THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. —- A menagerie of reptiles were pulled from a Thousand Oaks home and so was the man who owned them — Todd Kates was arrested for cruelty to animals. Illegal alligators in the swimming pool, buckets of cobras, rattle snakes, vipers and Gila Monsters were hauled away from Kates’ property.
Officials with the County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) and other agencies served search warrants at two locations in the Thousand Oaks area where Kates, a state permit holder, was in possession of “dozens of very dangerous and highly regulated species of reptiles,” according to a news release.
Authorities say a criminal investigation was launched after a Cape cobra was spotted in a local neighborhood for the second time in three years, which led to two search warrants being issued, including one at a home on the 1300 block of Rancho Lane.
The neighbor drove a car over the snake, killing it, said animal control spokeswoman Don Barre.
Cape cobras are extremely dangerous — some experts say the venom from one bite could kill six people.
As part of the investigation, a baby American alligator was removed from the residence, according to KNX 1070’s Karen Adams.
A DACC spokesperson said in a statement: “It appears that, despite the multiple levels of permits, approvals, and periodic inspections required, the permit holder was housing deadly venomous snakes in an unauthorized, densely populated, residential neighborhood, and in such a manner that they posed a substantial risk to public safety.”
John Davidson lives down the street and saw what might have been another dangerous snake in his backyard — a red-bellied black snake.
“I saw what appeared to be a gopher snake, but then it lifted up its head and it had a bright red underbelly. It was 6 feet long. Really fast. Oh my gosh,” said Davidson.
“You don’t want to have pythons and cobras,” said Davidson. “We have enough to deal with with the coyotes and rattlesnakes.”
No arrests were immediately announced. Authorities say the owners have permits but they appear to be in violation of animal-keeping rules.
The neighborhood where the search warrants were served is the same one where a cobra eluded county Animal Control officers for four days in Dec. 2014 before it was caught and sent to the Los Angeles Zoo.
“It still had its venom pockets. A squirrel and rats in it. Disconcerting in our neighborhood,” said neighbor Diane Larson.
Taking no chances, LA County Animal Control joined Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies, California Fish & Wildlife and reptile experts from the LA Zoo to inventory the animals that were in the home — and at a second facility on Carlisle Road — while paramedics were nearby just in case someone was bitten by the venomous snakes.
The San Diego Zoo was later asked to take the cobra because it is one of two zoological facilities in the country with the proper anti-venom for the species, officials said.
Kates had permits for some of the reptiles — but not all. Reptiles are still being brought out. More charges could be on the way for Kates.