Associations are not required to allow snakes as pets. There are five classes of vertebrate animals on the planet: mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. The Davis-Stirling Act states that members are allowed to have at least one domesticated bird, cat, dog, or aquatic animal kept in an aquarium. (Civ. Code §4715.)
Mammals and Birds. Cats and dogs fit into the mammal category and associations must allow them, provided they are domesticated. Small birds such as canaries, parakeets, cockatiels, and parrots are considered domesticated and are acceptable as pets. Large birds such as crows, vultures, turkeys, and eagles are not.
Amphibians and Reptiles. The two categories not provided for in the statute are amphibians and reptiles. Amphibians include salamanders, frogs, and toads. The reptile category consists of turtles, snakes, lizards, alligators and crocodiles. Small turtles are harmless and association rules generally ignore them. Lizards, such as geckos, iguanas and bearded dragons are liked by some. Sometimes rules are needed about taking them into the common areas.
Fish. Fish are not listed as a category in the Davis-Stirling Act. Instead, it states that homeowners are allowed to have "aquatic animals." The provision clearly includes fish. It also includes sea snakes since they qualify as aquatic animals, of which there are 69 species. They have paddle-like tails for swimming but lack gills and must surface to breath. Homeowners are allowed to have them in their aquariums.
Snakes. The water moccasin, also known as the cottonmouth, is semi-aquatic. Water moccasins are venomous and their bites can be fatal. The problem with water moccasins and other "water snakes" is that they are semi-aquatic and are not confined to water. They can leave their tanks and slither into adjoining condominiums. Snakes have an uncanny ability to find their way into walls and ceilings, or out open windows and doors, into the common areas and neighboring units.
Except for pythons and boa constrictors, non-venemous snakes are harmless. Even so, no one wants to see black snake emerge from under their couch or open a closet door and find a python. Pythons can grow to 23 feet and weigh up to 250 pounds. A large python can easily strangle or crush a person to death. In 2015, one nearly crushed to death a pet store owner before police were able to pry it off him. It was wrapped around his head, neck, and torso. In 2013, two young brothers were strangled in their sleep by a python. In 2009, a python crushed the life out of a two-year-old girl while she slept in her crib. For a list of constrictor snake incidents, see HumaneSociety.org.
Recommendation: Other than sea-snakes, boards can prohibit reptiles generally, and snakes in particular, as pets. Boards can address the issue by adopting rules. Such rules do not have to grandfather existing snakes.
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