[nfbwatlk] A warm embrace from a slithery pal, The Olympian, September 24 2009
k7uij at panix.com
Thu Oct 1 01:43:09 UTC 2009
O my Lord!
----- Original Message -----
From: "Nightingale, Noel" <Noel.Nightingale at ed.gov>
To: <nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 9:32 AM
Subject: [nfbwatlk] A warm embrace from a slithery pal, The
Olympian,September 24 2009
And a slippery slope about which some of us have cautioned is
represented by this article
A warm embrace from a slithery pal
Service: Shelton man gets a hug from his boa constrictor to warn him
when a seizure is coming
CHRISTIAN HILL; The Olympian
Published September 24, 2009
SHELTON - Most people would panic if a 4-foot boa constrictor draped
around their neck gave them a squeeze.
Daniel Greene, 46, credits the snake's embrace for helping him live a
fuller life. So much so, in fact, that he has vowed to fight a tabled
proposal by the federal government that would prevent him and many
others from taking what they consider their service animals into stores
He said use of his reptilian aide gives him greater confidence when he
"I was walking around playing Russian roulette a lot of the time," he
said of the period before he began using the snake, named Redrock, as a
Greene, who lives outside Shelton, suffers from epilepsy, a neurological
disorder characterized by unprovoked and reoccurring seizures. He said
the snake, its reddish-brown body draped around him like a necktie when
he's out in public, senses when a seizure is imminent and gives him a
light squeeze. The warning gives him enough time to take medication to
head off the attack, alert someone it's coming or move to an area where
the thrashing is not disruptive.
Greene blacks out during these episodes, but his wife, Karen, said the
snake's warning has headed off about a half-dozen seizures in Redrock's
five months with Greene. This month, Greene has had four seizures at
night - she refuses to let the boa constrictor share their bed - but
none during the day.
"It's very rare now that he has had a seizure during the day," she said.
Greene said he learned of snakes' prescient ability by accident about a
year ago with another snake, a 3-foot female python named Gaia. He has
another python, Bronze, who will be Redrock's successor when he grows
too large. He could grow up to be 7 feet long.
Greene took medications to control his seizures, but said they weren't
always successful and were damaging his liver.
A study by University of Florida researchers concluded that some dogs
have an innate ability to detect an oncoming seizure in their owners but
noted the success of these canines depends on the handler's awareness to
their alerting behavior. The researchers said further research is
warranted to identify and further train these dogs, although it appears
none has taken place. Greene said he couldn't have such a dog because
his wife is allergic.
Darryl Heard, a University of Florida researcher who studies snakes,
said he's unaware of any information that this ability extends to
snakes, although he added that "it's certainly possible."
Snakes have acute sensitivity to vibration and could pick up warnings in
the body before a seizure, similar to how tremors precede a volcanic
eruption, he said.
"You might get subtle muscle vibrations or there may be changes in blood
flow that the snake is detecting," said Heard, the associate professor
of zoological medicine at the university's College of Veterinary
Heard said there are risks in using a snake in this manner. A boa
constrictor could mistake Greene in the midst of a seizure for
struggling prey and apply a life-threatening choke hold, he said.
"I certainly wouldn't have a boa constrictor around my neck," Heard
Greene said he removes the snake when given a warning and hands him to
his wife or another companion. Redrock has never exhibited aggressive
behavior toward him or other residents, he said.
"It takes a special kind of snake to be a service animal," he said.
Around town, Greene said residents generally are curious about Redrock,
but some are scared. He said he's always respectful about people's fears
of snakes. He typically sends his wife in to notify employees of a store
or restaurant that her husband is coming in with a most unusual
companion. He has been asked to leave one restaurant.
The proliferation of wild animals, such as Redrock and also including
birds, monkeys and miniature horses, for use as service animals prompted
the U.S. Department of Justice last year to seek to remove some species
from coverage under the Americans for Disabilities Act.
Federal and state laws require businesses to allow people with
disabilities to bring in their service animals. The Americans with
Disabilities Act defines a service animal as "any guide dog, signal dog,
or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an
individual with a disability." Therapy or comfort animals are not
covered under the ADA.
The law as written requires businesses and other public accommodations
to take people's word that they have a service animal. A person with a
service animal can be asked if he or she has a disability but isn't
required to show proof. The state does not require service animals to be
certified or specifically identified. Greene wears a badge with
Redrock's picture on it to remind people of his rights under federal
Laura Lindstrand, a civil-rights specialist for the Washington State
Human Rights Commission, said Redrock would fall under a definition of a
service animal based on Greene's assertion that he trained the snake.
Greene said he acclimated Redrock to people and sounds and made him
Last year, the Department of Justice, which enforces the ADA, proposed
narrowing the definition of service animal to a "dog or other domestic
animal." It later reportedly narrowed the definition down to only dogs.
Mark Richert, public-policy director for the American Foundation for the
Blind, said, "frankly, a no arachnid or no reptile rule is a sensitive
thing in federal policy," according to a transcript of a public hearing
on the proposed amendments posted online.
On Jan. 21, the day after President Barack Obama's inauguration, the
Department of Justice withdrew its draft final rules from consideration.
It responded to a White House directive to defer adopting any new rules
until they could be reviewed and approved by officials appointed by the
The Department of Justice did not respond Wednesday to questions about
the status of the proposed rules related to service animals.
Lindstrand said she assumes they are dead.
"I haven't heard a whisper about it since way before the election," she
Like his serpentine companion, Greene remains vigilant. He supports
changes in the law that a service animal must have a universally
recognized badge or identification to be allowed into a building. He
opposes restrictions on the species of animals that can be considered
"I'm not fighting just to have my snakes," he said. "I'm fighting for
people to have true service animals."
Christian Hill: 360-754-5427
chill at theolympian.com
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