This week, a very serious situation occurred in Lehighton involving an exotic animal.

A ball python reportedly bit a 5-year-old girl. The snake was killed by the girl's father who used a knife to free it from the girl.

Without knowing every detail, there is one thing for certain about the situation. What we do know is the snake is an exotic animal and couldn't have known right from wrong. We know that no 5-year-old should be playing alone with a python.

Too often adults assume too much about animals; especially pets. They feel because the animal is around people all the time, that they are safe from harm. Often it is presumed that if an animal is trained, it is harmless around children.

Unfortunately, this isn't always true.

Sometimes animals proceed on instincts with tragic results.

Animal attacks aren't something that you only read about in big city newspapers on rare occasion. As a cold reality of the closeness, some years ago a family's pet dog attacked a small child sleeping in another room at a Carbon County residence.

Local hospital emergency room personnel can relate cases where children are brought to them to treat injuries created by trusted family pets.

There's no question that dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals make great pets. If proper precautions are taken, there is little cause for concern. This means teaching children to have respect for the animal, too. But this doesn't mean total abandonment of utilizing common sense when it comes to involvement with children, especially toddlers.

Regarding exotic animals, special care must ALWAYS be taken to keep them and children apart. Whether it be a python or a chimpanzee or a large cat, exotic animals have potentially more engrained instincts than a typical domestic pet.

In any case, children are never a match for them if things go awry.

Never assume that a pet's gentle nature means total safety for a child. Pets are good for children. They're good for the entire family. But responsibility must always be a priority.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com