Police uncover venomous snakes and exotic snake store - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio


Police uncover venomous snakes and exotic snake store in Struthers home

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STRUTHERS, Ohio - The owners of an online store that sells snakes are under arrest for child endangering.

Between 150 to 200 snakes, including those that are venomous, were found inside a home at 438 Fifth Street where Joseph McCollum and Michele Barrett live with their 12-year-old son.

The reptiles found included pythons, boa constrictors, an African tree snake, a diamond back rattlesnake, a king cobra, a cobra, a Gila monster, a monitor lizard and iguanas, among others.

Police say they found the snakes while conducting a welfare check on McCollum, who was bit by a venomous diamond back rattlesnake.  According to police, he left without getting the proper treatment so they were sent to check on him. 

McCollum and Barrett run The Boa Store, an online store that sells boa constrictors.

21 News spoke with neighbor George Garltic who says he was not worried because most of the snakes were kept in containers and didn't get loose. However, a free roaming snake was found loose in the upstairs bedroom.

"Every room except for the kitchen and the bathroom are the only two rooms that didn't have any snakes at all but right next to the bed, there were snakes in the little boys room or whatever that room is. There was at least 30 of them in there," said Mahoning County Deputy Dog Warden Dave Nelson.

Nelson said ODNR wildlife agents were trying to identify the reptiles Friday night but it was difficult because the snakes colors change when they are interchanged. He said agents would know more about the type of reptile when the agents got back to the office

By having the snakes in the home, detectives say the two suspects violated two city ordinances: running the business from their home and owning exotic animals. They also failed to post signage warning of dangerous animals, which violates a state law.

"It's definitely a serious danger. There's a lot of kids in this neighborhood. The houses are very close together. It is a duplex apartment as well," said Struthers Police Detective Jeff Lewis.

The Herps Alive! Foundation, an organization that seeks to provide a dedicated reptile rescue facility for all of Northeast Ohio, is working with state wildlife agents to remove and house the snakes.  Nelson said that the venomous reptiles would be going to a sanctuary in Kentucky.

McCollum was being treated at St. Elizabeth's in Youngstown.

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