[nfbwatlk] A warm embrace from a slithery pal, The Olympian, September 24 2009

Mike Freeman 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
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 
and restaurants.

He said use of his reptilian aide gives him greater confidence when he 
leaves home.

"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 
service animal.

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 
new president.

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 
service animals.

"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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