A mother in Sebring, Florida, is accused of child abuse after allowing a snake to bite her 1-year-old daughter to teach her a lesson.
Chartelle St. Laurent posted a video to Facebook of the red rat snake biting her daughter. The video has since been removed from the social media site, but St. Laurent told WFTS that she does not regret her actions.
"It had bitten me and my son and didn't leave a mark, several times," she said. "So, I thought it was a good opportunity to introduce her without actually getting hurt."
St. Laurent found the snake in the driveway of her family's home.
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The Highlands County Sheriff's Office investigated the incident and concluded that St. Laurent violated Florida's child abuse law when she exposed her daughter to the snake.
"There's always ways to teach your children lessons and this just did not seem like a good way to teach your child," Scott Dressel with the Highlands County Sheriff's Office said.
Rat snakes are medium-to-large, nonvenomous snakes that kill their prey by constriction, according to LiveScience. They can grow to be 10 feet long, but are more commonly 4 to 6 feet long. Rat snakes are not considered to be a threat to humans. They do eat rats, as their name implies, as well as mice, chipmunks, lizards, birds and frogs.
In Florida, rat snakes may be found along the coast and live in pine flatlands, shrubs, forests and cyprus swamps. They may also be found in citrus groves, mangrove swamps, abandoned buildings and pastures.
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A charging affidavit for one count of cruelty toward a child, a third-degree felony, has been forwarded to the Florida state attorney's office for review in St. Laurent's case, WFTS reports.
The state attorney's office will decide if the mother is charged.
St. Laurent does not think she committed a crime.
"People are too sensitive," she said. "They just think that I hurt my child intentionally. The people that know me know that I would never hurt my children."
St. Laurent said her daughter was unharmed, although scared of the snake's quick strike.
"His teeth are too small to actually puncture the skin," St. Laurent said. "So he's very harmless."
The St. Laurent family lives on a nine acre rural property, and she believes it is important for her children to learn how to handle all kinds of wildlife and to know which types to stay away from.
St. Laurent grew up handling reptiles while assisting her father, a Jupiter, Florida, police officer, with animal service calls. With her methods, she believes her children are learning a valuable lesson.
"She's not scared of snakes but she doesn't want to touch them, either," St. Laurent said. "That was my goal."
Sources: WFTS, Live Science / Photo credit: Josh O'Connor via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region/Flickr