Dangerous Animals For Sale?
An alligator found in a garden; dangerous snakes living next door. These are the scenarios some have had to live with, right here in Omaha. But how do people actually get these animals, and keep them as pets?
The Nebraska Humane Society has taken rattlesnakes, king cobras, alligators, venomous tarantulas, and 8 foot pythons. Some of these animals are typically found in other parts of the country, and the world. More than 40 dangerous exotic animals have been seized by the organization this year. Where are they coming from?
In the age of the internet...all it takes is some cash...no experience, no proper habitat...just cash. KMTV Action 3 News purchased an American Alligator on the internet, paid with a credit card, and had it sent directly to the station's address. No questions asked. Kelli Brown handles these cases for the Nebraska Humane Society.
“We've seen quite a big increase in alligators lately, probably over the past few years we've picked several up a year,” Brown explained. "We have had pet alligators get loose in the city and very rarely do people come forward and claim them of course.”
Though the baby alligator purchased likely couldn't take off a finger right now, the Humane Society says there's a lot more responsibility after you make those clicks and shell out that wad of cash.
"As he grows up year by year, he's going to get worse and worse, his teeth are going to get bigger, he's going to get stronger, he's going to get more muscular, probably more aggressive," Brown described.
Brown says sellers don't have to follow local laws if they aren't in the state, but reputable ones will check before shipping a dangerous animal.
"It is kind of frustrating. I wish they would do some more checking into the local areas that their buyers are calling from to make sure the animal can't go there," Brown added.
They're seeing an increased number of cases and frightening scenarios. While doing garden work, an elderly woman found a 5 foot alligator in her garden.
This summer, the Humane Society seized dozens of venomous snakes from a west Omaha. John Foss Jr. received probation, a $600 fine, and was told not to have snakes for a year.
"We recently picked up some here that there wasn't even anti-venom for here in Nebraska. I don't think people realize that, they just expect to go to the hospital when they get bit. The hospital only stocks venom for the snakes are normally here," Brown said.
In August, at least two 8-foot albino pythons were seized from Adam Vordermark at a Ralston townhome. Though it's unclear if these animals were shipped through the mail, it emphasizes the growing problem.
David Sipherd has been a pet store owner for more than 20 years, and currently owns Pets R Us. He says Nebraska has great laws against dangerous animals like these, but there needs to be federal law to regulate those who are selling illegal pets over the internet.
"It's wide open out there, they're not hiding anything on the internet when they're doing this type of stuff,” Sipherd explained. "It's a bad practice and there really ought to be more regulation or more checking on places that are doing this."
Brown says people need to be responsible citizens and check local laws before buying something like our alligator.
In the city of Omaha there are a number of reptiles or amphibians that are considered dangerous. Here’s what the law says: “Any species of snake that is venomous or that can reach lengths of 8 feet or more, such as Reticulated Pythons, Burmese Pythons, Anacondas, etc. Also unlawful are any species of venomous lizard or any lizard that can reach lengths of 5 feet or longer, including Iguanas, and certain types of Monitor Lizards. Additionally, ordinances prohibit the keeping of Alligators, Crocodiles, and lethal invertebrates such as certain species of Spiders and Tarantulas, Scorpions, etc.”
The Humane Society adds that Iguanas are also not lawful to own in the city of Omaha.
PETA says there are few federal laws that prohibit interstate sale of exotic animals. The Captive Wildlife Safety Act does ban interstate trade and sale of large cats, but not dangerous reptiles.
The Nebraska Humane Society did find a place that could care for, and house the alligator in this story.