AN ANIMAL D.A. STORY, PART II
by Theresa Welch, J.D.
This is a continuation of the article on the illegal snake case in San Francisco. Remember that this was a time when it was illegal to have poisonous reptiles within the San Francisco city limits.
To try to get further information on the illegal snake business that we suspected was being run out of a house in San Francisco, we offered a reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of anyone dealing in illegal snakes. This reward offer brought in three phone tips. The D.A.'s office took those tips and, coupled with the information from the snakes in the package, drafted a warrant to search the house where the snakes were believed to be. The judge who signed the warrant was happy to do so since the house to be searched was in his neighborhood.
The search proved very eventful. First, the man who owned the house locked the front door and ran. A SWAT team was called in, and the front door was battered down. The officers went to the basement, which is where our information said the snakes were located. At the bottom of the stairs they saw a hand grenade on a stick stuck in a bucket of sand. This booby trap caused the house to be evacuated, and the bomb squad to be called. The first plan was to put a concussion blanket over the grenade in order to detonate it. But the concussion from an explosion might break the glass containers in the room where the snakes were supposed to be. Finally an officer in a bomb suit took the grenade outside for disposal. The grenade was a dummy.
The officer seized poisonous snakes, toads and even alligators. So many reptiles were seized that they filled the entire training room at the ASPCA. However, many of the snakes that we thought were there were gone. We found numerous empty glass aquariums, incubators, and even broken egg shells from which snakes had obviously hatched, but not the snakes. It seemed that someone had tipped off the man and he had "disposed" of a majority of the snakes.
Where were the snakes? Was the man caught? If he was, what happened to him? What else was found in the house besides snakes? Be sure to read Part III in the summer issue for the answer to these and other interesting questions.
Theresa Welch is a former criminal prosecutor with 20 years’ experience in animal cruelty cases in New Mexico and California who was instrumental in the passage of the 1991 felony cruelty law. She continues to advise people on issues related to animal cruelty.
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