RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – “How many others own a deadly zebra cobra or a similar number of deadly snakes in Raleigh? We don’t know,” said Raleigh council member David Knight.

Knight has pushed for regulation of wild or dangerous animals for the last year. It was in his district where a venom-spitting cobra was found after it got loose from its owner.

Its sighting by CBS 17 reporter Judith Retana shut down the northwest Raleigh neighborhood.

The owner who lived a half mile away had lost track of the snake seven months prior, according to city officials. The city’s response cost them $13,000.

“It wouldn’t have been a laughing matter if one of our first responders who dealt with this or an innocent bystander would have been bitten or spit on,” said Knight during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Proposed ordinance

If council approves the ordinance, it would ban any future ownership of wild or dangerous animals like venomous snakes. People who own them already can keep them as long as they register with the city.

The registration would require owners to provide the following information:

• Certification that owner is abiding by all local, state, and federal regulations
• Detailed inventory of animals with descriptions and photo(s) of animals
• Requirement to notify the City when the animal is moved to another location
• Plan for transfer of ownership or destruction if owner can no longer care for the animal
• Maintain health records of the animal
• Proof of ownership, such as a bill of sale
• Certifies that owner will only keep up to 10 medically significant venomous snakes
• Must possess liability insurance
• Will immediately report the escape of any DWA in their possession

Those who fail to follow the rules outlined by the ordinance would be fined $500 per animal along with any other costs the city incurs to impounding, attempting to recapture, shelter, or euthanize in the event of an escaped dangerous wild animal.

City staff say the plan would cost about $865,000 to implement.

PHOTO COURTESY BENJAMIN GERMAN

“For the record, I would not support a budget for anything in the ballpark of these potential costs,” noted Knight.

Real or perceived danger?

Mayor Pro Tem Nicole Stewart said during Tuesday’s meeting that she opposed this idea.

“There was never any real harm. It was all perceived because as stats show you across the nation, who over and over again, individuals are not harmed by these animals unless it is their handler,” Stewart said.

She wants the city to focus elsewhere.

“There’s a lot of things going on in the city right now that need our attention. and I do not think this is one of them,” Stewart said.

Little oversight statewide

Currently, the only rules in place for Raleigh are at the state level. Those 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.

Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake) announced he planned to introduce legislation to crack down on the ownership of exotic animals last year. That legislation has gained little traction so far.

“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.