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22 snakes found in Janesville apartment

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Kathleen Foody
July 3, 2009
— Ophidiophobic? Stay away from Myra Avenue.

Police gave a couple two weeks to remove 22 boa constrictors from their Janesville apartment June 23.


Police visited the owners after an anonymous caller alerted them to the cache of snakes and found two adult boas in an aquarium.


One was about 6 feet long, and the other—an albino—measured about 4 feet long, according to the police report.


The owners also had 20 baby boa constrictors in containers. The babies were born in March.


Owner Jason Swinney said he didn't know the snakes were illegal when he moved to Janesville.


The snakes have been up for sale online since winter, he said. He had been waiting for a higher price, but hopes to have the snakes sold by Sunday.


"People who don't properly maintain their animals are the reason why safety codes like this are put in place," he said.


The city of Janesville prevents residents from owning "wild or exotic" animals, including poisonous or constrictor snakes.


Police are scheduled to visit the apartment next week to make sure the snakes have been removed.


Typically, the Rock County Humane Society arranges to send animals to rescue organizations. Police put the burden on the snakes' owners this time.


The snakes aren't designed for weather in the area, especially Wisconsin winters, and will seek shelter in homes and other buildings if released into the wild, said James Hurley, the Rock County Humane Society's operations manager.


"Through summer, they'll live fine, but come winter, they're going to end up finding a way into someone's house," Hurley said.


The humane society has dealt with snakes hiding under water heaters and tanks, in basements and even in the dashboard of a car.


Even though boas start small, Hurley said they grow quickly and can become dangerous.


"The rule of thumb for handling a snake is having one person for every 3 feet," he said.


Owners may see no danger from their pet, but the city and the humane society aren't willing to take that chance.


Animal restrictions are similar to those on fireworks, Hurley said.


"You make lists of what's allowed and what's not. A snake is like those big cannon fireworks," he said.



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