WINDHAM _ Local residents have been relishing the last few weeks of unseasonably warm weather, and so has Fred, a 7-foot, 60-pound red tail boa constrictor residing with Danny and Debbie Taylor on Community Road.
Danny Taylor said his pet boa needs sunlight to shed its sable-gold skin. So, weather permitting, he and Fred go for a light stroll around the community. Sometimes they sit outside, or venture uptown to the Sparkle Market.
Windham Police Chief Milford Hagans said several complaints have been received in the last few weeks concerning the safety of having such a large snake out in public.
"They're petrified," Hagans said. "The public doesn't need to be exposed to that."
Hagans told Taylor he could be cited for disorderly conduct if the snake induces a panic.
In response to these complaints, Windham Village Council attempted to pass an emergency ordinance Tuesday banning "reptiles and/or exotic animals" from the village. Owning such a creature would then be punishable as a minor misdemeanor. The current ordinance bans only farm animals.
The proposal failed when Councilman Cecil James Moore offered the sole opposing vote.
"I felt we needed to wait," Moore said. "An emergency ordinance wasn't the right thing. We need three readings.
"They brought this up without enough thought," he said.
The ordinance will be discussed at the March 10 meeting. Councilmen Glen Barker and Jess Starkey, who voted in favor of the ordinance, declined comment on the issue. The remaining councilmen could not be reached.
Taylor said he hadn't heard about any specific complaints. When walking Fred, he said he does not enter public buildings, and always stands between the snake and pedestrians.
"Fred's never out of my absolute control. He is lazy. He likes to be carried."
Boa constrictors, which can reach 14 feet when fully grown, do not have fangs and are not poisonous. Four-year-old Fred eats once every five weeks. "A boa won't attack anything it can't swallow," Taylor said.
In fact, the snake has been known to sleep with the Taylors' cats, he said
"He's a big teddy bear," said Taylor, as Fred wound himself around the leg of the kitchen table.
When he's not perusing the neighborhood, Fred sleeps in a 55-gallon tank with a locking lid. The Taylors have lived in Windham for 15 years; Fred has been with them for the last couple of years.
"I love animals," Taylor said. "Snakes have had a bad rap since Biblical times. People are ignorant about them. Fred's never made an aggressive move. It just upsets me."
Taylor said he is now hesitant to walk Fred.
"I can't afford a citation," he said.
"We're not picking on Danny," Hagans said. "We're just trying to solve the problem."