Meridian Star

August 30, 2013

Miss. police order removal of exotic animals

HOLBROOK MOHR, Associated Press
Associated Press

JACKSON — Noise complaints in a north Mississippi college town led to the discovery of dozens of rare snakes and other exotic animals, including African cats and birds, at the home of a veterinary student, authorities said Friday.

Starkville Police Chief David Lindley said his department served a search warrant at the residence Wednesday and uncovered an elaborate breeding operation for exotic animals. The suspect is a senior in Mississippi State University's veterinary medicine program. Lindley said the off-campus home is in a subdivision not far from the university in the town of about 24,000 people.

"This was absolutely a breeding operation. We're talking about dozens and dozens of animals and very large snakes," Lindley said.

The student has been ordered to remove the animals from the city because they violate local ordinances. Lindley said the city didn't seize the animals because it doesn't have the proper facilities to hold them.

Lindley said the investigation began months ago over noise complaints related to birds caged in the backyard. The search warrant led to the discovery of other animals, including snakes, frogs and tortoises.

"We're used to encountering some exotic animals as pets, but in this case we went into what would be the living room and there were rows and rows of reptile cages that were full," the chief said.

Lindley declined to name the student because he hasn't been charged with a crime and is facing only misdemeanor violations from the city. However, Lindley said state and federal authorities also are investigating.

MSU spokesman Sid Salter said Friday that faculty and staff from the university's veterinary program offered assistance "to make sure this matter is handled appropriately."

Salter also said that federal officials have informed the university that no federal laws were broken at this point in the investigation, which is ongoing.

A Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks official declined to comment other than to say the investigation is ongoing.

Lindley said authorities aren't sure if any of the snakes are venomous because there are so many and some of them have been hard to identify because they are so rare.

"One of them was a blue constrictor, and when I say blue, I mean it was blue," Lindley said.