Animal associations

Raleigh approves new ‘dangerous wildlife’ rules

Raleigh leaders have approved new rules banning ‘dangerous wild animals’ nearly a year after a poisonous zebra cobra escaped from a home in northwest Raleigh.

The ban applies to “inherently dangerous” animals that do not generally live with humans and specifically include: lions, tigers, wolves, non-human primates, poisonous snakes and medically important crocodilians.

The rules prohibit new pet owners from owning “dangerous wild animals” within city limits, but current pet owners are grandfathered as long as the animals are registered under the new rules.

The new rules were approved 5-3 with Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin and council members Nicole Stewart and Stormie Forte voting against.

Council member David Knight began pushing for new rules after the Zebra cobra spotted in northwest Raleigh in the summer of 2021 and sent law enforcement on a two-day search before the snake was caught. The escaped snake was one of several found kept at the home of Christopher Gifford, who did not report the cobra missing in November 2020. The zebra cobra is capable of spitting venom several meters away and has caused a local and global media frenzy. Warning. Gifford pleads guilty in August 2021.

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The zebra cobra spotted on Sandringham Drive in northwest Raleigh. Raleigh Police Department

The new animal rules

The new rules provide for a fine of $500 per animal. The new rules do not apply to accredited zoos, scientific research laboratories, veterinarians, educational or scientific establishments or wildlife rehabilitators.

People who already own animals deemed “dangerous and wild” would be grandfathered as long as they comply with the order, including registering the animal.

After a year of debate, the city considered four options ranging from outright banning animals, regardless of how long a person owned the animal, to allowing animals as long as they are registered.

The original rules would have banned animals ranging from tigers, monkeys and alligators to ducks and squirrels. And the original rules appeared to ban rare pets like sugar gliders, ferrets and most reptiles, prompting concern from local and national groups like the American Reptile Keepers Association.

This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

This story was originally published June 21, 2022 4:17 p.m.

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Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has previously covered city government, crime and business for newspapers across North Carolina and has received numerous awards from the North Carolina Press Association, including first place for investigative journalism. She is a 2012 alumnus of Elon University.
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