Article 55.

Regulation of Certain Reptiles.

§ 14-416.  Mishandling of certain reptiles declared public nuisance and criminal offense.

The intentional or negligent exposure of other human beings to unsafe contact with  venomous reptiles, large constricting snakes, or crocodilians  is essentially dangerous and injurious and detrimental to public health, safety and welfare, and is therefore declared to be a public nuisance and a criminal offense, to be abated and punished as provided in this Article.  (1949, c. 1084, s. 1; 2009-344, s. 1.)

 

§ 14-417.  Regulation of ownership or use of venomous reptiles.

(a)       It shall be unlawful for any person to own, possess, use, transport, or traffic in any venomous reptile that is not housed in a sturdy and secure enclosure. Enclosures shall be designed to be escape-proof, bite-proof, and have an operable lock.

(b)       Each enclosure shall be clearly and visibly labeled "Venomous Reptile Inside" with scientific name, common name, appropriate antivenin, and owner's identifying information noted on the container. A written bite protocol that includes emergency contact information, local animal control office, the name and location of suitable antivenin, first aid procedures, and treatment guidelines, as well as an escape recovery plan must be within sight of permanent housing, and a copy must accompany the transport of any venomous reptile.

(c)       In the event of an escape of a venomous reptile, the owner or possessor of the venomous reptile shall immediately notify local law enforcement.  (1949, c. 1084, s. 2; 2009-344, s. 1; 2013-413, s. 38(a); 2014-115, s. 17; 2019-204, s. 10(a).)

 

§ 14-417.1.  Regulation of ownership or use of large constricting snakes.

(a)       As used in this Article, large constricting snakes shall mean: Reticulated Python, Python reticulatus; Burmese Python, Python molurus; African Rock Python, Python sebae; Amethystine Python, Morelia amethistina; and Green Anaconda, Eunectes murinus; or any of their subspecies or hybrids.

(b)       It shall be unlawful for any person to own, possess, use, transport, or traffic in any of the large constricting snakes that are not housed in a sturdy and secure enclosure. Enclosures shall be designed to be escape-proof and shall have an operable lock.

(c)       Each enclosure shall be labeled clearly and visibly with the scientific name, common name, number of specimens, and owner's identifying information. A written safety protocol and escape recovery plan shall be within sight of permanent housing, and a copy shall accompany the transport of any of the large constricting snakes. The safety protocol shall include emergency contact information, identification of the local animal control office, and first aid procedures.

(d)       In the event of an escape of a large constricting snake, the owner or possessor shall immediately notify local law enforcement.  (2009-344, s. 1; 2019-204, s. 10(b).)

 

§ 14-417.2.  Regulation of ownership or use of crocodilians.

(a)       All crocodilians, excluding the American alligator, shall be regulated under this Article. It shall be unlawful for any person to own, possess, use, transport, or traffic in any crocodilian that is not housed in a sturdy and secure enclosure. Permanent enclosures shall be designed to be escape-proof and have a fence of sufficient strength to prevent contact between an observer and the crocodilian and shall have an operable lock. Transport containers shall be designed to be escape-proof and shall be locked.

(b)       A written safety protocol and escape recovery plan shall be within sight of permanent housing, and a copy must accompany the transport of any crocodilian.

(c)       In the event of the escape of a crocodilian, the owner or possessor shall immediately notify local law enforcement.  (2009-344, s. 1; 2019-204, s. 10(c).)

 

§ 14-418.  Prohibited handling of reptiles or suggesting or inducing others to handle.

(a)        It shall be unlawful for any person to handle any reptile regulated under this Article in a manner that intentionally or negligently exposes another person to unsafe contact with the reptile.

(b)        It shall be unlawful for any person to intentionally or negligently suggest, entice, invite, challenge, intimidate, exhort or otherwise induce or aid any person to handle or expose himself in an unsafe manner to any reptile regulated under this Article.

(c)        Safe and responsible handling of reptiles for purposes of animal husbandry, exhibition, training, transport, and education is permitted under this section.  (1949, c. 1084, s. 3; 2009-344, s. 1.)

 

§ 14-419.  Investigation of suspected violations; seizure and examination of reptiles; disposition of reptiles.

