venomoid snakes, devenomized snakes, venomoid FAQ, deadly snakes devenomized.
The following venomoid snakes FAQ has been produced by Snakebusters: Australia's best reptiles, the world leaders in terms of working with venomoid as in devenomized snakes, to give an unbiased and accurate account of the consequences of surgically devenomizing snakes.
Note: There are a number of so-called venomoid FAQ’s on the web. Most have been written by novice reptile people and/or persons with no experience with venomoids and they are often riddled with inaccurate or false information. Others are written to contain deliberately false information and are written by envious business rivals who lack the expertise to perform venomoid surgery and are unable to source their own stock of venomoid snakes from elsewhere.
Venomoid surgery is the removal of a snake’s venom glands to permenantly make them unable to inject venom in a bite. Generally it is used on dangerous species to make them harmless.
Until about 2004, the operation generally failed for various reasons. This is a major reason for a lot of negative sentiment against the operation, including on the internet.
Reasons for failure of operations varied, but included a general belief that the operation wasn’t possible due to the (alleged) need of snakes to have venom to digest food, and/or that the glands were essential for survival in one or more other ways. A common cause of failure was the operation itself, in that almost all attempts involved cutting the glands out from the side of the head.
In 2004, herpetologist, Raymond Hoser published a major paper detailing a series of successful operations in Australia. These operations differed from previous attempts in many ways, most notably being that they were done by cutting through the roof of the mouth. The same operations have been successfully done on all the deadliest genera (world’s top five) and without exception all have been a resounding success. As of 2011, all the original venomoids mentioned in the first 2004 paper are alive, well and continue breeding.
Following the publication of the 2004 Hoser paper and later ones by Hoser in a similar vein, there was a general disbelief that the operation was possible, or had been done. It all seemed “too good to be true”. This was in spite of the relevant venomoids being seen in reptile shows daily in Australia and regular media appearances, including on TV and front pages of major Australian newspapers (see below). (Hoser became the first person in history to appear in the media holding the world’s five deadliest snakes, a feat repeated many times).
Raymond Hoser has authored a number of books on corruption, including wildlife smuggling and a number of people adversely named in those books have retaliated and used the internet and elsewhere to publish a series of falsehoods and lies about Hoser and in particular the venomoids. Hence there remains a widespread belief that venomoiding is not possible and/or that it is somehow cruel for the snake.
1 – The operation is not cruel for the snake. While the first operation (a success) took three hours from start to finish (taking photos also slowed things somewhat), the time of operations rapidly shrunk as methods became more refined. Later operations also improved to the extent that almost immediately after the operation, it became physically impossible to tell venomoid from “normal”. The actual cutting and stitching part of the operation (later operations), took under 6 minutes. Sedation is by “cold torpor” which has several advantages, including a virtual elimination of bleeding at the relevant times, itself giving several other advantages, including making surgery easier, elimination of cauterization/scarring (giving better and “cleaner” healing) and of course less “blood loss”. At this stage, no pain is felt by the snake. Post operative pain is minimal and this is easily measured. Post-operative pain killers (e.g. Diazepam (otherwise known as the addictive drug Valium)), are contraindicated for several reasons (including that snakes drugged are inclined to burn themselves) and are not necessary..
2 – Contrary to a few written reports on venomoids, there is no reason to withhold food post operation and as a rule, venomoids will happily eat within hours of the operation.
3 – The only likely or foreseeable complication of venomoid surgery using the Hoser method (since published in texts elsewhere), is infection. This is easily prevented with the common anti-biotics and monitoring of the snakes. None of the Australian venomoids referred to in the Hoser papers have ever had infections arising from surgery.
4 – Because venom is pumped through the fangs quite rapidly, these are cleaned during the operation and the source of venom removed. Venomoids are effectively harmless immediately post operation. However due to residues and the like, naturally shed, the snake should be treated as potentially dangerous for at least a month. As a note, we’ve never been able to find traces of venom even a week post operation and in spite of exhaustive repeated tests on all snakes. Pre-operation, all operated snakes yield venom when strapped to board and rubber band placed over fangs and depressed. On this basis, we’ve found the most effective testing is probably the same method. Easier and alternative means of testing such as general “milking” methods, and/or forced biting of small mammals (if allowed) have been used to confirm the venomoid state.
5 – The Hoser operation has been republished elsewhere since 2004, including in the 2006 veterinary medicine text by Doug Mader (Reptile Medicine and Surgery) and the Aug 2008 issue of Reptiles (The world’s widest circulating reptile journal, including photos of the world’s first venomoid Taipans as centerfold).
