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Posted by W von Papinešu on September 28, 2002 at 09:28:09:
GREENVILLE NEWS (S Carolina) 28 September 02 Venomous reptiles targeted by proposed law (Paul Alongi)
Pet owners would need a permit for cobras, copperheads and other poisonous snakes but could keep boa constrictors and pythons without one under a proposed law.
The law would require permits for all venomous reptiles, including lizards such as Gila monsters. Owners would have to meet caging requirements, pay $10 a year and have some experience or education to qualify for a permit.
Enforcement would fall to the state Department of Natural Resources. That would leave a cash-strapped agency dealing with exotic animals for the first time, said DNR biologist Steve Bennett.
Greenville County requires permits for venomous snakes and lizards. But in some parts of the state, the proposal would be the first regulation of the animals.
"The fact of the matter is that someone, without any statutes out there, can own a spitting cobra," said state Rep. J. Adam Taylor, a Republican from Laurens who has made the proposal. "There would be no regulations against him. That's a problem."
Taylor turned his attention to exotic animals after a pet cobra nearly killed a Laurens man on July 4, 2001. Taylor's effort to ban exotic animals failed in the Legislature last session.
He asked the DNR for help on the newest regulations. The proposal is a rough draft that could change, Bennett said.
Taylor said he would like to expand the proposal to include other exotic animals, such as tigers.
Martin Babb, who sells poisonous snakes at All God's Creatures Pet Shop & Grooming in Berea, said he supports permitting for venomous reptiles, although he sees problems enforcing what pet owners do in their homes.
"You could have venomous snakes and people would never know," Babb said.
Bennett said reptile experts from around the state helped come up with the regulations, which borrow heavily from Florida's law.
Under the proposal, owners who show their reptiles to the public would have to post a $10,000 bond as insurance in case someone were hurt. Zoos, research institutions and veterinarians would be exempt.
Pet owners would have to do one of the following: attend a seminar on handling reptiles, complete at least a bachelor's degree in zoology or have 100 hours' experience working with venomous reptiles at a zoo, museum or other institution.
DNR would be able to inspect venomous reptiles after giving two days notice. If owners failed to correct unsafe housing with 30 days, their permits could be revoked.
Jonathan Benson of Pickens County, who owns nine rattlesnakes, said he supports the education component.
"A lot of people get snakes because they want one, and they get bit," he said. "They don't know much about it."
If the proposal makes it to the Legislature, it would go through the House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee.
The chairman, Rep. Charles Sharpe, R-Wagener, said he would support regulations for venomous snakes.
"It's pretty dangerous," he said. "If they get out, it affects the neighbor. The neighbors need to know they're protected, too."