Local News

Court Tries To Sort Out Reptile Problem

Posted December 13, 2001 8:43 a.m. EST

— While Samson G. Pruitt makes his way through the court system for charges of running a dogfighting ring, his assortment of confiscated reptile pets are on an odyssey of their own.

Pruitt's pets _ including a baby Nile crocodile, a Gaboon viper, six pythons, three boa constrictors and a rattlesnake _ have been cared for at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the N.C. State University veterinarian school since Pruitt's arrest last month.

State snake expert Dave Davenport told a Wake County Superior Court judge Wednesday that the museum doesn't have the money or manpower to care for and feed the animals any longer.

Pruitt hasn't been charged in connection with the reptiles and has asked that the animals not be given away or killed until his case is resolved. His attorneys asked that the animals be turned over to Tim McLaurin, a N.C. State University English professor and novelist whose last book was titled ``The Last Great Snake Show.''

McLaurin said he has owned such snakes and reptiles for years and has offered educational seminars for local schools and clubs.

Assistant District Attorney Shelley Desvousges asked that museum officials be allowed to find permanent homes for the seized reptiles.

That left Judge Donald Stephens to sort out the matter.

Stephens asked state officials to work out a temporary solution that might allow McLaurin to care for the animals and asked Davenport to try to find a permanent home for the reptiles at other museums or zoos even after the cases against Pruitt are resolved.

He asked both sides to report to him Jan. 2.

The reptiles were confiscated along with 81 pit bull terriers when deputies raided the home of Pruitt, 28, who faces felony charges of animal cruelty, baiting dogs and several drug charges. All but three or four of the dogs have been euthanized.

Pruitt also faces misdemeanor charges of practicing veterinary medicine without a license and of child neglect. Prosecutors say he allowed his girlfriend's 2-year-old son to play around the snake containers.

The viper is considered one of the deadliest snakes in the world, and two of the boa constrictors could kill a small child.

Desvousges said she hasn't ruled out charging Pruitt with cruelty to animals regarding the reptiles. In a report submitted to the judge, Davenport said several of the snakes were infested with mites, including a severe infestation on the viper. One of the lizards was dehydrated, and a python died of pneumonia.