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Court Tries To Sort Out Reptile Problem

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

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

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

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

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

Assistant District Attorney Shelley Desvousges asked that museumofficials be allowed to find permanent homes for the seizedreptiles.

That left Judge Donald Stephens to sort out the matter.

Stephens asked state officials to work out a temporary solutionthat might allow McLaurin to care for the animals and askedDavenport to try to find a permanent home for the reptiles at othermuseums 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 terrierswhen deputies raided the home of Pruitt, 28, who faces felonycharges 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 veterinarymedicine without a license and of child neglect. Prosecutors say heallowed his girlfriend's 2-year-old son to play around the snakecontainers.

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

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

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