1 – The obvious is to give the handler and others near the snake, a zero bite risk, in terms of venomous bite. This is a compelling advantage for wildlife demonstrators. In some jurisdictions (e.g. Victoria, Australia), it is illegal (under Section 32 of the “Occupational Health and Safety Act” 2005), to do a public demonstration with a snake that is not venomoid. In early 2007, a man in NSW died after showing others an Eastern Brown Snake and getting a bite. That snake was wild-caught and not venomoid.
2 – A more compelling advantage of venomoiding is for the snake itself. Venomous snakes are routinely handled with sticks, “necked” and “tailed” so as to forcibly restrain them and prevent them from having an opportunity to bite. This is inherently traumatic for the snake and often shortens their lifespan if frequently handled, through stress-related ailments. That’s even before one considers things like damage to tail, neck scales and the like from forcible restraint, which may easily infect and cause painful death through septicemia. This is a common and widely under-reported cause of death in venomous snake. Venomoids are automatically freed from these shackles and can be “free handled” as in unrestricted movement.
This is effectively zero stress for the snake and while the snake may decide to bite the handler (there is now nothing preventing this), this is relatively uncommon. When bites occur, there is merely a pinprick for the person, meaning it is of zero consequence.
3 – So-called snake handlers and demonstrators easily represent the largest group of persons admitted to hospital for serious life threatening snake bites. Reduction of such bite events through the use of venomoids will save the public (taxpayer) millions of dollars in hospital costs and venom/anti-venom production costs. In Australia alone, more than fifty so-called snake handlers have been rushed to hospitals in ambulance from snakebites. All such events could have been avoided with the sensible use of venomoids.
4 – The production of anti-venom to treat human snakebites is a very cruel and expensive process, justified solely on the basis that it saves human lives. Venomous snakes are caught and brutally pinned on a regular basis and milked for venom, often dying an early death as a result of the continual cruelty arising from being "pinned", "necked" and forced to bite into a rubber surface. The venom supplies facilities regularly need to trap large numbers of snakes to satisfy their needs and to replace those that die. The venom obtained is then injected into horses, many of which also die or develop serious neurological diseases. However a small percentage develop an immunity to the venom and the serum from the blood is then "harvested" for use as human anti-venom. Because snake handlers are the most common snakebite victims, the use of venomoids can dramatically reduce the need and demand for anti-venom, thereby removing a huge amount of cruelty to both snakes and horses. Although this saves taxpayers a small fortune, those who supply venom and run the anti-venom production have a strong vested interest against venomoids and in Australia actively campaign against them in order to maintain their own commercial position.
In summary the advantages of venomoids are:
1 – Zero risk to handler or public,
2 – Snake’s welfare is improved.
3 – Potential savings of millions of tax-payer's dollars in ambulance, intensive care, venom/anti-venom production costs.
4 – Removal of considerable cruelty to snakes and horses through dramatic reduction in demand for venom and anti-venom production.
The web is littered with arguments against venomoids and the surgery, but in the context of modern operations, all arguments invariably fail.
There are however some arguments expressed, which while potentially true, are irrelevant, but are given below as a matter of fairness.
A – Venomoid surgery is not natural. This is conceded. So too is grabbing a snake by it’s neck and ramming down worming solutions. Both are however indicated for the benefit of a snake’s welfare in captivity. By the same criteria, captive snakes are healthier and outlive their wild counterparts. Furthermore, housing snakes in man-made boxes is also “unnatural”.
B – Venomoids will not survive if released into the wild. This is obvious, but an irrelevant argument. No venomoid owner would consider releasing their snakes into the wild.
C – A person exposed to venomoids may get confused and go into the wild and pick up a venomous snake. This is a “worst extreme” argument and taken to it’s logical end, the same applies in terms of a person exposed to non-venomous snakes, noting that most people have trouble telling the difference. In answer to “C”, venomoids should be disclosed to audiences, even though the venomoid state doesn’t alter a snake’s propensity to bite. The propensity to bite is reduced by the more humane handling, noting the same occurs with “dare-devils” who choose to free-handle fully venomous snakes.
