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Posted by: EricWI at Thu Dec 27 19:06:54 2012  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by EricWI ]

Wesley Young/Winston-Salem Journal

Tight squeeze: Proposal would ban big constricting snakes in Forsyth

Forsyth County would put the squeeze on big constricting snakes if it accepts a recommendation from the county’s animal control advisory board.

Four species of python and the green anaconda are on the list of snakes that the board thinks should be banned from the county.

“Anyone who had one could appeal, and what we would be looking for is whether they have the proper safety features in place,” said Tim Jennings, the director of animal control in Forsyth County.

The snakes on the list can get very large. Reptile rescuer Chad Griffin has a Burmese python named Popcorn that’s 11 feet long, and he recently had a 19-footer. The other snakes on the list – the reticulated python, the African rock python and the green anaconda – can all grow to 20 feet or more.

Griffin doesn’t agree with banning the big snakes, saying a better approach would be holding snake owners responsible for the behavior of their reptiles.

A ban would have to be enacted by the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. Although the board was recently made aware of the recommendation, commissioners have not yet indicated they will move forward with the proposal.

Snake breeder and seller William Davis wrote a letter to the county complaining about the idea of a ban, saying it would hurt people like him who raise snakes for a business.

“I’ve been hurt by dogs worse than snakes,” Davis said. “They are not going to escape and live out in this environment around here. So there’s not any point in a ban at all.”

The problem isn’t snake attacks, Jennings said. The problem is that people start out with the snakes when they are small, then don’t know what to do with them when they get much larger.

“A lot of owners of exotic animals become afraid of them,” Jennings said. “The idea is that you should not have this animal unless you take the extra steps to show responsibility. And part of that is what do you plan to do with them? They obtained it on an impulse because they thought it was really cool and really hadn’t thought it through.”

Jennings points out that even with a ban, animal control wouldn’t find out about banned snakes unless someone reported them. It’s not like a snake patrol will be searching door to door.

“No harm, no foul,” Jennings said. “We find them when they show up in yards or parking lots. Over my 30-year career, when I have talked to owners they would say that they were heading out to show it to the neighborhood kids and it got out.”

Jennings said animal control receives two or three snakes a year. While the animal shelter has cages for dogs and cats, it doesn’t have any snake bins.

That’s where local vets or people like Griffin come in, Williams said.

Griffin describes his operation, known as CCSB Reptile Rescue, Rehabilitation and Adoption Center, as the largest of its kind in the state and one of the largest on the East Coast.

He runs the center from his home. In addition to finding new homes for turtles, snakes, lizards and other reptiles, Griffin gives educational shows at schools and organizations and for birthday parties and the like.

Griffin thinks that rather than a ban – which some people would ignore – a better approach would be to register large snakes and arrange for pen inspections and a microchip for identification.

At any given time, Griffin said, he has 40 to 50 snakes and around 100 reptiles in all.

Griffin acknowledged that many snake owners are part of the problem leading to demands for regulation.

“For every one person out there that does it right, you have 10 that don’t,” he said.

Jennings said the county already bans other animals that can be dangerous to people: They include wolves and wolf hybrids, non-domestic cats, bears, alligators, crocodiles and venomous reptiles – a category that includes cobras, gila monsters, vipers (including rattlesnakes) and others.

Jennings said he hopes a snake ban would make someone stop and think before getting a large constricting snake.

“The advisory board has been looking at it for years,” Jennings said. “It is not saying it is a big problem. Hopefully it will avoid problems as people who are curious say this is not the time to get this python.”


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