Utah Snake Collector Leaves City Before City Council Votes on Exotic Pet Permit
January 20, 2014
Thomas Cobb, who last year was fighting for the right to keep his collection of more than 25 boa constrictors, has left Cottonwood Heights, UT because he and his family were constantly harassed in the Hollow Ridge neighborhood that he lived in. "I left because of the harassment, the scrutiny, the threats," Cobb told the Salt Lake Tribune. "People of influence made minimal effort to protect my family from individuals that were forcing their opinion upon us, judging us for something they don't understand."
Photo by Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
Certain residents of the Hollow Ridge neighborhood wanted Thomas Cobb's snakes out of the neighborhood.
The city council of Cottonwood Heights is scheduled a January 28 vote on a proposal to limit the number of exotic pets an owner can have to five without a permit and 25 with a permit. The mayor of the city disagreed with the restrictions but would pass the ordinance due to the concerns of some residents who were vocal in their displeasure that Cobb was keeping snakes. Some of their claims were outlandish, calling the snakes dangerous and even going on to say that property values could drop because of the snakes in the neighborhood.
"My personal opinion is I think we're overreaching. We're overreaching into people's private lives as government because we've got some people who are being irrational about their fear of snakes," Cullimore told The Tribune.
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He said that it doesn't matter what the number allowed by the ordinance would be, some residents won't ever be happy with it. "All they’re going to do is criticize us for not just saying no to all of it,’" the mayor said at a recent city council meeting. There was also concerns from city councilman Michael Shelton, who told the paper that he believes the ordinance infringes on the rights of private property holders and said that as long as pets are safe and don't impact the neighborhood, government should stay out of the lives of those who keep pets. Shelton noted that people can keep potentially dangerous possessions, such as guns in their homes, and can keep as many as they want regardless if it makes their neighbors nervous.
"I think it’s very important that individuals maintain their personal right to do what makes them happy as long as it has no effect upon anybody else and that regardless of situation the pursuit of happiness reigns supreme," Cobb told the Tribune. He says that his snakes are maintained in a safe environment and aren't a danger to anyone. Cobb's claims were confirmed last year by a city inspection and by local veterinarian Dr. Laurel Harris, who owns Wasatch Exotic Pet Care. Both the inspectors and the veterinarian said that Cobb does a great job housing and caring for his snakes.
"I’m a law abiding citizen," Cobb told The Tribune in a telephone interview. "I’m not going to break the law because I want to do something. I’ll go to someplace where I can do what I was doing without being judged."
Comments from the Salt Lake Tribune article:
BooBooG I'd rather have neighbors who take good care of 50 snakes than one neighbor who lets their dog sh-t in my front yard. I'd rather have one good neighbor who takes good care of 50 snakes than one neighbor like Paulos. In fact, if I ever move to another home in that area I'll be sure and ask if Tobi Paulos lives close by. I wouldn't want to live in that neighborhood.
Ms Paulos also has rights. One of the rights is to protest, petition drives and etc. You, too, have rights and one of your rights is to voice your displeasure with the irresponsible dog owner. And you also have a right to not live in this lady's neighborhood.
Please... everyone has their "dreaded thing"... mine is snakes. I could not sleep at night if this guy and his snakes lived anywhere near me. Every snake I've ever found on my property has not had a happy ending. I hate snakes.
As long as the pet owner is taking good care of their pets, providing them with a clean living environment, feeding them appropriately, and giving them regular veterinary care, they can have as many pets as they want. It is when the property begins to smell that you need be concerned. Personally, I have more issue with spiders than I do with snakes. If someone had 100 tarantulas, fine, they can have 100 tarantulas, but they better not get out because if they come into my house I will probably try to kill it (in a panic) before I think about going next door to get my neighbor to have them come get their tarantula.
Those people with exotic guppies, why should they have more than five? or 25 if they get licenses for the extras? Who wants to live in an area with exotic animals? Perhaps the same limits should be applied to exotic families, licenses for over five people in a home. Or exotic cars - Buy American.
Maybe their property values will decrease because they now have the stigma of being a neighborhood of bigots. I sure wouldn't buy a house in a neighborhood with a history of harassing and driving out people who they decided didn't fit in.
"We’re concerned about our property values decreasing. I mean that’s a reality — we now have the stigma of the snake neighborhood." Yea, because all the neighbors got all worked up over it and made this into a big deal. NOW people know it's the "snake neighborhood." I'd prefer to live next to this guy and his snakes versus the throngs of kids these whiny families "bless" us with.
What's ironic is that the people who are the most jacked-up about their property values are the people who have lived there for 40 years and can't imagine living anywhere else. I'd rather live by Snake Guy than Barking Dog Guy (who is usually Pooping Dog Guy, too).
I also grew up in Cottonwood Heights and wouldn't move back for all the money. It is a land of snobs who are experts at ostracizing those who don't conform to their religion and views of life. Sorry Cobb had to endure their irrational bigotry, but I'm not surprised.
Then again, they had to endure Cobb. Sixes.