D – If a person cannot handle a venomous snake competently, they should not be able to handle a venomoid. This is an idiot argument and if analyzed is actually an argument against the welfare of the snake. The first venomoids in Australia were produced and used by a person with decades of venomous snake experience and not one drop of anti-venom. He didn’t need venomoids to avoid a bite. The advantage of venomoids is for the snake, NOT the handler. Non-venomoids MUST be brutalized with sticks and the like as avoiding a bite is the primary consideration when handling the snake. For those snakes, the welfare of the snake takes second place. Repeating this, for non-venomoid snakes, their welfare takes second place to the welfare of the handler. For venomoid snakes, the snake’s welfare takes first place over that of the handler. That’s why for venomoids, it is OK to allow the snake to bite the handler.
There are many, some repeated here, as people may see them in print elsewhere. We print the obvious rebuttals.
A - Venomoid operations have high failure rates. Not so. It is about as fail-safe a procedure one could ever get. None of the Hoser operations have had issues and all were regarded as “routine”. Prized breeder snakes wouldn’t be going under the knife if there was any perceived risk in the procedure.
B - Venomoid snakes regenerate venom. Not so. This has been an established fact for many years. Notwithstanding “B”, exhaustive testing of snakes for potential venom residues, yield, etc, post operation before “free handling” is mandatory to remove all risk and testing regularly should be continued. Contrary to internet claims, none of over 40 operations have ever yielded venom post operation, after five years of regular tests. (We suppose that if you cut off a tail scale of a snake and declared it “venomoid”, then of course it would still have venom!)
C – Venomoid snakes are defanged. Not so. These are kept by the snake. Only glands are removed.
D – Venomoid snakes have a personality change. Not so.
E – Venomoid surgeons are butchers who use dirty tools and the like. While anything is possible, it is not likely in the real world. As it happens the bugs likely to cause problems for the snakes are those already in the snake (opportunistic bacteria as they are called), and that is why even with the most sterile of equipment, anti-biotics are routine for post venomoid surgery snakes, regardless of who does the operation and what tools are used.
F – Things like, wood, tape, wire and rubber bands as seen in venomoid pictures are not appropriate surgical instruments. As it happens they are the best available for the procedure. Veterinarians, including the world’s best, have been using such gear on reptiles with success for decades as seen in all the best reptile medicine texts (see Frederick Fry’s and Doug Mader’s books as examples).
G – Venomoid snakes die because they need venom to digest food. Put simply, they don't!
H – It is easy or common to leave bits of venom gland in a snake after operation from which the gland can regenerate. While anything is possible, in the real world of competent surgery this isn’t so. The venom gland sits tightly squeezed and relatively unattached in a grove-like region of the side of the head and presents as an effectively sealed unit, surrounded by muscle and some easily removed connective tissue. At the rear a ball of muscle and connective tissue connects to the skull and the front is a duct, then running into the fang. Severage at both points allows for simple removal of the whole organ in one piece. Readily differentiated muscle dorsal to the gland is also easily separated. Hence without germinal tissue, there can be no regeneration.
I – The practitioner may die from a bite during surgery. Anything’s possible, including perhaps a “needlestick” wound during surgery. But with common sense, such a risk is insignificant. The riskiest part of the procedure is perhaps routine handling of the (non-venomoid) snake pre-sedation.
Which snakes should be venomoided.
While the operation is now incredibly simple, it’s long-term application will remain somewhat limited. For snakes rarely handled, venomoiding while advantageous to the snake, is not mandatory for it’s welfare and hence will probably not be called for.
For snakes regularly handled, especially in the context of wildlife demonstrations and similar, it is likely that venomoiding will become mandatory. The rate at which this is seen in the period post 2007, will depend on the rate at which “snake handlers” are bitten and killed/hospitalized by their non-venomoids and the following pressure from authorities to remove public safety risks.
Animal welfare organizations, which should in theory be in favor of venomoiding snakes for frequently handled snakes, will probably not move to seek widespread venomoiding, due to the fact that they are generally pre-occupied with warm blooded animals as well as the general misinformation about to the effect that venomoiding is cruel to the snake.
For several reasons, as a rule, Venomoids should not be seen as a “short cut” for novice reptile keepers to seek to keep venomous taxa.
While there is an apparent increase in the rate of digestion of food without snake venom (contrary to many literature reports from the past), this is not a significant benefit of venomoiding. Physically for the snake, as a captive, there is no benefit in being venomoid. All benefits of the venomoid state arise from the fact that venomoids are no longer restrictively handled by humans. They are free-handled instead. This is a measurable benefit of the venomoid state, measured by the lowered pain and stress of the snake, indicated by a lowered propensity to try to flee or bite the handler. The best indicator of this improved welfare for the snake is to compare a showman using venomoids versus another using non-venomoids.
