A Florida mother who allowed a snake to bite her 1-year-old daughter to teach her a lesson will not be facing criminal charges.
Chantelle St. Laurent sparked an social media backlash in early June after posting a video to Facebook in which she holds a snake close to her daughter's face. The girl begins to reach for it, and the snake strikes. St. Laurent then laughs as the child begins to cry. The video has since been deleted.
St. Laurent, who lives on a 9-acre farm in Highland County, Florida, told WTVT that she wasn't trying to injure her child, but rather to teach her to avoid snakes in the future.
"[The snake] 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 [my daughter] without actually getting hurt."
According to WFTS, the Highland County Police Department opened an investigation into the matter. The state's attorney office announced June 20 that it would not pursue a case against St. Laurent as it could not find any criminal action.
"Our Special Victims Unit interviewed snake expert Greg Graziani, who also has over 20 years of law enforcement experience, about the video," said Sheriff Paul Blackman. "Graziani said he had shared the video with a colleague from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and while both felt that the treatment of the snake and the child were not wise, they did not see any criminal actions."
Prosecutors said that there was not enough evidence to substantiate any charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
The video sparked heated debate online, with many calling St. Laurent's actions child abuse, according to WFTS. St. Laurent maintains that she was just trying to teach her daughter a lesson. She had grown up around wildlife and her mother did the same to her when she was a child.
She also maintains that the red rat snake in the video was harmless.
"His teeth are too small to actually puncture the skin," she said. "So he's very harmless."
"People are too sensitive," she continued. "They just think that I hurt my child intentionally. The people that know me know that I would never hurt my children."
Sheriff Blackman still hopes to use the story as a lesson to other parents about appropriate ways to rear a child, according to WTVT.
"While we all have a duty to teach our children, we should always think about the methods involved in that education and realize that some methods are just not appropriate, especially when the child is too young to understand the situation and comprehend the intended lesson," he said.