RALEIGH, N.C.(WNCN) – In June 2021, a Raleigh neighborhood was held hostage when police announced a venom-spitting cobra was on the loose. The snake had escaped a home about a half mile away.

CBS 17’s Judith Retana spotted the venom-spitting snake leading police to capture it several hours later.

The city has no ordinances governing the ownership of venomous, wild or dangerous animals. It prompted constituents from the neighborhood where the snake was found and from across the city to question whether there should be some sort of rule in place.

Councilmember David Knight, who represents the area where the snake was found, said he’s heard from many of his constituents on the issue.

“I agreed that the city needed regulations that would prevent anything like this escape from happening again in the future,” said Knight.

More than a year later, little progress has been made to put anything in place. Knight is now reviving those talks and wants city leaders to finally make a decision on regulating the ownership of dangerous or wild animals.

He is recommending a ban on the future ownership of dangerous and wild animals while grandfathering in possession for those who currently own them.

Regulations one year in the making

The recommendation comes after a series of meetings and conversations about potential regulations.

When these talks first came out, the city council referred the topic to their Growth and Natural Resources Committee. The city attorney’s office came up with different options for committee to consider. In January, the committee could not come to a consensus and decided to send the issue back to the council without a recommendation.

In February, the council voted to take up the issue at a later date when they could receive a full presentation on the options from legal staff. No date was set and the council hasn’t publicly discussed the ordinance since.

Knight asked the council to bring back those conversations to finally make a decision. The council now plans to look consider a new ordinance in their June 21 meeting. Councilmembers asked city staff to present options along with their associated costs.

Potential options

The Growth and Natural Resources Committee was presented with four options when they were asked to take up the issue:

  • Option 1: A ban of dangerous and wild animal possession unless there is an exemption with no grandfathering
  • Option 2: A ban of future dangerous and wild animal possession, but grandfather for those currently in possession pending registration and compliance with proposed requirements. Requirements could include liability insurance and a limit on how many venomous snakes you can own.
  • Option 3: Allowing for dangerous and wild animal possession pending registration and compliance with the proposed requirement. Requirements could include liability insurance and a limit on how many venomous snakes you can own.

The fourth option was to make no change in the city’s ordinances, nor to require registration. The city would continue to abide by state and federal laws.

Current state laws

State laws only layout how to house a dangerous animal.

It calls for specific enclosures and paperwork to have on hand. Owners don’t have to report their animals to any agency but do need an escape plan. It’s up to individual jurisdictions to decide on further regulations or bans.

While Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake) announced he planned to introduce legislation to crack down on the ownership of exotic animals last year, no change has been made on the state level.

“It’s clear though, our laws do not go far enough. We need to have better protection in place for folks and how we get there, we’re still trying to figure it out,” Nickel said at the time.