Is it Legal to Euthanize a Pet Snake?

At some point, it is almost always necessary to euthanize a pet who has become old or severely ill, and snakes are no exception to this. However, snakes are considered to be exotic pets and they certainly aren’t anything like cats or dogs. So, is it still legal to euthanize a pet snake?

It is legal to euthanize a pet snake. The specific laws surrounding euthanasia differ slightly in each of the United States, but the procedure is a pretty standard one. In some areas, snake owners might even be allowed to euthanize the snake themselves, though it must be done with extreme care.

Euthanizing snakes is perfectly legal, especially if the animal is in a bad way. However, it is still important that you know when that time is, meaning you have to recognize the signs of a suffering snake. It also means you have to have the means and the know-how or else have access to a vet that can do it for you.

Is it Legal?

Again, it is legal to euthanize a pet snake but the laws in every state are slightly different. If you’re unsure of what those are, you’d do well to take a look at them. This is mostly for people who have wanted to euthanize the snake themselves.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), emergency euthanasia can be performed on animals by authorized or present individuals in some states. This is, however, only to be done if the animal is severely injured or sick enough that treatment would be useless.

Though in some states this is not allowed, most of the time a snake owner could carry out the deed themselves if they were not able to access a vet, they didn’t have the funds or any other personal reason. However, if you are to euthanize a snake on your own, you’ll need to know how to do that as well as the signs to look for that indicate the proper time.

When to Euthanize a Snake

Snakes, along with other reptiles are extremely resilient in that they can suffer injuries, illnesses, and certain handicaps and not let it faze them. Some snakes are even born without eyes and they’re still able to live long and comfortably regardless. However, if a sickness or some other affliction is serious enough, the crueler thing would be to let the snake live.

Some snakes are born with serious kinks in their spines. While this can sometimes be lived with, some spine kinks are severe enough that it prevents the snake from being able to keep its food down. If your reptile is dealing with this but you’re unsure about the severity of the condition, you may want to consult your snake’s vet.

It’s easy to get confused because even if it’s in pain, a snake will often act completely normally. However, there are a few signs that simply cannot be ignored. Two of the most noticeable ones are stargazing and a lack of eating.

Stargazing refers to a condition when snakes have to hold themselves awkwardly because they’re in pain. because of the way they hold their heads, it can sometimes look like they are looking toward the sky. When stargazing starts to happen regularly, that’s a good indicator that something is pretty wrong.

You will also be able to tell it’s time for euthanization when your snake stops eating. Whether they stop eating because they’re old or because they have a condition that prevents them from passing food through, it’s a sign that euthanization is the next best choice.

How to Euthanize a Snake

It’s extremely difficult for a snake owner to decide to euthanize, but often, it’s the most merciful thing you can do. While it’s not recommended, you can certainly perform it yourself in a variety of ways. While this is not something an average snake owner could probably do, dipping a snake in liquid nitrogen is one way to cause instant and painless death.

Another common method is crushing the snake’s head. It sounds gruesome, yes, but if you smash the head quickly with a heavy enough object, the connections to the snake’s nerves will be severed and they won’t be able to feel any pain following that. However, most snake owners find themselves unable to do this because of how harsh and gruesome it seems.

There is also, of course, the option to go and see a vet which is probably what you ought to do. Putting a snake down is not like putting down a bird or mammal. Because of their slower metabolisms, snakes take a much longer time to die which is why it might be safest and most humane to entrust the task to a professional.

Vets most commonly use lethal injection to put snakes to sleep but it must be done extremely carefully if it is to be effective. And even if they do manage to inject the substance successfully, it will take much longer for the snake to pass. Aspiration is another method but it’s not used quite as often.

How Not to Euthanize

Just as there are proper ways to euthanize a snake, there are methods that are equally improper because they cause pain. A few of these have been considered acceptable for extremely long periods but in truth, they should not be explored.

One of these is decapitation. Logically, it seems like that would provide a swift end for the snake without it feeling pain. However, snakes have slower metabolisms and lower oxygen levels than other animals which means they can feel pain long after their heads have been severed. Do not decapitate your snake!

People will also put their snakes down by drastically decreasing their body temperature. This is done by putting the snake in a freezer and leaving it there for a few hours. However, this is equally as bad as the decapitation method because the snake will be able to feel every piece of ice that crystallizes on its body. This can be extremely painful.

Carolina Pieters

I'm Carolina and created this blog, to provide practical advice and emotional comfort for those dealing with pet loss.

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