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Erik Burgess, Published August 06 2012

West Fargo reconsiders shedding citywide snake ban

WEST FARGO – The president of a local reptile and amphibian society may have tipped the scales in favor of allowing snakes here after presenting to the City Commission on Monday evening.

City leaders here recently rejected another resident’s request to allow constrictor snakes as pets in West Fargo, but Devin Hoffie, president of the local chapter of the National Herpetological Society, told the commissioners Monday night that the previous resident was a poor example of a snake owner.

“I understand that the only member we’ve ever banned from our society spoke to you, and I’m very sorry for that,” Hoffie said, speaking of Robert L. Butts III, whose request to lift the constrictor ban was voted down July 16.

The commission voted to consider Hoffie’s snake permit system proposal and to review it in conjunction with Fargo and Moorhead’s snake policies before making a final decision.

West Fargo city law prohibits residents from possessing “any poisonous, venomous, constricting, or inherently dangerous member of the reptile or amphibian families, including rattlesnakes, boa constrictors, pit vipers, crocodiles and alligators.”

Fargo allows residents to have non-poisonous snakes.

Hoffie said some information Butts gave commissioners – such as there only being two kinds of snakes – wasn’t true. But the commissioners that voted down Butts’ request just two weeks ago remained skeptical of the plan.

“Quite frankly, everybody I’ve talked to in our community just does not want to have snakes running around,” Commissioner Mark Simmons said.

Hoffie, who lives in Dilworth and breeds and sells snakes, was quick to recognize the poor perception that snake owners have in the community.

“I’ll admit – the stereotype for people who keep snakes isn’t a good one,” Hoffie said. “However, I would also like to point out that there are often very responsible people who also keep snakes.”

Hoffie presented the commission with a proposal for a permit system that would have snake owners pay an annual fee to the city in order to keep their slithering friends.

Owners of large snakes, such as Burmese pythons or anacondas, would be required to have a microchip installed in the pet and keep the snake up to date with veterinary visits, under Hoffie’s proposal.

Owners would also be fined $100 per snake for not getting a permit under Hoffie’s plan, with rewards going to community members who turn in anyone who keeps snakes illegally.

Commissioner Mike Thorstad, who was the only one who voted in favor of allowing snakes the last time around, said reviewing the policies of the surrounding communities is a good next step.

“I just would like to see us try to be consistent with the metro area if we can,” Thorstad said.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518