SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah snake collector who says his rare boa constrictors are getting a bad rap has won at least a temporary reprieve from an order to remove more than two dozen of the exotic pets from his home.
Cottonwood Heights police cited Thomas Cobb a week ago for failure to have an exotic pet permit and told him he had until Friday to get rid of all but one of his 29 boa constrictors.
Cobb values the snakes at $12,000 apiece and said he spent $100,000 on a special room in his basement with top-of-the-line cages. Some of the snakes are as long as 7 feet. Police officers noted in their report the setup was clean and well-kept.
City council members agreed on Friday to look into the case further after Cobb argued that a local ordinance is confusing.
Cobb got the attention of the council and the mayor after he took his fight against the snake eviction to the Internet and local radio shows. He maintains he's the victim, in part, of the public's distaste for snakes in general.
"We see movies, we see `Snakes on a Plane,' we see `Anaconda,' we see these movies where snakes are portrayed as monsters and can eat school buses, and that is not the case," he told The Deseret News (http://tinyurl.com/cajkcvn).
Cobb praised the council for having an open mind.
"I am pleased to find that they are at least willing to take and investigate further rather than make assumptions and going off on maybe their personal belief on snakes and maybe the reptile hobby keeping in general," he said.
Cottonwood Heights police Sgt. Dan Bartlett said a neighbor spotted one of the snakes and called police to Cobb's home last week. He said officers also found 80 rats, which were being kept as food for the snakes.
Cobb was cited for failing to have the permit required when anyone owns more than one exotic pet. He disputes that interpretation and maintains he needs to show only that he can properly care for the snakes, that they do not pose a danger to the public and that he has knowledge of the animals.
Cobb is scheduled to meet again with the council on May 7. He said he has invited all of the council members to his house to see the snakes firsthand, but as of Friday no one had taken him up on the offer.