The Raleigh Police Department confirmed the charges against the owner of an escaped poisonous spitting zebra cobra on Wednesday.
Christopher Gifford of Chaminox Place faces 40 charges related to his escaped snake and other poisonous snakes – but these are all misdemeanors under North Carolina law.
The Gifford Cobra was reported outside a house on Sandringham Drive, about half a mile from Gifford’s house, on Monday, June 28, and captured by Raleigh animal control officers the following Wednesday evening. The day before the capture, Raleigh Police and Animal Control searched Gifford’s home and removed something in a large plastic bucket.
Gifford’s social media presence revealed that he maintains a large collection of deadly reptiles, including monocled cobras, rattlesnakes, Gabon vipers and even a green mamba, who bit him in March, requiring antivenom from a South Carolina zoo.
The snakes were all kept in the basement of the house owned by Chris Gifford’s parents, Keith and Rebecca Gifford.
Gifford’s collection of videos, filmed almost daily for over a year, sometimes shows him playing with poisonous snakes in his yard or driveway.
One of the misdemeanor charges against Gifford says he failed to notify law enforcement of the snake’s escape, as required by state law.
Thirty-six of the offenses are for keeping poisonous snakes in inappropriate enclosures. Three charges related to snakes in mislabeled containers.
Few laws to apply here
Raleigh and Wake County have no ordinances prohibiting the keeping of exotic or poisonous animals, although Raleigh City Council member David Knight has said he considering proposing an ordinance restricting the ownership of dangerous wild animals.
North Carolina has no laws prohibiting keeping, breeding or selling non-native poisonous reptiles, but has rules on How? ‘Or’ What animals must be kept and on the report of escaped animals.
In addition to noting that poisonous snakes cannot be used to hurt or harass people, North Carolina Article 55, “Regulation of certain reptilesSays snakes should be housed in a sturdy and secure enclosure designed to be leak-proof, bite-proof and have a working lock.
Each enclosure must be clearly and visibly labeled “Venomous Reptile Inside,” with the scientific name, common name, appropriate antivenom, and owner’s identifying information noted on the container, as required by law.
In addition, a written bite protocol with emergency contact details, local animal control office, name and location of the appropriate antivenom, first aid procedures, treatment guidelines and a recovery plan evacuation must be within sight of the permanent accommodation. A copy must accompany the transport of any poisonous reptile.
Finally, if a poisonous reptile escapes, the owner must immediately notify local law enforcement, the law says.
A call for stricter rules
In the days following the snake’s capture, local lawmakers pledged to propose new laws that would ban citizens from keeping dangerous wildlife.
On Tuesday, Knight said he would propose an ordinance that would restrict the ownership of “dangerous wild animals” in Raleigh, including, but not limited to poisonous snakes. Knight aims to propose the order when council returns from its hiatus in mid-August.
State Senator Wiley Nickel, a Democrat who represents Wake County, said on Wednesday he plans to introduce a bill for new state law in as little as two weeks, describing the incident as “an alarm signal”.
Orange County has local law which makes it illegal to “keep, house, feed, house or care for any wild and dangerous animal” in the county, including poisonous, crushing or giant reptiles.