Owner of venom-spitting cobra that got loose must give up 75 snakes, pay $13K in restitution

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The owner of the escaped zebra cobra that sparked a multi-day search in North Carolina entered a plea agreement on Friday after facing 40 charges stemming from the incident.

The zebra cobra had been missing since November and was spotted in a northwest Raleigh neighborhood in late June.

It was reported by a 911 caller on June 28. Animal control caught the snake on June 30 hours after a WNCN crew member encountered it and alerted police to its location.

In early July, Christopher Gifford, 21, was charged with 40 counts of violating a state statute regulating the ownership of venomous reptiles.

Included were 36 counts of the improper enclosure, three counts of mislabeled enclosures, and one count of failure to report the escape, Raleigh police said.

On Friday, Gifford pleaded guilty to failing to report the missing snake and the other 39 charges were dropped.

He did not receive jail time as part of a plea agreement but was sentenced to 12 months supervised probation.

He must give up ownership of 75 snakes, including the zebra cobra, as part of the agreement. The animals were previously seized by authorities.

Gifford must also pay more than $13,000 in restitution to cover the cost of emergency responders.

Raleigh police reported that the search required officers to work a total of 256 hours that cost the Department $8,177.92. Gas costs totaled $1,298, and officers spent $60.90 in “miscellaneous supplies” during the search, Raleigh police also noted.

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