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North Carolina owner of escaped zebra cobra facing 40 charges

Snake found in filing cabinet in Australian home

A tree snake is removed from a couple’s filing cabinet at their home office in Queensland, Australia.

Criminal summonses have been issued against a North Carolina snake owner after an escaped zebra cobra terrorized a Raleigh neighborhood last month.

Summonses for Christopher Michael Gifford, 21, were issued in connection with NC General Statute Chapter 14, Article 55 and included “36 counts of improper enclosures, three counts of mislabeled enclosures and one count of failure to report escape,” according to the Raleigh Police Department (RPD).

The law says that owning a venomous snake is not illegal if the owner keeps the reptile in an escape-proof and bite-proof enclosure labeled “Venomous Reptile Inside” with scientific name, common name, appropriate antivenin, escape recovery plan, and the location of suitable antivenin and first aid.

“In the event of an escape of a venomous reptile, the owner or possessor of the venomous reptile shall immediately notify local law enforcement,” the law reads.

WTVD reported that Gifford has a large following on his TikTok page and he posted on Facebook in April saying he was bitten by his own West African Green Mamba and had to be rushed to the hospital.

On July 1, RPD said the venomous cobra had been safely contained and was being cared for in an appropriate facility. 

“The Raleigh Police Department worked with outside resources to safely secure exotic venomous reptiles that were located in a residence on Chamonix Place,” authorities said in a release.

The snake was located and safely removed on the evening of June 30, just a day after an RPD animal control officer responded to the 7000 block of Sandringham Drive after a report of a live snake spotted on a resident’s porch. 

The scaly serpent, native to Africa, originates from central Namibia and Angola, according to the African Snake Bite Institute.

The black-and-brown nocturnal snake is identified by its light, vertical stripes and can grow up to 5 feet. 

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The institute noted that, while the snake is usually “shy” and normally chooses flight over fight, it is quick to bite and its venom is cytotoxic and could cause tissue damage. 

Fatalities are reportedly “not common.”

There are six venomous snakes native to North Carolina, according to The News & Observer.

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