, are places like parks and sidewalks.
Can I Take My Pet Snake for a Walk?
Even when there isn’t a property rule or a local law restricting your right to take your snake on a walk, there are precautions you must take any time you take your snake on a walk.
Smaller snakes quickly slither away to pursue the scent of wild animals they can eat, or to find new hiding places. Larger snakes are intimidating to other pets out on their walks and to many passersby.
If you take your snake out for some air and sunshine, you must hold them or let them wrap themselves around your neck at all times.
You must not let them escape from you. You must not let them frighten other people, even though you know they are friendly.
Ideally, you should take your snake to places where there are going to be very few people and animals.
Sunning your snake in a corner of a public park nobody visits may be OK. Sunning your snake on your school’s tennis court is not.
Can I Take My Snake to Show and Tell?
You can’t take your snake to school on a regular basis.
There would be too many opportunities for your snake to escape and disrupt classes, and there are sanitation issues around holding and touching your snake.
Other students and even teachers might not know that they need to wash their hands or change their clothes after prolonged contact with a snake.
Chances are that your school never schedules a “take your snake to school” day, either.
The one time it might be OK to take your snake to school with you is a show and tell day. For a variety of reasons, it is important to ask your teacher first.
There is a positive reason for asking your teacher for permission to bring your snake to school. Your teacher can prepare the rest of the class to appreciate your snake.
Your teacher may even prepare a short lesson about snakes. Teachers need to know about lesson topics in time to make their lesson preparations.
Your teacher needs to make sure there is a place to keep your snake when you go to lunch, or to recess, to other classes, or to the bathroom.
You can’t take your snake just everywhere around the school. Public health laws prohibit animals in places where food is prepared, like the cafeteria.
Your snake could escape and be almost impossible to find under a stage or in the gym.
There are also rules and regulations reasons to ask for permission to bring your snake to school.
Most schools don’t have specific rules about bringing snakes to school, but some cities, states, and provinces (as well as the entire United Kingdom) do. Your school has to follow rules, too.
If your teacher says bringing your pet snake to school is OK, then there are some precautions you need to take for the safety of your snake and for everyone to enjoy the experience.
- You need to bring your snake to school in a container it cannot escape. For a small snake, a Tupperware container is fine if it has air holes. For a large snake, you could make arrangements to transport a terrarium, but that requires extra setup.
- You need to have a way to retrieve your snake if it gets away. It’s OK to bring a grappling hook, as long as anyone who uses it knows to grasp your snake by the middle of its body, not by its head or tail.
- You need to make sure that your snake will not get too hot or too cold during its day at school.
Can I Take a Pet Snake on a Plane?
When you need to travel somewhere by plane, your pet snake can take a ride, too, although not in the cabin with you.
Your pet snake will need to travel in the cargo hold, and you will need to take a number of steps to prepare it for its trip.
Airlines in the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand observe rules specified in the International Air Transport Association’s Live Animals Regulations.
To do your part in preparing your snake for the trip, here is what you will need to do:
- If you don’t know what species your snake is, you need to find out. If you bought a captive-bred snake, the seller can provide this information for you. You will need to know the scientific name for your snake, for instance, Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis for an Eastern garter snake. You will have to include this information in its shipping information.
- You will need to wrap your snake in a cloth sack. For a smaller snake, an old pillowcase will do. For a larger snake, you need a heavy-duty mesh bag. The cloth bag keeps your snake from accidentally biting handlers if its box breaks open, and keeps your snake warm during the trip. Make sure the sack is breathable.
- You will need a secure container for your snake to travel in its cloth sack. Requirements for exactly what this container can be differ from airline to airline. Air Europa, for example, requires snakes to be transported in clear plastic containers and prohibits containers that have wire mesh doors. American Airlines allows snakes in containers of metal, plastic, or wood, but requires every container to have a wire mesh door. Airlines also differ on the size of containers they will accept. You will have to work all of this out in advance.
If your snake must make the trip with you, it can be easier just to use the services of an animal forwarding company like Travel Cargo-Pet Express.
Unfortunately, you cannot keep your snake with you during your trip, even as an emotional support animal.
What About Taking My Snake on a Train or a Bus?
Pet snakes need to be secured inside a breathable cloth bag that is put inside a sturdy, marked box to be checked as baggage for your trip on a train or a bus, too.
Check with the train or bus line for additional information before the day of your trip.
How Do I Get My Pet Snake to the Vet?
Getting your pet snake to the vet can involve taking it through some public places.
The main thing to remember is that you don’t want an anxious, sick snake to escape its enclosure on the way to the vet or on the way back home.
Snakes of different sizes need different containers:
- Hatchling snakes are OK to carry in a Tupperware container with holes in the lid. Make sure the air inside the container is warm before you put the little snakes inside.
- Smaller snakes, up to 5 feet (125 cm) long, can travel to the vet in a pillowcase or a burlap bag. Snakes have lower oxygen requirements than other pets, so you don’t have to worry about their suffocating on a trip of less than half an hour. Your veterinarian’s office will probably schedule your appointment so you can get them in with a minimum of waiting.
- Larger snakes, like boa constrictors, pythons, and anacondas, can travel to the vet in a laundry bag. It is a good idea to put some crumpled paper in the bag before you place your snake inside to catch any bodily waste your snake releases on the way to the vet. If the weather is cold outside, place the snake in the bag in a cooler to keep it warm.
Avoid jostling, tipping, or opening your snake’s container on the way to and from the vet, especially in public places, like the parking lot.
A trip to the vet is never a good time for show and tell with friends or strangers.
Is There Any Place I Can Always Take My Snake?
There is one place where pet snakes are always welcome in public: Reptile shows!
People who go to reptile shows are expecting to see snakes and will enjoy seeing yours.
Another place you can always take your snake, even though it isn’t public, is your yard.
Your snake could get away and be hard to find, but there is no question that you have every right to take your snake out on your own property.
Just consider this: Your pet snake doesn’t really need fresh air and exercise. Your pet snake will be perfectly happy never to go out in public at all.
Snakes are happy to lead solitary lives in their enclosures as long as they are kept warm and fed.
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