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Yearning for an exotic pet? Use a little common sense



Published: Fri, August 24, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



If everyone on the planet exhibited a little bit more common sense, a lot fewer trees would have to be sacrificed for the printing of law books.

We'd still need laws to rein in the dishonest and the cruel, but the folks who write and enforce the law wouldn't have to worry so much about people who just don't seem to think.

We've come to this conclusion in recent days after two incidents in the news involving exotic animals. One ended without serious incident, the other in tragedy.

Caiman went: In Austintown recently, a six-foot caiman named Spencer flopped out of a second floor window of his owner's home on Stanford Avenue and took the opportunity to sun himself. Spencer's neighbors were not amused. While a herpetologist might know exactly what a caiman is, most folks would look at one and just think alligator or crocodile.

It's just not the kind of creature that parents of small children or owners of small pets would feel comfortable about having as a neighbor -- especially if he has exhibited an ability to roam.

So now Austintown trustees are trying to find ways, given the limited powers that townships have, to regulate the keeping of exotic and possibly dangerous pets in residential neighborhoods.

Shouldn't people be able to come to the conclusion on their own that if they want to live with strange and dangerous animals, a city or urbanized township is not the place for them? You might think so, but you'd be wrong.

Eventually Spencer was captured by his owner and taken inside with no obvious harm done. A suburban Pittsburgh couple and their daughter were not so lucky.

No happy ending: Amber Mountain, 8, is in critical condition at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh after a 10-foot Burmese python owned by her father literally squeezed the life out of her. Paramedics said she was clinically dead when they arrived, but they resuscitated her on the way to the hospital.

Amber's father, Robert Mountain, has two Burmese pythons and three other large constrictors, which police identified as a jungle carpet python, a reticulated python and an amethystine python.

A civilized nation should not need a law that tells people with small children that they must choose between their children and keeping pets that are apt to kill those children.

It shouldn't, but apparently it does.




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