When news broke last week that 21-year-old Orange County resident Ali Iyoob had been bitten by his “pet” King Cobra, I had three thoughts.
- Who has a pet King Cobra?
- Where does one find a King Cobra to keep as a pet?
- It can’t be legal to have a King Cobra in your house. Can it?
The first question is obviously rhetorical. The answer to the second question is: the internet (of course). To answer the third question, I had to do a little research (on the internet, of course).
It turns out that it was not lawful for Ali Iyoob, the unfortunate snake-bite-victim in this story, to keep a pet King Cobra in his house. But that’s only because he lived in Orange County. If he lived in Raleigh like me, it would be perfectly lawful for him to keep such a snake, so long as he appropriately labeled its enclosure.
I’ve already visited realtor.com. (I don’t like snakes, not even the “good” kind.)
Before all you reptile enthusiasts blast me with your incendiary comments, let me explain the law.
State law. G.S. 14-417 makes it unlawful for a person to own, possess, use, transport, or traffic in any venomous reptile that is not housed in a sturdy and secure enclosure.
It requires that the permanent enclosures for such reptiles be “designed to be escape-proof, bite-proof, and have an operable lock.”
Containers that you carry these critters around in must likewise be “designed to be escape-proof and bite-proof.”
(This “designed to be” language causes me a little bit of heartburn, but perhaps that’s just my reptile-phobia creeping in.)
Lists and labels. If you have a venomous reptile, its enclosure must be “clearly and visibly labeled ‘Venomous Reptile Inside.’” Somewhere on the container, the following things must be listed: the reptile’s scientific name, its common name, the appropriate antivenin, and the owner’s identifying information. The following things must be “within sight” of such a reptile’s permanent housing: a written bite protocol that includes emergency contact information, the local animal control office, the name and location of suitable antivenin, first aid procedures, and treatment guidelines, as well as an escape recovery plan. When the reptile travels, a copy of this information must accompany it.
Reptile alert. If a venomous reptile escapes, its owner or the person who had it “must immediately notify local law enforcement.”
Large constricting snakes. Special rules govern the ownership and use of large constricting snakes, like pythons and anacondas. G.S. 14-417.1. Those kinds of snakes have to be housed in a sturdy and secure enclosure which also must be “designed to be escape-proof” and must have a working lock. Transport containers for these snakes must likewise be “designed to be escape-proof.” Here too, written safety protocols and an escape recovery plan must be kept in sight of the permanent housing. And the owner or possessor of a large constricting snake must immediately notify local law enforcement if the snake escapes.
Who would keep a crocodile? Similar rules govern the keeping of crocodiles or, more precisely, crocodilians. G.S. 14-417.2.
Penalties. Violation of the venomous reptile, large constricting snake, or crocodilian laws is a Class 2 misdemeanor. G.S. 14-422. If anyone other than the creature’s owner or a member of his immediate family suffers a life threatening injury or is killed as a result of a violation of these laws, the owner of the reptile is guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor.
Orange County ordinance. Orange County picked up where the General Assembly left off. It adopted an ordinance prohibiting the keeping of any “wild and dangerous animal” within the county. Poisonous, crushing and giant reptiles are defined as wild and dangerous animals.
According to this news report, Iyoob violated this ordinance on numerous counts. Eighteen venomous snakes were removed from his home.
While violation of the Orange County ordinance is a Class 3 misdemeanor, I’m guessing that criminal prosecution is among the least of Iyoob’s worries as he struggles to recover from his injuries.
Ok, reptile enthusiasts, you can have at me now. Just keep your venomous snakes at bay—and out of Orange County.