A Cleveland, Ohio area man plead not guilty to the illegal selling of dangerous animals, after authorities found roughly 100 snakes in his home.
Police found 97 non-venomous snakes, as well as a few vipers, after Joseph McCollum, 46, went to a Struthers, Ohio emergency room for treatment for a rattlesnake bite.
McCollum, along with girlfriend Michelle Barrett, were arrested, and also charged with felony child endangerment. Some of the snakes, reportedly stacked "floor to ceiling," were housed in unmarked aquariums in the bedroom of McCollum's 12-year-old son. Various plastic containers also comprised McCollum's reptilian menagerie.
McCollum, who had a warrant out for a previous child endangerment charge, plead not guilty in Struthers municipal court to the illegal sale and auction of animals. He's yet to enter a plea regarding his latest child endangerment charge.
According to Stuthers Police Detective Jeff Lewis, McCollum operated the "Boa Store," a business which shipped snakes throughout the country. Lewis commented, "We were shocked at the inventory of snakes he had. They were floor to ceiling and there were also a lot of rats - for feeding purposes."
Regarding the endangerment charge - rattlesnake venom is a mixture of 5-15 enzymes, various metal ions, biogenic amines, lipids, free amino acids, proteins, and polypeptides. It's evolved to disable prey, and also begin the predigestive process by breaking tissue down from the inside. The venom is very stable, and doesn't weaken after years in storage.
Struthers, a suburb of Youngstown near the Pennsylvania and Ohio border, falls under a recent state law which prohibits the ownership of exotic and dangerous animals without permits. McCollum was charged under the statute, which was modified after a Zanesville man set loose 48 large lions, tigers and bears, before committing suicide in 2011. Police basically went on a big-game hunting expedition across the Ohioan countryside in that incident.
In related news, a Long Island man was recently found having about 850 snakes in his house, in another illegal reptile sales operation. Forty Burmese pythons where also recently found in an Ontario motel room, to where the owners had planned to illegally breed the snakes.
Four of the poisonous snakes taken from the Struthers home were moved to a zoo in Kentucky.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.