Name and Status of the Assessor: Raymond Hoser, Director, Snakebusters                                                                                                        Date: 2004-12 

Activity being assessed: Live reptile shows 

Known or expected hazards associated with the activity:

(Generic to reptiles):

1 - Bites from non-venomous reptile taxa.

2 – Bites from venomous reptile taxa (envenomation).

3 – Disease transmission (bacterial). 

Secondary risks:

Persons falling off stage area (if used), tripping over objects at ground level.

Reptile demonstrations, snake demonstrations, demonstrators, snake busters, Melbourne, Victoria.The risk of injury and its severity likely to arise from these hazards:

(Generic to reptile shows:except Snakebusters)

1 - Bites from non-venomous reptile taxa.

Minor puncture wounds only, with minor potential for infection.

2 – Bites from venomous reptile taxa (envenomation).

Puncture wounds are insignificant, results can be local, such as swelling or redness as well as general symptoms such as respiratory failure and death.  Occasionally necrosis of tissues may occur as well as internal bleeding, renal failure and other organ failures.  Death or serious permanent injury of handler or patron may lead to law suits and other severe losses for organizers.  Such events have occurred in the past and as recently as 2011.

3 – Disease transmission (bacterial). 

Salmonella is most likely, but known transmission risk is so rare as to be insignificant, even when dealing with reptiles known to be infected.

 (Generic to snakebusters):

1 - Bites from non-venomous reptile taxa.

Minor puncture wounds only, with minor potential for infection.

Likelihood is rare due to the tractability of reptiles used.

2 – Bites from venomous reptile taxa (envenomation).

This cannot occur.  All venomous taxa used have had their venom glands surgically removed.  The risk of injury from these reptiles is therefore less than for non-venomous reptiles due to: A/  The fact they only have two major teeth in the mouth (versus several in other taxa) and B/  The fact that as a rule, only the snakebusters handler handles these animals and is skilled and trained in doing so.  Hence “bite risk” becomes less severe than for non-venomous taxa.

Put another way, a bite from taxa as deadly as Tiger Snakes, Taipans and Death Adders are “zero risk” only with Snakebusters.

3 – Disease transmission (bacterial). 

All reptiles used have regular fecal exams, including with microscope and are also treated periodically in a “shotgun” manner with various drugs to eliminate harmful bacteria.  Bacterial infections such as Salmonella are kept absent and/or removed before the subject reptiles are used in shows.

Likelihood of injury via bites is insignificant.

Secondary risks:

Persons other than demonstrators and others “invited” on stage are kept off.

Entertainment area is kept clear of other potential hazards in the form of trippable objects and the like.

Who is at risk?

Handler of reptiles, including to a lesser extent all members of the public who are either in contact with the reptiles or potential contact with them. 

Measures to be taken to reduce the level of risk:


All venomous taxa brought to site have had venom glands surgically removed and hence effectively have no public safety risk at all.

Venomous taxa not generally given to public and even if they are and/or security is breached, there remains no risk to any person.

Non-venomous taxa (pythons, lizards, etc) are only used if they are known to be tractable and not aggressive. 

Reptiles stored in boxes in either locked container and/or locked room and away from the public when not being used. 

Training prerequisites:

Persons trained at snakebusters facility in all necessary handling protocols and basic first aid. 

Level of risk remaining:

Insignificant in terms of potential injury or disease infection to a member of the public or handlers.

Worst-case scenario remains a bite, which if occurring would be generally dealt with by merely wiping the wound site at time of bite.  Treatment of snakebites (non-venomous) is generally not required, although if a member of the public unused to snakes were to be bitten by a very large snake, they’d be treated with antiseptic to reassure them. 

Emergency action:

In terms of the event planned (live snake demonstrations and “hands on” with innocuous), there is no specific emergency plan as no emergency outside of other “normal” events is possible.

Events such as acts of war, heart attack by member of public, etc, can only be dealt with as and when they occur and using the facilities available, which in a mall are coordinated by center management, who have direct access to phone lines and the like.

Snakebusters staff all have their own mobile phones for use in an emergency.

Staff familiarize themselves with key contacts, their phone numbers, emergency exits, toilets and the like prior to commencement of the event.

Animal Welfare Issues and means to deal with them:

1 - Disease transmission to animals via external parasites (mites):

This is by far the number one health issue for the traveling reptiles.

All reptiles are shipped in boxes or containers with minimal ventilation in at least one level, with all sprayed with “Top of descent” Aircraft spray, known to kill the relevant vectors, at the end of each day’s showing and to remain in cases for at least 60 minutes after the spraying.

This is necessary due to the very real and likely potential of members of the public spreading these parasites on their hands to the reptiles when handling them.

2 – Stress from handling.

As a rule, this does not occur.  If members of the public are seen mishandling reptiles, they are either corrected or stopped.  In practice, reptiles inflict more pain and stress on one another than even the most inexperienced handlers (excluding “normal” venomous snake handling methods).

In the unlikely event a reptile is seen in a state of stress from over handling or any other reason, then it’d be retired from showing until either it recovered or the end of the day’s session, whatever came first.

3 – Stress from hooking, heading, necking and tailing venomous snakes.

These methods are known to be extremely cruel to snakes and result in snakes becoming intractable, highly strung and wanting to bite when handled, due to a fear of the pain likely to be inflicted when handled and past experiences of this.  This is the unfortunate reality of non-snakebusters shows, using so-called “hot” snakes.

As a result of the above cruelty and a need to avoid this, at snakebusters shows, all venomous snake taxa at these events are “free handled” by all persons, which means by supporting the body weight properly, either by hand, or hanging over the neck, without need to hold by the genital region (tail end) or strangling and restricting the head in any way.  This can be done “risk free” for the handler due to the fact that snakes have had venom glands surgically removed. (For method see papers, Hoser (2005), or Hoser (2003)).  This method of handling is also always used on the same reptiles for the day-to-day management including shipping to and from the venue/s, moving from container to container (and/or cages) and when the reptiles are being fed and cleaned and medicated if need be.

References (Similar events only)

Malls: Centro Malls (Box Hill, Brandon Park, Heidelberg (X 2), Keilor Downs, Cranbourne (X 2), Gateway/Langwarrin, Ringwood, Mornington, Frankston East/Karringal (X 2)) Wodonga (X 2), over 12 sets of shows.

Werribee Plaza (Pacific), Stockland Pines, Greensborough Plaza (X 2), Parkmore (X 3) and Chirnside Park (all GPT) and Savills Endeavour Hills Plaza (X 2) and others.

Major and minor events: Refer to Snakebusters website for listings.

Agricultural Shows: Refer to Snakebusters website for listings.

Schools, Kinders, Libraries, Holiday Programs: Refer to Snakebusters website for listings.

Children’s Parties, Corporate events, promotions, media: Refer to Snakebusters website for listings.

Snakebusters website – relevant links at:

Signature of Assessor:



Revision date: As above



Non-urgent email inquiries via the Snakebusters bookings page at:

Urgent inquiries phone:
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia:
(03) 9812 3322 or 0412 777 211