What is the most dangerous illegal pet

Terrariums hardly secured Illegal poisonous snake keeping ended in Berlin

A report by Ursula Bauer

A 44-year-old man kept a total of 22 venomous snakes as well as a five-meter-long strangler snake and a venomous scorpion in his apartment in Berlin. The terrariums were hardly secured.

At the beginning of April, the woman actually only wanted to pick up a piece of furniture offered on the Internet from an apartment in Berlin. Then she stood in a room full of terrariums with snakes. Each one had a sign with a skull and the note ‘very toxic’. An eerie rattle came from the containers.

Back home, the woman wrote an email to the authority of the Tempelhof-Schöneberg district and described her observations. The suspicion of illegal keeping of poisonous snakes put the responsible veterinary office on alert. Marko Hafenberg, expert on poisonous animals and head of the reptile protection center 'aktion tier Brandenburg', was asked for help, and one day later we stood in front of the door of the potential poisonous snake keeper. Since the two employees of the veterinary office had taken some police officers with them as a precaution, the 44-year-old animal owner had no choice but to agree to the inspection.

As it turned out, a total of 21 venomous snakes lived in the apartment, as well as a five-meter-long strangler snake and a venomous scorpion. Among the snakes were the most dangerous in the world. For example, poisonous snakes with highly effective neurotoxins such as the Egyptian cobra (Naja haje) and the monocle cobra (Naja kaouthia). In addition, vipers with tissue or nerve-destroying poisons such as the Western Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica rhinoceros) or the shower rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus collineatus). The poison of the thick-tailed scorpion Parabuthus seine can be dangerous to humans. Most of the terrariums, which were placed close together in two rooms, were not escape-proof because there were no corresponding locking devices. It is impossible to imagine what could have happened if one of the reptiles in the apartment building had set out on a tour of discovery.

The keeping of dangerous wild animals is regulated in a special ordinance in Berlin. Part A of the annex to this ordinance includes animals such as great apes, bears, big cats, armored lizards, poisonous spiders, scorpions and snakes that are not allowed to be kept by private individuals. This prohibition applies without exception - special permits are not granted.

Part B then lists dangerous animals that may only be kept by private individuals with a special permit from the competent authority. These include, for example, certain tarantulas, monitor lizards over 50 cm in length, giant snakes over 2 m and all types of monkeys except great apes.

The official veterinarians present immediately ordered the animals to be taken away. Even our experienced venomous snake expert Marko Hafenberg worked up a sweat when catching the dangerous reptiles, especially since handling the snake hooks in the small rooms crammed with terrariums proved to be extremely difficult. The large reticulated python (Python reticulatus) required five people to move the impressive, but also very defensive snake into a transport box.

After about 4 hours, all animals were stowed in multiple secure containers, and Marko Hafenberg made his way to the reptile protection center aktion tier BRANDENBURG. Here the snakes and the scorpion were kept in quarantine for a while. A mediation to private individuals was excluded, but some animals could be given to zoos. The rest stays in the reptile protection center.

What punishment threatens

According to the Berlin Ordinance on the Keeping of Dangerous Animals of Wild Species, the private keeping of an animal that is subject to an absolute prohibition in Annex Part A is not a criminal offense, but merely an administrative offense, which can, however, be punished with a hefty fine of up to 50,000 euros. In addition to the expected fine of an unknown amount, the poisonous animal owner must also bear the costs of the operation.

We need a nationwide regulation

In view of this recent case of illegal poison animal husbandry, aktion tier once again points out the urgent need for a nationwide dangerous animal ordinance. So far, the countries still regulate this according to their own taste. It is praiseworthy that there is a clear legal regulation in Berlin. Several federal states, including Brandenburg, which borders Berlin, do not have a corresponding ordinance. Anyone can keep poisonous snakes there without having to prove the appropriate expertise or the security of the accommodation. The thought that our poisonous animal keeper might simply move to Brandenburg and buy poisonous snakes en masse and completely legally is hard to bear.

The keeping of poisonous and dangerous animals is not only a danger for the animal owner and his family members, but under certain circumstances also for completely unsuspecting and uninvolved third parties. It is the responsibility of the legislature to ensure that no one worries other people through their behavior or exposes them to potential danger.

All 21 poisonous snakes found in the apartment as well as the scorpion are on the prohibited list. It was therefore illegal to keep them. Reticulated pyths reach an average body length of five to seven meters, so they belong to the giant snakes that require a permit. However, the specimen living in the apartment was kept without the required permission.