An Australian man got more than he anticipated when a video with his pet snake earned him allegations of animal cruelty.
Steven Brimelow went viral this week when a video of him swimming with his pet python, Dora, emerged on social media. The pair appeared to have a blast splashing in the water together. Brimelow was at ease with a beer in one hand as he tossed his beloved snake and watched her swim back to him.
Brimelow even picked up Dora and gave her an affectionate kiss. To most spectators, he seemed completely devoted to the snake and her wellbeing.
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Unfortunately, for Brimelow, his enthralled viewer base included members of the RSPCA who saw far more than a happy-go-lucky animal at play. They believe that the snake was not showing affection by swimming back to her owner, but rather attempting to get out of the water.
RSPCA reptile handler Shannon Beagan called the display “outrageous.” He said that, though able, snakes are rarely willing to go swimming.
“Firstly, it is in no way a natural environment for the snake to be in. I imagine it would be causing a great deal of stress to the animal to be hurled through the air like that and then to slap down on the water,” Beagan said.
He also commented on what Brimelow was misreading as signs of affection from the snake.
“Snakes do not attach to their owners, or come when called … Quite a disturbing display.”
RSPCA representative Michael Beatty consulted with some of the RSPCA’s reptile experts before his interview with ABC Gold Coast, and reached a similar conclusion. He said that, while he thought that Brimelow loved the snake and did not intentionally inflict cruelty on his pet, his behavior was that of “gross stupidity.”
“That snake would just be trying to get out of the water as quickly as possible and [the man] is its means of just getting out of the water.”
Conservationist Kady Grosser believed that the snake felt threatened, and that tossing her repeatedly in the water only added to her fear, which caused her to swim back to Brimelow only for refuge from the attacker in the water.
“It is not ‘coming back’ to its owner, it is a scared animal that thinks it is being attacked by a predator and trying to escape the water onto the only thing protruding which happens to be a person,” she said.
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Brimelow was very candid about the contents of the video. He said he did not consider taking his snake swimming animal cruelty. He said he has owned Dora since last November, and that they go swimming often. Brimelow said he even gives her a warm bath afterward to wash the salty grit of the water off the snake.
“We are together all day, every day. She’s never bitten me — she’s the love of my life.”
However, the problem goes further than just cruelty. Mr. Beatty also mentioned the required license. Beatty said that these playful ventures violate the terms of the permit. Although Brimelow confirmed having the license, Beatty was doubtful.
“[The snake] has to stay within the confines of your home, you aren’t allowed to take it out unless obviously, you’re taking it to the vet or you have a special license for educational purposes. It’s unlikely this guy’s got any sort of licence like that.”
The environment department would not comment further on their stand or involvement, but they have reached out to local police on the matter.
[Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]