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Old 09-11-03, 07:01 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Young children handling a ball python

My girlfriend's friend babysits 3 mentally handicapped children between the ages of 5 and 7. My girlfriend (without my knowledge) told her friend that she could bring the kids over to see and handle the snake. Now since this is all arranged already, I need some advice on how to let these children handle the snake? What should I say to them, and how should they hold the snake? I don't want one of them to be able to squeeze the snake and hurt it, but it would be nice if they could hold it SOMEHOW. Any advice is greatly appreciated. I am VERY protective of my snake. Oh yeah, the snake is only about 20'' long.


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Old 09-11-03, 07:03 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I personally would let them PET the snake only. Kids (ANY kids) can be bitten and have very rude bullheaded parents and you don't want that kind of trouble.

Also in the future tell your girlfriend your pets aren't her personal zoo open to visitors without your consent.

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Old 09-11-03, 07:11 PM   #3 (permalink)
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My youngest nephew likes to pet my BP. He's never shown the least bit of aggression but I don't take any chances. The snake is pretty tame too. lol
Seriouslly though........
I agree with Marisa on the point about the personal zoo comment. I mean who wants to come home to a story about your pets biting a child or is injured by being dropped. Coming to look at the animals maybe but handling them no way!
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Old 09-11-03, 07:25 PM   #4 (permalink)
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My 21-month old son is extremely gentle with all of my ball pythons but I would never let him hold them until he's a lot older. But I've taught him to pet them very gently and he loves to touch them. He's very intrigued by them and loves watching them too. He also has never shown the least bit of aggression.

These are older kids and I'm quite sure could handle holding a little snake for a minute or two but you also said they are mentally handicapped. What age are they mentally? Have you met them, and after being around them do you believe they are capable of handling the snake? If you have the slightest bit of doubt, don't let them, instead just let them pet it. If you told them how to handle them, would they understand it? Is the snake aggressive in the least bit? You said it is only 20 inches, it's probably still a baby and most babies can be very defensive.
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Old 09-11-03, 07:29 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Dave, make sure these children are allowed near the snake. If the decision was made by the baby sitter, her, as well as you can be in serious trouble for this! espeacially when dealing with handicapped children. personally I feel its a great oprotunity to educate children on these cool animals, however parents always need to know!

my advice, is to handle the snake.. Then show them how to do the same. Balls are pretty placid. Hope it all goes well.
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Old 09-11-03, 07:49 PM   #6 (permalink)
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personally I would make her cancel, these are your snakes, not hers, if she insists on it, print out a form basicly explaining everything, and saying that if the child gets bit then you are not responsible for it. And if the childrens parents do not sign this, then they can pet the snake while you are holding her/his head. If the parents sign the paper, then show each child individually how to hold the snake, and limit the amount of time holding the snake to about 1-2 min a piece.......then afterwords.......tell your gf to have enough respect to ask you first.......I'm sure she wouldn't want you to take a few kids and have them handling her fave......jewlry, stuffed animals, porclin dolls.......anything of hers that she is protective over........Just my 2 cents.....please don't take offence!!! and goodluck.
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Old 09-11-03, 08:37 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Kids love snakes, and many mentally hadicapped kids we have seen like snakes more than your average kid.

If your ball python is trust worthy, I would definitely at least let who ever wants to touch it do so. Just stress that they have to pet it nice, and can't squeeze, pat, or beat the snake.

We have let many kids hold ball pythons (and many other snakes). Ball pythons are the best snakes for this, overall, and in general, in my opinion.

If you don't want the kids to come over, take a snake to them.

They are kids, they deserve to get to see reptiles in real life - it might be their favorite experience for years - and you get to provide that for them.

Also, if they get to see a snake at this age, they should never develop fear of snakes in the future.

I say that if the ball python is trust worthy (which 90% of the ones we've had are) definitely let them touch and maybe hold the snake. They might not want to hold it, but I'm sure you can get all of them to touch it - and they will be amazed at how nice they feel (especially BP's)

I've got a bit of a soft spot for kids who are dissabled or disadvantaged due to a handicap, but it is those kids who seem to appreciate someone doing something special for them more.

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Old 09-11-03, 08:45 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Very well said Ryan :thumbsup:

Giving the experience of seeing a snake for the first time, especially to kids and disadvantaged ones at that I think is a really nice thing and could be acheived without problems if all is planned first.

