NC senator to introduce new exotic animal legislation after zebra cobra escape

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A North Carolina lawmaker wants to make changes to the state’s exotic animal laws.

Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake) plans on introducing legislation within the next two weeks.

The move to push for new legislation came after a venomous zebra cobra was on the loose in a northwest Raleigh neighborhood last week.

“This was just absolutely horrifying, incredibly scary for folks,” said Nickel.

Right now, both Wake County and the City of Raleigh have staff looking at updating local rules.

The state has a patchwork of laws that change from one ZIP code to the next.

Even if Wake County made banned certain animals, the city would have to create its own restrictions because they fall under a different jurisdiction.

It is one of the reasons Nickel believed there needs to be change at the state level.

“We shouldn’t have somebody with 70 dangerous venomous snakes in their basement that could get loose,” Nickel said. “Clearly our laws failed our state.”

The state’s regulation only lays out 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. Nickel wants to change that but admits he’s new to the issue.

“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,” he said.

There are no specifics yet for what the proposed law may restrict or ban. Nickel said venomous reptiles are a start but the law may end up covering other animals as well.

“We’re looking at other states and what they do and we’re really far behind,” Nickel said.

One of the states he is looking at is Florida.

CBS 17 took a look at their reptile laws.

This spring, the state banned 16 types of “high-risk” snakes. That list includes some pythons that have become invasive species.

Venomous snake owners in Florida need a license.

To get that license, owners must submit a log of 1,000 experience hours for each type of animal they have. They also need two references. Rules mandate an escape-proof enclosure in an escape-proof room. That room requires a state inspection.

“Part of this process is looking at the whole picture for exotic pets and making sure that our laws are keeping up with the times,” Nickel said.

Florida’s public record law allows people to see who in your neighborhood owns what.

“Notification, disclosure kind of stuff is always important,” Nickel said. “I would want to know.”

Nickel hoped new laws can level the playing field for cities and counties across the state.

“We want to make sure that everybody knows- you come to North Carolina, you’re going to be safe,” said Nickel.

CBS 17 reached out to Raleigh police today to ask if the owner of that zebra cobra would face any fines or citations and where the rest of his confiscated venomous snakes are. The department did not respond to our request.

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