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Animal handlers managed to catch the poisonous reptile on Wednesday night — and it didn’t take long for investigators to figure out where it had come from.
Gifford, who boasts half a million followers on TikTok, is the proud owner of dozens of species of snake, which he frequently shows off and plays with on social media.
Officers quickly descended on his home, where they “safely secured” multiple venomous animals, WRAL reported.
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North Carolina is one of one of only six states in the US that permits keeping venomous snakes as pets, but under very strict rules — many of which Gifford was not following, investigators claim.
He was hit with 40 misdemeanor charges: 36 for keeping venomous snakes in plastic containers without locks; three for mislabeling containers containing certain snakes; and one for failing to report the escaped viper, as required by law.
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After the snake was spotted, police had warned locals to keep away and report any sightings immediately. The venom of the zebra spitting cobra, AKA Naja nigricincta– which is native to southern Africa – can cause massive hemorrhaging, necrosis and paralysis in bite victims; per its name, it can spit its venom with deadly accuracy, causing temporary or even permanent blindness.
A.J. Hallatt, co-director of the reptile rescue Be Wild NC, told the broadcaster it was “extremely upsetting” to see the venomous zebra cobra not being properly cared for.
“To take an unsecured venomous snake outside for the purpose of a TikTok video is unfathomably irresponsible,” she said.
Gifford’s lawyer told the outlet: “Clearly, he’s stressed. He hasn’t faced any charges like this before. Although they are minor in nature … it’s clearly stressful on his family.”