I would recommend that one child at a time gets to be one on one with the snake and get to touch it. I myself have let young children touch and hold one of my bp's and all went well. When it came to holding it, I would have the front part with the head and would let them hold the bottom half. That way I wasn't afraid that the snake would bite one of the kids.

I would have a talk with your girlfriend about volunteering your snakes for this without asking you first!

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Old 09-11-03, 08:52 PM   #9 (permalink)
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i agree if you are worried write up a waiver
also i do shows for kids, get them to sit and be calm, explain to them that they dont like to be startled and lay a few ground rules down before you bring out the snake and get them to repeat it if necessary so that they understand, if they dont follow the rules the animal goes away, simple as that. its also best done before eating as well, i find...the kids that is. i find handicapped kids are very eager to please, and it would be a good experience for them. chances are tho being handicapped and only 5 and 7 i wouldn't let them hold the snake unless you felt absolutely confident about it as severity in handicapped children differs from one individual to the next. i also control the head at all times, so that the only part the child gets to pet is the rear end.
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Old 09-11-03, 08:54 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I actually brought out my ball python for the next door neighbor kids and they absolutly loved it. i told them the way to hold him and handle him. i let them all hold him but i was right there the whole time.

I just told them to not touch his head as he gets a little skiddish when you go near his head, but he has never ever tried to bite me.

all the questions they asked me i tried to answer correctly so that they would understand and everything went really well.

Now they want me to bring out my 6 1/2 foot boa next time and i said i would but i will not let them hold her.
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Old 09-11-03, 08:57 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Depending on the severity and nature of their handicap this could either be the best experience they have ever had or a total disaster. A lot of handicaped children use very quick movements or are a lot more rough than they intend to be. It may not be such a good idea to let them hold him, but if you or someone else holds their hand while they pet so it's a little more controlled it should be okay.

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Old 09-11-03, 09:00 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I think children should be allowed to handle docile snakes, but I would personally only let a child who was related to me (my daughter or one of my nieces) actually HANDLE one of the snakes, because it's easier to take responsibility with relatives than with someone else's kids. When I was a teenager, I babysat two mentally handicapped kids, and I have a huge soft spot for them as well, but because they sometimes get carried away when they are excited, and don't always possess the same levels of restraint as a non-handicapped person, I'd be more apprehensive to let them fully handle a snake, no matter how docile. Use your judgement though; if the kids can be reasoned with and instructed on how to properly handle snakes, I think you should absolutely let them. I think everyone should have that opportunity.
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Old 09-11-03, 09:14 PM   #13 (permalink)
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hmmmm there seems to be alot of mixed thoughts on tis topic but i would say if u feel they are capeable of doing it i would let them do it. and if you dont, well how much can a child hurt a snake by touching it with one finger. i had a 7 year old at my house and she was very eager to see one of my snakes, so i took out my BP. she was very calm to entire time so i just told her to put her hands out and just let the snake do it's thing. well she caught on very quickly and now when she asks if she can hold a snake i have no worries (but obvisly i supervise all handelings) so i would talk to these kids first insted of ruleing them out. good luck.
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Old 09-11-03, 09:18 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Ryan is absolutely right about these kids getting a chance to enjoy these animals. It's very important not to make assumptions about them just because they have a disability. Obviously you need to know about the kids a bit (disabled or not) and be reasonably sure they aren't irrationally violent or wreckless. My daughter has been handling snakes since she was three. It doesn't take a whole lot of intellectual capacity to understand "GENTLE". Also, as with any minor, you may want to have a telephone conversation with the parents about the whole thing, I'm not sure a support worker or teacher necessarily has the authority to make that choice. Of course the whole thing is kind of stupid because no one would think twice about letting a kid pet a cat. A cat can be hurt by a child (I've seen that more than once) and child can also be hurt by a cat. What's the difference? How much money would a lawsuit about a couple of cat scratches bring? Could a bite from a 20" BP be any worse than that?
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Old 09-11-03, 09:39 PM   #15 (permalink)
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It takes literally nothing to understand how to hold a snake.

That is not the issue in my mind.

The issue is the fact that snakes, ALL SNAKES, can be unpredictable and when letting children hold them one must be ABSOLUTLY sure they have parental consent.

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