A Florida couple who owned a deadly pet python has been sentenced to 12 years in prison because the snake escaped from its cage and strangled their 2-year-old daughter to death. Admittedly, it's almost impossible to feel sympathy for a couple who were dumb enough to put their toddler in such a precarious situation (especially this couple, as you will understand once the story unfolds). But 12 years is an awfully long sentence. And, it's not like they intended for the snake to kill their child ...
Here's what happened: Jaren Hare and her boyfriend Charles Darnell kept their 8-1/2-foot-long python, Gypsy, in their home -- in a laundry bag with a hole that was placed in a tank without a lock; the lid was simply a quilt held in place with safety pins. The snake had escaped from this "enclosure" 10 times in the two months leading up to the 2009 death, and Hare had testified that she was "thinking" about getting a lock for the lid.
Another important detail of the story: They hadn't fed the snake for a month. In other words, this very large, very deadly snake was STARVING. It doesn't take a zoologist to imagine what happened next: During the night, the python escaped. The next morning, Darnell found it wrapped around the head and body of Jaren's daughter, Shaianna; there were bite marks on her head and arms.
So, basically this couple was dumber than a bag of hammers and obviously should be punished for child neglect. And, this situation will hopefully serve as a valuable lesson for people to provide proper care for their pets and take appropriate safety precautions when there are small children around. But people shouldn't be jailed just for being stupid. After all, there are laws in place that allow them to have dangerous pets in their home. Am I the only one uncomfortable with this seemingly excessive punishment?
Not to mention the fact: Pet dogs kill more people each year than pet snakes. But, though the dogs are put down, typically dog owners get off with little more than short sentences and/or even just probation. Why did the jury feel compelled to make such an example of this couple and their snake -- especially after losing their daughter was likely punishment enough?
Image via Anderson Mancini/Flickr