NC lawmakers discuss state, local options to limit exotic animal ownership

Local News

RALEIGH N.C. (WNCN) – A group of North Carolina and local leaders spoke with local exotic animal experts Thursday evening about what it would look like to limit ownership of invasive and dangerous animals.

Democratic Sens. Jay Chaudhuri and Wiley Nickel are leading the charge, saying they want to look at what other states have passed before shaping new legislation for North Carolina.

“What we’re trying to do is model off of other states that we have good laws on the keeping of dangerous, venomous snakes,” Nickel said.

The push comes after a venomous zebra cobra locked down a north Raleigh neighborhood. It was loose from November last year until late June.

Dr. Greg Lewbart with North Carolina State University said professionals who handle venomous snakes like the zebra cobra go through extensive safety protocols. He doesn’t see them as safe fits as domestic pets.

“I love snakes and I’ve kept them my whole life but I just think it’s really hard to justify why you need a venomous snake,” Lewbart said.

One idea posed by the senators is to ban new ownership of dangerous, invasive species while tightening restrictions on people who already own these animals.

“We would grandfather anybody that possessed an inherently dangerous animal and allow them to keep that animal provided that they, number one, secure $1 million in liability insurance and, number two, they register that information about the animal with the state agency,” Chaudhuri said.

But Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger is not a fan of the idea.

“I don’t see us getting into that snake pit,” Berger said. “The only people I’ve heard from and I really haven’t heard from that many are in Wake County. There are 100 counties in the state and it seems not to be an issue anywhere else.”

But before anything could move on a state level, local Raleigh Councilmember David Knight is brainstorming ideas to make a city-wide ordinance.

“Going beyond just poisonous snakes and really looking at the terms we’ve been using, wild and dangerous,” Knight said.

Knight said he plans to introduce an ordinance as early as August.

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