updated 5/12/2006 3:13:33 PM ET 2006-05-12T19:13:33

The owners of a small dog killed by an 11-foot Burmese python were awarded $1,300 in the death of their pet.

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A small claims court judge on Monday awarded Boynton Beach residents Wayne Vassello and Shana Lane the amount in damages and court costs.

Vassello was walking the pair's 8-pound rat terrier, Max, in February and let the dog off his leash near their apartment. A neighbor's pet python, Diamond, had gotten free and grabbed the dog by the head, wrapping several coils around him.

Vassello hit the snake with a golf club and got it to release the dog, but Max ran away and was found dead the next day with injuries consistent with constriction, according to a veterinarian.

The snake's owner argued in court that Vassello is partly to blame because he let Max off his leash and that he might have accidentally hit the dog with the golf club.

Vassello and Lane said Max was a part of the family: They set a place setting for him at Thanksgiving dinner, and he was to be the ring bearer at their wedding.

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