Fate of snake still undecided in Windham

By Jen Hirt Record-Courier correspondent Published:

WINDHAM _ Fred the snake and his fellow reptiles will have to wait a couple more weeks before their status in the village is settled.

Council failed Tuesday night, after a heated discussion on the issue, to agree on an emergency ordinance to clarify what animals should be banned from the village.

Verbal complaints about one specific reptile _ Danny Taylor's seven foot boa constrictor Fred _ spurred council to initiate the emergency ordinance, based on a 1981 ordinance banning farm animals from the village. The first reading, in early February, received only four affirmative votes, not the five required for emergency passage.

Tuesday's second reading also was halted with only four members voting in favor of a version of the ordinance which would have allowed owners of reptiles and exotic animals to keep their pets, providing the pets did not leave a 25-foot boundary around the home.

Owners in violation would have then been convicted of a fourth-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by jail.

Councilmen Glen Barker and Michael Dye cast the dissenting votes. "I want to see the ordinance in its original form," Barker said.

The original form calls for an unconditional ban on reptiles and exotic pets. "I'm not going to vote on anything until I see it in black and white," Dye said.

Council's vote came after a heated discussion in which Taylor urged council to not pass legislation based on fear. "The best way to deal with fear is to face it."

He questioned council, asking why they had been "spreading lies" about a child being bitten by his snake.

Councilman Brian Everhart claimed at a previous meeting to know of the complaint.

"I didn't feel I had to investigate it," he said, refusing to elaborate.

"A complaint isn't a complaint unless it's written," Taylor said.

There have been no written complaints about Taylor's snake. Council members and Police Chief Hagans clarified only complaints against personnel had to be written.

Mayor Michael Archon provided one of the verbal complaints logged against Taylor. Archon employs a caregiver for his ailing father. The caregiver saw Taylor's snake and expressed reservations about continuing to work in Windham, he said.

"Can you say that your snake will never get away from you?" asked Archon, referring to an August 1997 Associated Press report citing an incident in Los Angeles where a stray boa constrictor ate a Chihuahua.

"The first time something like that gets loose and hurts another baby, there's going to be an uproar," Archon said, citing reports of an "exotic" pet ferret in Cleveland who bit an infant 50 times last week.

"It absolutely cannot get away from me," Taylor responded.

Law Director David Benjamin voiced concern about the latest revisions to the , which were suggested by Taylor. Benjamin cautioned other municipalities' ordinances to be examined before committing to official wording.

The ordinance will undergo its third reading at the March 10 council meeting.

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