Theft of snakes likely tar­geted, po­lice say

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL -

THOROLD, ONT. — More than a dozen deadly snakes are at risk them­selves and pose po­ten­tial dan­ger to oth­ers af­ter a week­end breakin in south­ern On­tario, lo­cal po­lice said Tues­day.

Ni­a­gara Re­gional Po­lice said the snakes were snatched from a ru­ral home in Thorold on Satur­day evening, leav­ing them scram­bling to re­cover the an­i­mals and iden­tify sus­pects.

Const. Phil Gavin said the tar­geted at­tack ze­roes in on a wide ar­ray of snakes, most of which are ven­omous and all of which have po­ten­tial to kill.

They in­clude a di­a­mond­back rat­tlesnake, five va­ri­eties of co­bra, a pit ad­der, sev­eral vipers and a preg­nant al­bino boa con­stric­tor.

“Th­ese cer­tainly are not rep­tiles that should be tri­fled with ei­ther by trained per­son­nel or by any­one who just stum­bles across them,” Gavin said.

Gavin said the owner of the res­i­dence is be­lieved to have been rais­ing and pos­si­bly breed­ing the rep­tiles for sale, a prac­tice that is le­gal in On­tario.

“There’s rea­son to be­lieve that ... the peo­ple re­spon­si­ble (for the theft) knew they were there and tar­geted them,” Gavin said of the rep­tiles. “The av­er­age per­son to go in and deal with th­ese snakes, the like­li­hood is they wouldn’t reach into a co­bra pit with­out some level of knowl­edge.”

The snakes range con­sid­er­ably in size, Gavin said. The ven­omous an­i­mals range in size from 12 to 106 cen­time­tres. The boa con­stric­tor, which is not ven­omous but can still kill with its pow­er­ful crush­ing force, is 200 cen­time­tres long.

The prac­tice of own­ing ex­otic an­i­mals is largely le­gal thanks to a patch­work of laws across the coun­try. On­tario is widely con­sid­ered to have the least strin­gent laws. The prov­ince has banned only two an­i­mals for do­mes­tic own­er­ship — killer whales and pit bull ter­ri­ers. It is up to mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments to cre­ate their own by­laws re­strict­ing the types of an­i­mals that can live within its ju­ris­dic­tion.

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion about the theft is en­cour­aged to come for­ward.

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