Lock up your boa if you want to share custody of your child, judge tells father

A Quebec judge has told a father he must keep his pet boa constrictor under lock and key if he wants his child to visit him at home. But the family court judge also ruled the snake's presence is not a reason to keep the father from sharing custody of his child.

But judge also rules the snake is no reason to keep the father from seeing his child

There is no legal knowledge of a case where a boa attacked a child, a Quebec judge ruled in a custody case. (Courtesy Warren Booth)

A Quebec judge has told a father he must keep his pet boa constrictor under lock and key if he wants his child to visit him at home.

But the family court judge also ruled the snake's presence is not a reason to keep the father from sharing custody of his child.

"The only objective risk that this situation presents is that the child, without the knowledge of Monsieur, could open the door of the tank to get a closer look at the animal," said the judge in Arthabaska district court, about 160 kilometres east of Montreal.

The names of the parents are withheld in family law cases.

Bad memories of snakes

Judge Clément Samson granted the father in the case custody of his six-year-old child every second weekend. The child's mother objected to visits as long as the snake was present. 

"Madame is afraid of the animal," Samson wrote in his June 22 decision.

The snake must be locked away when the child is in the home, the judge ruled. (Hilary Bird/CBC)

He noted that when the couple was still together, the man owned two snakes, including the boa constrictor. He once put them on the couple's bed, leaving the woman with a "very bad memory of the event," the judge wrote.

Even though dangerous animals have killed both children and adults, Samson wrote that the courts can not base their judgements on people's subjective fears.

"Legal knowledge does not reveal a case where a child was attacked by a boa," his decision reads.

Little risk for the child

The two-meter-long, 10-year-old boa is not venomous, and is not expected to grow any larger. It kills its prey by suffocating it. 

Given its five-centimetre width, the judge ruled this was not a serious risk for a six-year-old child.

The judge also noted the boa had never escaped before.  

However, in order to prevent the child from opening the tank out of curiosity, Samson ruled the father must put a lock on the sliding door that opens the tank, and keep it locked whenever the child was in the home.