Jeremy Tuffly Feeds a Kitten to a Pet Python but When It Demurs He Does the Foul Deed Himself by Kicking It to Death
"Congratulations, Phoenix! We have the one guy on the planet who was out-classed by a snake. Hopefully, he can look on the bright side: if he doesn't like jail, at least he has Hell to look forward to."
-- James King of the Phoenix New Times
Cat owners in the Brislington section of Bristol were left horrified back in June when a pet Burmese python belonging to Darren Bishop devoured Martin and Helen Wadey's beloved four-year-old cat, Wilbur. (See Cat Defender post of September 8, 2009 entitled "Four-Year-Old Wilbur Is Ambushed and Eaten Whole by a Thirteen-Foot-Long Burmese Python in Bristol.")
Although Bishop should not have left the snake unattended, there is nothing in the record to suggest that he did so just so that it could prey upon cats and other domestic animals. That is considerably more than can be said for twenty-eight-year-old Jeremy Tuffly of Mesa, Arizona, who deliberately fed a kitten to a python of unknown pedigree. (See photo above of him.)
When the snake, for whatever reason, repeatedly refused to kill the kitten Tuffly did the job himself by kicking it across the yard until it died. Like so many teenage hoodlums who film their deadly assaults upon sleeping homeless men so that they can relive their devilry over and over again, Tuffly also filmed his murder of the kitten.
An unidentified individual somehow got hold of a DVD of the attacks and promptly delivered it to legendary Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Tuffly was accordingly arrested on August 31st on suspicion of felony animal cruelty.
Far from being an isolated case, Tuffly is not the only person who abuses and kills cats and other animals for cinematic purposes. Pornographers have been making a mint for years filming naked women in stiletto heels stomping to death defenseless kittens and puppies.
The issue of whether the flagrant crimes committed against animals in these so-called crush videos are protected by the First Amendment is currently before the United States Supreme Court in a case entitled United States versus Stevens and a ruling is expected sometime this term. Since the statute being challenged, Public Law 106-152, 18 U.S.C. section 48 entitled "Depictions of Animal Cruelty," applies only to crush videos trafficked in either interstate or foreign commerce, the court's ruling will have no impact upon the production of home videos, such as the one made by Tuffly, that are not sold.
Worst still, if the sentiments expressed by the justices during oral arguments on October 6th are any indication of how they plan on voting, they are going to uphold the constitutionality of these videos and the senseless slaughter of kittens and puppies is going to continue. (See Los Angeles Times, October 7, 2009, "Supreme Court Weighs Free Speech Versus Animal Cruelty.")
The case in Mesa moreover demonstrates that even much-maligned pythons have considerably more scruples than do cretins like Tuffly. "Congratulations, Phoenix! We have the one guy on the planet who was out-classed by a snake," James King astutely pointed out in the Phoenix New Times on September 1st.(See "Police Say a Mesa Man Tried to Feed a Kitten to a Python, Then Killed It Himself When the Snake Wouldn't.") "Hopefully, he can look on the bright side: if he doesn't like jail, at least he has Hell to look forward to."
If he does indeed wind up in Hades, Tuffly is not going to get lonesome. In fact, he is going to be joined by so many of his fellow Arizonians that it is going to look like old home week around the Devil's dinner table.
For example, since mid-September fourteen cats from Tempe, Chandler, East Phoenix, and Tuffly's own Mesa have had their backs sliced open by unknown fiends. Two of them died from their wounds while those lucky enough to have survived were forced to undergo costly surgeries and extended convalescence.
Another twenty felines have been poisoned and their bodies dumped in a canal in Phoenix. All of that is in addition to at least another two dozen moggies who have been either poisoned or torched in central Phoenix. (See Phoenix Pet News Examiner, October 28, 2009, "Catch a Cat Killer, Make $7,500.")
"It's really sad that these cats are being mutilated," Arpaio told the Arizona Republic on October 27th in reference to the fourteen victimized cats. (See "Sheriff's Office Searching for East Valley Cat Killer.") "They go home and their owners have to see this. These people love their animals. I don't blame them for being very angry."
Regardless of whatever happens to Tuffly, the problems associated with individuals keeping pythons as pets are not about to go away anytime soon. For example, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) on September 11th removed an eighteen-foot, four-hundred-pound pet Burmese python named Delilah from the home of Melvin Cheever in Apopka due to concerns over its size and the fact that it had previously escaped from its cage. (See photo above.)
"To me, it's a Goliath," the FFWCC's Rick Brown told the Orlando Sentinel on September 11th. (See "Wildlife Officials Seize 'Monster' Eighteen-Foot Python in Apopka.") "It's a monster of a snake."
Even thirty-nine-year-old Charlene Boush, who lives with Cheever, was afraid that Delilah was one day going to kill her dogs. "She (Delilah) got out last week. They had to put her back in. I don't let them (the dogs) go back there at all," she told the Orlando Sentinel.
Quite obviously, behemoths like Delilah have to eat and in her case it is rabbits. "I fed her this morning, gave her seven rabbits," Cheever told the Orlando Sentinel in the article cited supra.
That gruesome and barbaric tidbit of news brings up the seldom discussed moral dilemma of not only keeping pythons as pets, but more importantly of confining large carnivores in zoos, captive breeding facilities, circuses, and stage shows. In particular, sacrificing live rabbits, cats, chickens, sheep, goats and other domestic animals to caged carnivores is both unnatural and morally indefensible.
Wild carnivores belong in legally protected habitats where they are able to hunt their natural prey instead of being hand-fed domestic animals. The reason that these egregious crimes continue unabated is that wildlife biologists and conservationists long ago sold out wild animals to economic concerns and as a consequence most of them no longer have anywhere to live except in cages.
Delilah, who initially was entrusted to the care of a reptile specialist, has since been given to a zoo where she awaits an uncertain fate.
Even in locales where they are native pythons can cause problems. For example, Erik Rantzau of northern Australia recently got a scare when he lifted up the lid to his commode and found a three-foot-long diamond python curled up inside.
"Ich wusste erst gar nicht, was es war, weil die Schlange ganz eingerollt war und such nicht bewegte," he told Stern on September 7th. (See "Drei Meter-Python in der Kloschuessel entdeckt.") Fortunately, he was not injured and a reptile specialist was notified who came and removed the snake. It was later humanely returned to the bush.
Like their Burmese cousins, diamond pythons are non-poisonous although they do have teeth and will bite. Living on the outback has taught Rantzau to exercise caution, especially when going to the loo.
"Ich bin immer noch etwas beklommen, wenn ich ins Badezimmer gehe," he told Stern. "Ich bin jetzt immer vorsichtig, wenn ich den Klodeckel hebe."
A two-year-old girl named Shaiunna from Sumter County, Florida, was not nearly so fortunate when a nine-foot-long pet albino Burmese python escaped from its enclosure on July 1st and strangled her to death. Her mother, nineteen-year-old Jaren Hare, and the snake's owner, thirty-two-year-old Charles J. Darnell, were subsequently charged with manslaughter, third degree murder, and child abuse.
The little girl thus became the twelfth person nationwide to have been killed by various breeds of pythons since 1980.
Photos: Phoenix New Times (Tuffly) and George Skene of the Orlando Sentinel (Delilah).