Orange County man bit by cobra had more than 20 snakes in home
Posted May 3
Chapel Hill, N.C. — An Orange County man called 911 Monday night and calmly told dispatchers that he was going to the hospital for the treatment of a snake bite.
“I just got bit by a king cobra and I’m on my way to the hospital,” Ali Iyoob told the dispatcher in a 911 call released by Orange County Tuesday afternoon.
Iyoob said that he was suffering blurry vision and was "sweating like crazy" following the bite.
Iyoob was bitten in his home by a snake he owned, he told dispatchers. A friend said Iyoob was in the hospital’s intensive care unit, recovering from surgery and breathing with the help of a ventilator. He was in critical condition Tuesday evening.
“I’m trying to get to the hospital as fast as I can,” Iyoob said on the call.
Eventually, Iyoob pulled his car over on Timothy Lane off N.C. Highway 54 and waited for emergency personnel to arrive.
Iyoob's friend, Jennifer Marshburn, said that anti-venom for the snake bite was delivered from a zoo in Columbia, SC at 1 a.m. Tuesday.
On a Facebook page with Iyoob’s photos and personal information, Iyoob says he works as a beekeeper and studied biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. According to a commencement program from May 2015, Iyoob graduated from the biology department.
Michael John, spokesperson for UNC, said the Iyoob did not graduate from the school. John explained that it's possible that Iyoob's name appeared in the commencement program because he was able to participate in the ceremony but not eligible to receive a degree because he did not pass all classes.
"The vast majority of students in the commencement program graduate, because you need to be eligible to graduate to be listed, but since grading and graduation are so close together, that's not always the case," John said.
Iyoob's Facebook page includes numerous photos of Iyoob with animals, including snakes, and it reads, "I go to work and play with bees and then come home and play with snakes."
Marshburn said that Iyoob is a responsible pet owner who ensures his snakes are locked up and has worked with animals for most of his life.
"Ali is the type of person who would make sure the cobra was locked up securely before seeking help for his bite," Marshburn said. "He is a responsible keeper and extremely respected by others in the reptile community worldwide. He dedicates his life to these animals and is not just 'some guy with a pet cobra'."
Orange County Animal Services officials said in a Tuesday afternoon press conference that Iyoob kept more than 20 snakes, some of which were venomous and two that were constrictive, in his home.
"They need to be removed from the county in order to assure the safety of people who reside here," said Orange County Animal Sercives Director Bob Marotto.
Orange County Animal Services officials said in a statement they are working with the sheriff's office and other agencies to determine whether or not Iyoob violated a North Carolina General Statute by keeping snakes in his home.
"It's not lawful to have those animals in our jurisdiction," said Marotto.
If a violation occurred, Orange County officials will coordinate to identify, seize and care for the reptiles. Officials said they believe the animals in Iyoob's possession were kept in secure enclosures, and officials said there is no threat to the public, although it's unclear where the animals were or who was caring for them Tuesday afternoon.
Marotto said officials were waiting for a zoo in Asheboro to remove the animals Tuesday night.
"We are certainly saddened that someone was bitten and is seriously ill," Marotto said. "We will assure that those animals in our jurisdiction are safe to everyone involved and assure the safety of people who live in our community."
Orange County law prohibits residents from “keeping, sheltering, feeding, harboring or taking care of” any wild and dangerous animal.
In the Orange County ordinance, reptiles (poisonous, crushing and giant) are listed as wild animals dangerous to persons and property. Anyone who violates the ordinance is subject to misdemeanor charges and a civil penalty of up to $50 per animal.
Exemptions to the ordinance include animals used for teaching and research purposes at UNC-Chapel Hill. It’s unclear whether Iyoob’s snakes were being used for research purposes.
"The exceptions are very specific in the ordinance," Marotto said. "As far as I'm aware, those are not considerations in this situation at all, and therefore the ordinance applies fully."