It's legal to keep an exotic, venomous snake in NC. But there are rules, and it's risky

North Carolina has laws that regulate exotic venomous serpents as pets in an effort to decrease the chance of injury to their owners, families members, and neighbors.Dustin Smith, curator of amphibians and reptiles at the N.C. Zoological Park, Asheboro, stated that Article 55, Regulation of Certain Reptiles was originally written in 1950s to regulate snake handling. This is a form of religious worship where preachers and members of their congregations show their faith by handling venomous serpents.Smith stated that the law has been reworked and expanded over the years to regulate the practice of keeping venomous snakes as pets, including large constricting snakes or crocodilians.After fleeing from its owners, a venomous zebra snake also known as a barred or venomous cobra was found wandering the streets of northwest Raleigh on Tuesday.What the law saysArticle 55 states that snakes must be kept inside a secure, sturdy enclosure. It must be bite-proof and escape-proof. The law requires that each enclosure clearly labeled Venomous Reptile inside must include the scientific name, common names, antivenin and owner information. Permanent housing must have a written protocol for bites, including emergency contact information and the local animal control office. It should also include first aid procedures, treatment guidelines, and escape plans. Any venomous reptile must be transported with a copy.The law states that if a reptile is found in danger, its owner must notify the authorities immediately.If an animal owner is found to have violated Article 55, they could be charged with either a Class 2 misdemeanor or a Class 1A offense. A Class 2 misdemeanor can lead to up to 60 days imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. A Class 1A misdemeanor can result in a maximum sentence of 150 days imprisonment and a fine at court discretion.Continue the storySmith stated that it is important to regulate the care of venomous reptiles. If they are not properly managed, they can become a danger to their owners, and in the event of escape, animal control officers or law enforcement officers who attempt to capture them.Venom that is highly toxicSmith stated that the barred cobra can grow up to 4 to 5 feet in length and can release a toxic venom through bites or spitting. This snake is more dangerous than other species, making it even more difficult to capture. Smith stated that people who seek to capture venomous snakes that have escaped are often equipped with long tongs. However, with a barred snake, Smith said they would need to have effective protection like goggles or a shield for their eyes.Smith stated that it can bite and can spray its venom at 6, 8, 10, feet. They are quite accurate. They can now spray the venom directly into their prey's eyes and face. They aim for the eyes or the middle of their face.Smith stated that cobra venom would cause intense pain in the eye, which would give the snake time for escape. He said that if the venom is not treated promptly, it could result in severe eye injury, blindness, or permanent neurological damage.If someone is bitten or spit exposed, they should call an ambulance to be taken to an emergency room.Smith advised that you should not try to drive yourself because you don't know how your body will react.According to reports, the zebra cobra in Raleigh was brought from Chaminox Place, home of Keith Gifford and Rebecca Gifford in northwest Raleigh. Christopher is the son of Keith and Rebecca Gifford. He has TikTok as well as Instagram accounts that show him with many venomous snakes.He talks about his large zebra-cobra in one TikTok video while wearing a face shield to protect his eyes.Smith stated that North Carolina hospitals would not keep antivenin in stock to treat bites by zebra cobras or other venomous exotics like a mamba. Antivenins are costly and have a short shelf life.Smith advised that people who wish to keep these animals as pets must weigh the risks and the potential strain on resources. Smith stated that antivenins are readily available in the United States, and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, Florida, has the largest stock of these solutions for public use. It is expensive to purchase and transport them.What are the number of exotic snakes found in your home?Smith stated that although North Carolina does not require licensing for exotic venomous snake owners, it is impossible to determine how many snakes are being kept at home. However, he believes this practice is widespread. Accidents do happen. Smith stated that he has been bitten by two snakes with venomous exotics in North Carolina over the past six month. They were in two counties.The statute states that in the event of an escape, an officer may kill the reptile if he or she determines that there is an immediate danger to safety.If an incident occurs, and if an investigation finds that the pet owner deliberately or negligently allowed others to have unintentional contact with the animal, the owner may be charged criminally and the animals can be confiscated. They can be temporarily housed at the zoo or the state Museum of Natural Sciences, or any other designated agency that is capable of caring for them.Smith stated that the zoo had not been asked to participate in the case of missing cobras. A spokesperson for the Museum of Natural Sciences also said that they have not been asked. Although the zoo exhibits and keeps venomous snakes it is all native to the United States.Smith stated that he believes the animal may have escaped from captivity after being cared for in captivity. It would then seek shelter in an unfamiliar area. Smith said that the animal might have been disoriented because it had lived indoors and might, although it is naturally nocturnal be moving around during the day or at night.Smith stated that although I don't want to alarm people or make them afraid, it is important enough that I would be cautious about what I did with my hands. I would watch where I step and inspect all corners of my home if I was outside.