New State Law Increases Regulations on Pet Reptiles
BY FLORENCE GILKESON
Venomous or large constricting pet reptiles are neither weapons nor playthings.
A new state law makes it illegal to handle any dangerous reptile "in a manner that intentionally or negligently exposes another person to unsafe contact with the reptile." The law went into effect Tuesday.
That is the first anniversary of Moore County's revised animal control ordinance, which went into effect Dec. 1, 2008.
Al Carter, the county's animal control director, said the county ordinance has a provision pertaining to nondomestic animals that may be dangerous but does not specify reptiles. However, the county is required to enforce state laws as well as local ordinances.
"We will be enforcing the new state law," Carter said.
Senate Bill 307 amends an existing state law regulating the use of "certain reptiles." The law prohibits "the intentional or negligent exposure of other human beings to unsafe contact with venomous reptiles, large constricting snakes or crocodilians" in situations in which such exposure would be "essentially dangerous and injurious and detrimental to public health, safety and welfare."
Although the law makes it illegal to intentionally release such an animal into the wild, the new law does take into consideration the possibility that the creature might escape on its own. In such a case, the new law requires the owner to notify local law enforcement agencies as soon as the escape is known.
Since Moore County's revised ordinance went into effect a year ago, the animal control office has received only one complaint about a nonnative domestic animal, according to Carter.
Two monkeys kept as pets by a neighbor were the subject of that complaint, and Carter said the issue was resolved upon determination that the monkeys did not represent a danger to children in the community. Carter said the investigation revealed that the monkeys were being kept in accordance with provisions of the local ordinance. Apparently, a neighbor was unhappy because the monkeys presented something of "an attractive nuisance."
A committee composed of local officials, animal lovers and animal control personnel worked several months on the revised ordinance two years ago. The possession of dangerous exotic animals was discussed in detail, but committee members finally decided to defer to state laws pertaining to such animals.
Instead, the county ordinance says that no one may "possess or harbor any nondomestic animal that is dangerous to persons or property or which has the potential for being dangerous to persons or property."
Excluded are legal circuses and petting zoos. The county ordinance goes a step further by establishing requirements for the care of these animals "in accordance with accepted veterinary standards for that species."
Both the county ordinance and the state law prohibit the owner of any nondomestic animal, including alligators, crocodiles, venomous snakes and constrictors, from releasing the "pet" into the wild once it becomes too large to maintain and handle.
Under the state law, possession of dangerous reptiles is not prohibited, but regulations are more numerous and restrictive.
For example, the owner must have a written safety protocol and escape recovery plan kept within sight of the animal's container, and a copy must be kept with the container at any time it is being transported. That protocol must include information about antivenom and first-aid procedures.
Dangerous animals captured in the course of an investigation are to be taken to the State Museum of Natural Sciences or its designated representative in the case of venomous snakes and to the N.C. Zoo in the case of constricting snakes or crocodilians to determine if it is an animal subject to regulation through the revised state law.
Exemptions to the law include work by veterinarians, zoos, serpentariums, museums, laboratories, educational or scientific institutions or agents approved by the Wildlife Resources Commission.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at (910) 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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