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LA Press: Resident cited for his poisonous snakes

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Posted by W von Papinešu on January 29, 2003 at 11:49:10:

TIMES PICAYUNE (New Orleans, Louisiana) 28 January 03 Resident cited for his poisonous snakes - He calls them 'study objects' (Steve Cannizaro)
A man who has been trying to persuade the St. Bernard Parish Council to allow qualified residents to keep poisonous snakes has been cited by the Sheriff's Office for having five venomous snakes in his Chalmette apartment.
James Garrity, 43, 113 Plantation Drive, Apt. 4, who said he is studying animal care technology at Nunez Community College in Chalmette with a goal of becoming a certified veterinary technologist, admits he violated a parish ordinance prohibiting such snakes.
"These are not pets," Garrity said. "I don't handle them. They are study objects."
The poisonous snakes were confiscated by the parish Thursday when Garrity was cited by sheriff's deputies.
He was given the citation, which carries a $25 fine, after a nonpoisonous king snake got out of his apartment and apparently ended up in a neighbor's apartment.
The neighbor had someone kill the snake, then called parish animal control officials, who went to Garrity's apartment. Animal control officers called sheriff's deputies when Garrity declined to let them inside, according to Ceily Trog, who manages the parish animal control division.
"I'm not saying I'm without guilt," Garrity said Tuesday, acknowledging that he kept the poisonous snakes -- a puff adder, a gaboon viper, western and eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, and another rattler -- at his residence in glass aquariums.
This wasn't the first time Garrity has had problems with keeping poisonous snakes in his home.
Garrity reported to the Sheriff's Office in January 2002 that three poisonous snakes were stolen from his apartment. But he said at the time that he wasn't aware of the parish ordinance against keeping such snakes, and he wasn't charged by authorities.
Despite having received the citation last week, Garrity said he and other snake enthusiasts would continue efforts to alter the parish ordinance against keeping poisonous snakes so qualified individuals can receive permits.
"We're not trying to eliminate (the current) law," Garrity said. "We're trying to work with what is on the books already. We just want to make a provision that qualified people can obtain a permit."
He proposed about a year ago that parish government allow a permit system patterned after one in Florida, which would require someone seeking a permit to have at least 1,000 hours of training in handling three varieties of venomous snakes, as well as to meet criteria for housing and caring for the snakes. "I have well over 1,000 hours," Garrity said.
Under his proposal, to get a permit a person would also have to be 21, not have a criminal record and be able to prove they can house snakes safely.
Garrity said he has been interested in snakes since he was a boy. "I find them very fascinating. I don't use them to show off. I frown on that kind of activity."
Garrity is scheduled to address a Parish Council subcommittee next week about changing the current parish snake ordinance.
Garrity -- who said he filed a complaint about the animal control division with parish government after the recent incident -- said he was forced to turn over his five snakes, which he said were worth a total of about $1,000. Garrity also complained he had to transport them to animal control offices in a dangerous manner and said he was forced to exterminate about 30 rats being kept for feeding the snakes.
The snakes were given to the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans, Trog said.
"They came and got them the same day. We only had them a matter of hours," Trog said.
She said St. Bernard residents who know of people illegally keeping poisonous snakes or constrictors longer than 8 feet, which are also illegal, should call the St. Bernard Animal Control Shelter at 278-1535.

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