Accused operator of Struthers "snake store" remains jailed - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Accused operator of Struthers "snake store" remains jailed

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - A Struthers man arrested late Friday when police raided a suspected online snake sales operation at his home remained jailed Monday morning.

According to Mahoning County Jail records, 46-year-old Joseph McCollum spent the weekend in the lockup after authorities found 150 snakes, some of them venomous, inside his home at 538 Fifth Street.

He and 45-year-old Michele Barrett are charged with child endangering and violating laws governing the possession and sale of exotic pets.

Police say that Barrett's 12-year-old son was also living at the home.

There is no record of Michele Barrett being booked into jail, but both have been summoned to answer charges in Struthers Municipal court.

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

"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.

"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.

Nelson said that the venomous reptiles would be taken to a sanctuary in Kentucky. A snake rescue organization is finding homes for the other non-venomous snakes.

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

According to the website, www.boastore.com:

"The Boa Store is owned & operated by Joe McCollum, Michele Barrett, & Joseph McCollum, Jr. All of our boa constrictors are captive bred and captive born under personal supervision at our facility in Struthers, OH. We provide personal, individual customer support backed by over 40 years of breeding experience."

Under Ohio's recently enacted Dangerous Wild Animal Act, no later than January 1, 2014, anyone in possession of a restricted snake in Ohio is required to apply for and receive a permit from the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Ohio law generally prohibits any person from:

  • Offering a venomous snake for sale at an auction
  • Allowing a restricted snake to roam off the property where it is confined
  • Removing any teeth from a restricted snake
  • Knowingly releasing a restricted snake into the wild
  • Failing to comply with the following sign requirements:
    • On each container in which a restricted snake is confined, sign warning the public that a restricted snake is in the container
    • At the main entrance to each structure where a restricted snake is confined, a sign warning the public that a restricted snake is in the structure
    • On a vehicle that is used to transport a restricted snake, a sign warning that a restricted snake is in the vehicle

 If a restricted snake escapes, the person that possesses the animal must immediately notify both of the following:

  • The county sheriff and the chief police officer where the escape occurred
  • The ODA Division of Animal Health by calling 1-855-DWA-OHIO

 The person that possesses a restricted snake that escapes is responsible for all reasonable costs associated with the capture or destruction of the snake.

Venomous Snakes

The law also generally requires the owner of a venomous snake to have access to anti-venom for each species of snake they possess at the location where each snake is confined or at a hospital and requires an owner to submit proof to local law enforcement officers of having access to the anti-venom with a list that contains the names of each species of venomous snake the person owns. The owner of a venomous snake is liable for all costs associated with treatment of a bite.

Restricted Snake Possession Permit

This permit is for owners that do not intend to breed, sell, or trade snakes.

 Permit application fees: $150

Liability insurance or surety bond requirements:

  • $100,000 (1-5 restricted snakes)
  • $250,000 (6-15 restricted snakes)
  • $500,000 (16 or more restricted snakes)
  • Note:Financial responsibility requirement only applies to species of the following families: Atractaspididae; Elapidae; Viperidae. Boomslang snakes; Twig snakes

 Additional requirements:

Must be at least 18 years old

  • Must comply with the requirements regarding the care and housing of those snakes that are established in standards adopted by the Zoological Association of America
  • Must sign an affidavit attesting that members of the public will not be permitted to be in physical contact with any restricted snakes possessed
  • Has not been convicted of or plead guilty to a felony drug abuse offense, an offense of violence that is a felony, a violation of animal cruelty statutes, or of failing to report the escape of a non-indigenous animal (background check required)
  • For vipers and venomous snakes, must be able to demonstrate at least two years of experience in the care of the species of snake(s) that are possessed or pass a written examination
  • Must establish and submit a plan of action to be undertaken if a restricted snake escapes
  • Must provide a written statement from a veterinarian stating that the veterinarian is willing to provide veterinary care to the snake(s) when needed

 Restricted snake propagation permit

This permit is for owners that intend to breed, sell, trade or otherwise transfer the animal(s).

 Permit application fees: $300

Liability insurance or surety bond requirements:

  • $100,000 (1-5 restricted snakes)
  • $250,000 (6-15 restricted snakes)
  • $500,000 (16 or more restricted snakes)
  • Note:Financial responsibility requirement only applies to species of the following families: Atractaspididae; Elapidae; Viperidae. Boomslang snakes; Twig snakes

 Additional requirements:

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Must comply with the requirements regarding the care and housing of those snakes that are established in standards adopted by the Zoological Association of America
  • Must sign an affidavit attesting that members of the public will not be permitted to be in physical contact with any restricted snakes possessed
  • Has not been convicted of or plead guilty to a felony drug abuse offense, an offense of violence that is a felony, a violation of animal cruelty statutes, or of failing to report the escape of a non-indigenous animal (background check required)
  • For vipers and venomous snakes, must be able to demonstrate at least two years of experience in the care of the species of snake(s) that are possessed or pass a written examination
  • Must establish and submit a plan of action to be undertaken if a restricted snake escapes
  • Must provide a written statement from a veterinarian stating that the veterinarian is willing to provide veterinary care to the snake(s) when needed
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