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Seized venomous snakes brought to Powell County

By: Tim Johnston Email
By: Tim Johnston Email

POWELL COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - Watching the video of officers carrying out boxes and crates full of snakes may be alright for some, but for others, seeing the slithering things up close might send chills racing down your back. Either way these reptiles, were part of a seizure that found more than a hundred snakes and lizards all around an Ohio apartment.

"Next to the bed there's snakes in cages all over, there's snakes on the floor," described Dave Nelson, who was on hand to help remove the long list of reptiles.

Investigators say they stopped by the home to check on a man that was reportedly bitten by a rattlesnake but refused treatment at the hospital. Inside they found cages and crates everywhere, including the child's bedroom. The crews at the scene said the basement was stacked from floor to ceiling with the reptiles.

Among the snakes seized were two Western Diamondback rattlesnakes, a copperhead, and an albino cobra. Many of the snakes were taken to a facility in Cleveland, but those four venomous snakes were brought to the Reptile Zoo in Powell County.

"Since we have the anti-venom, it's a safe place for them to come, and also for the safety of the snake because we're one of the few facilities that has an interest in having them," answered Kristen Wiley of the Reptile Zoo.

The zoo lays claim to more than 1,500 snakes and is one of the world's largest anti-venom producers. Wiley said these four snakes looked to be in need of care, and her staff at the zoo is more than capable of treating them.

"The biggest concern, initially, was that we noticed snake mites," she explained, "There was really very bad conditions. I mean the mites are kind of an indication that there might have been more problems going on."

While news of a hundred-snake-seizure can raise a lot of eyebrows, Wiley said it was also a concern for the way the snakes were being kept. She said that raises concerns both for the snakes and for people.

"I don't think that venomous snakes should be in multi-family dwellings. It's one thing for me to decide to have all of these snakes involved in my life in some way, but to impose that on your neighbor, and if you're sharing the same actual structure, to me that seems like a big risk."

For these researchers, snakes are just like any other animal and it hurts to see them in poor health. Wiley said the snakes are currently being treated, but they have yet to be completely turned over to the zoo for ownership. Wiley said that likely won't happen until the investigation is complete and it's ruled that these snakes cannot be returned to the original owner.

As for the owner, Joseph McCollum, 46, and Michele Barrett, 45, are facing a list of charges including endangering a child, running a business from their home, and failing to post signs about the snakes.


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