(a)       In any case in which a law-enforcement officer or animal control officer has probable cause to believe that any of the provisions of this Article have been or are about to be violated, the officer is authorized and empowered to immediately investigate the violation or impending violation and to consult with representatives of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences or the North Carolina Zoological Park or a designated representative of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to identify the species, assist with determining interim disposition, and recommend appropriate and safe methods to handle and seize the reptile or reptiles involved. In the case of escape, or if an officer, with probable cause to believe that reptile is being owned, possessed, used, transported, or trafficked in violation of this Article, determines that there is an immediate risk to officer safety or public safety, the officer shall not be required to consult with representatives as provided by this subsection and may kill the reptile.

(b)       If, based on available information, the officer, the Museum, the Zoological Park or a designated representative of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources finds that a seized reptile is a venomous reptile, large constricting snake, or crocodilian regulated under this Article, the Museum or the Zoological Park or a designated representative of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources shall assist the officer with determining an interim disposition of the reptile in a manner consistent with the safety of the public, until a final disposition is determined by a court of competent jurisdiction. In the case of a venomous reptile for which antivenin approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration is not readily available, the reptile may be euthanized unless the species is protected under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. Where euthanasia is determined to be the appropriate interim disposition, or where a reptile seized pursuant to this Article dies of natural or unintended causes, the parties involved shall not be liable to the reptile's owner.

(b1)     Upon conviction of any offense contained in this Article, the court shall order a final disposition of the confiscated venomous reptiles, large constricting snakes, or crocodilians, which may include the transfer of title to the State of North Carolina and shall include reimbursement by the owner for the expenses incurred in the seizure, delivery, and storage thereof.

(c)       If the reptile is not a venomous reptile, large constricting snake, or crocodilian regulated under this Article, and either no criminal citations, warrants, or indictments are initiated against the owner in connection with the reptile within 10 days of initial seizure, or a court of law determines that the reptile is not being owned, possessed, used, transported, or trafficked in violation of this Article, then it shall be the duty of the law enforcement officer to return the reptile or reptiles to the person from whom they were seized within 15 days of the seizure.  (1949, c. 1084, s. 4; 1981, c. 203, s. 1; 1993, c. 561, s. 116(g); 2009-344, s. 1; 2013-413, s. 38(b); 2014-115, s. 17; 2014-120, s. 39; 2017-10, s. 3.17(a); 2019-204, s. 10(d).)

 

§ 14-420: Repealed by Session Laws 2019-204, s. 10(e), effective December 1, 2019, and applicable to offenses committed on or after that date.

 

§ 14-421.  Exemptions from provisions of Article.

This Article shall not apply to the possession, exhibition, or handling of reptiles by employees or agents of duly constituted veterinarians, zoos, serpentariums, museums, laboratories, educational or scientific institutions, public and private, in the course of their educational or scientific work, or Wildlife Damage Control Agents in the course of the work for which they are approved by the Wildlife Resources Commission.  (1949, c. 1084, s. 6; 2009-344, s. 1.)

 

§ 14-422.  Criminal penalties and civil remedies for violation.

(a)        Any person violating any of the provisions of this Article shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.

(b)        If any person, other than the owner of a venomous reptile, large constricting snake, or crocodilian, the owner's agent, employee, or a member of the owner's immediate family, suffers a life threatening injury or is killed as the result of a violation of this Article, the owner of the reptile shall be guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor. This subsection shall not apply to violations that result from incidents that could not have been prevented or avoided by the owner's exercise of due care or foresight, such as natural disasters or other acts of God, or in the case of thefts of the reptile from the owner.

(c)        Any person intentionally releasing into the wild a nonnative venomous reptile, a large constricting snake, or a crocodilian shall be guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor.

(d)       Violations of this Article as set forth in subsections (b) or (c) of this section shall constitute wanton conduct within the meaning of G.S. 1D-5(7) and subject the violator to punitive damages in any civil action that may be filed as a result of the violator's actions.  (1949, c. 1084, s. 7; 1969, c. 1224, s. 3; 1993, c. 539, s. 289; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 2009-344, s. 1.)