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Animal Care officers seize more than 100 snakes, hundreds of mice and rats

More than 100 snakes, including two 10-foot-long pythons, were seized from a South Side home Wednesday morning after a multi-agency investigation.

While serving a search warrant, Animal Care Services officers removed the snakes, secured in snake bags, from the two-bedroom, one bath home in the 500 blocks of Kayton. ACS was responding to a 311 complaint calls about the housing condition of the animals.

more than 100 snakes

Investigators said the man said he was breeding and selling the snakes, which were all nonvenomous and constrictors.

Several people drove by and stopped to ask responders if they could purchase the snakes. ACS officers told the passersby that the snakes were taken as part of a cruelty investigation and not available for sale.

more than 100 snakes

The Dangerous Assessment Response Team, code enforcement, a herpetologist from the San Antonio Zoo and experts from SeaWorld assisted ACS with the investigation.

Norwood said the herpetologist made sure that the housing and everything needed for their stay at ACS.
more than 100 snakes

That guidance and expertise were invaluable,” Norwood said. We recognize we don’t regularly work with snakes and other reptiles, but our partners at the San Antonio Zoo does.”

ACS spokeswoman Lisa Norwood said while serving the warrant, San Antonio Police officers at the scene had to handcuff the pet owner when he reacted angrily to the arrival of ACS officers.

She said SAPD officers accompany ACS officers when they serve a warrant to step in and calm a person down if necessary.

Field operations supervisor Joel Skidmore said ACS officers had been working with the man who owned the snakes for several weeks.
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ACS didn’t give the man’s name. Skidmore said the man will have to appear in court within 10 days of the warrant being served for a custody hearing to determine if ACS or the owner will get custody of the snakes.

He said their concerns centered around improving the living conditions of the animals and confirming the number of actual snakes at the property.

Skidmore said after numerous attempts to get the owner to comply, they determined that a warrant was needed to seize custody of the animals for their well being.

If the judge decides to give ACS custody, Norwood said they would work with local ACS approved rescue partners and zoos to find the most appropriate placement for the snakes.

Chapter 5-109 of the city’s animal ordinance references any non-venomous snakes that a person keeps over three feet and or 15 pounds has to be in a safe cage or enclosure that prevents the possibility of escape and still have freedom of movement.

The snakes inside of the home were reticulated pythons and ball pythons.

Skidmore said one of two sheds behind the home contained rats in plastic containers that were being fed to the snakes. The other shed, with a large padlock, held more snakes.

As of Wednesday evening, they had counted 136 snakes and them 415 rats and mice.

Eric Florez, who is an investor, said he was trying to buy the home. He said last year there was a fire at the home and when they came out to check out the damage he saw snakes in cages and could smell the rats.

He said the most disturbing thing, more than the snakes was the rat farm in the back.

“When you walked in, it kind of choked you out,” he said. “Snakes are creepy, but the smell that was repulsive.”

A neighbor, Maria Valdez, 36, said the home always looked as if things were being hoarded inside of it — but didn’t think it was anything from the serpent family.

“I’m surprised that this happened,” she said, standing near response team vehicles. “I never saw anything that was dangerous to people.”

Vincent T. Davis is a reporter in the Greater San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | vtdavis@express-news.net | Twitter: @vincentdavis

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