From the point of view of the snakes, there are none. However assuming as an owner of the snakes, you do the ethical thing and disclose the fact, you will cop flack others envious of your situation. If in business as a demonstrator, rivals without venomoids, with inherent disadvantages will tend to try to attack your business in order to shore up their inferior position. In Australia, the major suppliers of venom to produce anti-venoms view venomoids as a serious commercial threat to their position and have raised false arguments against venomoids to shore up their own commercial position. They have also petitioned the authorities to outlaw or restrict the creation of venomoids with success in some jurisdictions, solely to maintain their tax-payer supported commercial position. In Victoria, "Zoo's Victoria", Sean McCarthy and other inexperienced snake handlers successfully petitioned the government to take legal action against Snakebusters for owning venomoids. The basis was that Snakebusters had "an unfair advantage" over their own inferior snake shows. This was by virtue of the fact that Snakebusters were able to do risk free venomous snake shows on a daily basis in a manner that did not stress the snakes and eliminated risk for staff and public.
The legal situation is cloudy in many jurisdictions and for most people the logical point of call is a veterinarian.
In the United States there are several veterinarians who as of 2007 were performing venomoid operations.
In Australia in the period following the Hoser 2004 papers, several veterinarians offered to venomoid snakes for fees approximating $1,000 a snake. Following threats and violence from “anti-venomoiders”, most of the relevant veterinarians decided against offering the service.
For several reasons, Raymond Hoser / Snakebusters do not venomoid snakes for other persons or entities, nor do they sell any venomoids. All are kept “in house”. Furthermore, in 2007, the Victorian Government Wildlife Authority also requested that Snakebusters NOT supply anyone else with venomoids and Snakebusters have complied with that request.
The most serious for those performing the operation or selling venomoids is what happens if and when a venomoid is confused with a non-venomoid and a bite occurs. Even if liability is shown to be absent, defending a lawsuit may be prohibitively costly. It is considerations such as this, rather than the operation itself, that has tended to scare a number of veterinarians away from the idea of performing the venomoid operation on request.
As of 2008, some newly licenced operators have tried to snare Snakebusters clients by claiming that the Snakebusters Venomoids are illegal and/or the original operations were illegal. These statements are lies!
Several written complaints to authorities initiated by David John Williams (a man with multiple convictions for wildlife smuggling, cruelty to reptiles and other serious crimes) and his associate Shane Hunter, led to the Victorian Government cross-checking all relevant laws and as a result a legal opinion was generated by the government and in turn handed to the Victorian Government Solicitor. This document in turn passed to Snakebusters, stated that nothing in terms of the Snakebusters venomoids was illegal and that the Hoser operations as detailed in the relevant papers was also totally legal and hence no charges could or would be laid.
In spite of this document, the deliberate false claims about the legality of the Snakebusters venomoids have continued. Due to a lack of funds by Williams and Hunter (for example Williams never paid the money for his last fine of $7,500.00 and now (as of 2008) lives in New Guinea), Snakebusters probably cannot get damages from either man in the event of suing for defamation or illegal conduct designed to cause commercial harm. Recent (2008) alterations to the Victorian Prevention of Cruelty to Animals laws have not made it illegal to make snakes venomoid (as is claimed by some). However the relevant Act now defines circumstances that the operation may or may not be performed. All the Snakebusters venomoids remain totally legal.
More importantly however, under Section 32 of the newly enacted Occupational Heath and Safety Act (Victoria), it is now illegal to demonstrate in public, any venomous snake that has NOT had it's venom surgically removed in the Victorian jurisdiction. In other words, non-venomoids are illegal in the relevant situation.
Snakebusters are now (2008) the only company legally allowed to demonstrate venomous snake species in Victoria. Not only are demonstrators legally liable if they put the public at risk through demonstrating snakes with venom glands intact, but so too are the persons booking and allowing any such demonstrations to take place.
It does however remain perfectly legal for any other licenced demonstrator to confine themselves to using non-venomous species of snakes.
The link for the 2004 Hoser Venomoid paper is at: http://www.smuggled.com/VenArt1.htm
The link detailing the lies and deception of Williams and Hunter in terms of venomoids can be found at: http://www.smuggled.com/HunReb1.htm
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Venomoid snakes FAQ, removing cruelty and stress from handling with sticks, tongs and the like, devenomized snakes answers, venomoid snake facts, deadly snakes devenomized.