Special Report: Snake on a Plane - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Special Report: Snake on a Plane

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMC-TV) - Congress is considering a controversial bill to place new controls on exotic animal ownership in the United States, potentially banning some animals altogether.

The current laws vary from state-to-state, but an Action News 5 investigation found some exotics can slither in very easily.

For about half a day, we owned one of the world's most venomous snakes, a two and a half foot long Gaboon Viper.

They have the largest fangs of any snake, and some of the deadliest venom.
But that's not the scary part - it's how easy we got it!  All we had to do was go online.  We found a website that gave us access to dozens of venomous snakes for sale around the world.

We picked our snake, agreed on a price of $120, gave a credit card, and that was it. No one asked for our age, if we had any experience handling venomous snakes, or what the laws were where we lived!

In case you are wondering, it is illegal to transport or own venomous snakes in Tennessee. So we let our news partners in South Carolina pick up our new pet.  We had the snake delivered to the Myrtle Beach International Airport, and went inside with hidden cameras to pick it up.

We were told the snake would be shipped on a Delta cargo plane, but after talking with one of the guys at the counter, we learned our snake-in-a-box was actually shipped inside the cargo area of a passenger plane.  And, he told us, that's normal.

Our crew wasn't about to get the snake out on its own, so a local herpetologist, Ken Alfier, came into help.

"A Gaboon can kill a person, potentially fatal," he said. "Way more dangerous than our copperheads or cotton mouths.  It's not an animal you want to get bit by and end up in the hospital with."

Alfier is trained to handle these types of snakes.

"I'm sad that they didn't ask your age. That should be a requirement," He said. "Getting it this easy, most people know what they're getting into and know what they're dealing with. It's certainly not for the beginner or novice. You hope it doesn't end up in the wrong hands."

House Bill 669 would prevent the introduction and establishment of nonnative wildlife species in the U.S. that negatively impact the economy, environment, or other animal species' or human health.

Currently, it's up to individual states and cities to decide if you can buy and keep an exotic animal as a pet.

  • In Tennessee, you simply cannot do it.
  • In Arkansas you can't possess large carnivores, like lions and tigers. You can have a snake, as long as you prove you obtained it legally, and that's only if you're asked to prove it.
  • In Mississippi, you need a permit for exotic pets that are considered dangerous, and in places like Southaven, it's against city ordinance altogether.
  • In Missouri, there are no laws pertaining to venomous snakes or any other exotic pet!

Congress could soon change all of that.  But critics of proposed regulations on exotic animals say the bill will seriously damage the pet industry, and force some exotic pet owners to give up their pets if they don't make the cut.

In case you're wondering what happened to the snake, our news partners donated her to Alligator Adventure in Myrtle Beach.


To learn more about House Bill 669,  click here:


To read stories about exotic pet owner reaction to House Bill 669, click here:



To learn more about exotic animal laws in your state, click here:


To read a blog post from a House Bill 669 supporter, click here:




Will HR 669 Transform Your Exotic Animals into Illegal Aliens?Video discussing some of the impacts HR 669 will have on exotic animal breeders, pet store owners and scientists.

Are you a scientist, conservation biologist, biomedical researcher or exotic animal breeder who will be impacted by HR 669?

Brief Factsheet (printable) regarding HR 669 and its impacts.

The New England Aquarium Speaks Out Against HR 669

PetSmart Speaks out Against HR 669

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