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Clark County clarifies rules for exotic animals

Snake lovers take heart — you get an extra 6 feet of slither in Clark County.

County commissioners passed an ordinance that overhauls its animal control system, including clarifying the rules for exotic animals.

That’s just part of the ordinance, which also is aimed at reducing the number of cats that are euthanized. Commissioners voted unanimously for the measure Tuesday.

There’s good news for snake lovers — to a point. You can have a snake that’s up to 12 feet long and it’s considered a household pet, without being forced to obtain a $50 special permit. That is an increase from 6 feet from the earlier proposal.

That change makes it a little less restrictive, officials said, but there are still other new rules.

“If you buy an anaconda, that’s going to be an exotic animal,” county chief of code enforcement Jason Allswang said.

Another new caveat: It can’t be a venomous serpent.

Violators can be fined $500 to $1,000 and sentenced to as much as six months in jail.

Holly Haley, Nevada state director of The Humane Society of the United States, praised commissioners for the ordinance, which also restricts private ownership of other exotic animals such as chimpanzees and tigers.

The county’s new code for wild and exotic animals has a permit process that requires the animals not be bred. The county also must inspect and approve the location, and the applicant must provide a veterinarian’s statement that the animal is vaccinated and poses no health hazard.

“Clark County has taken a strong first step in bringing Nevada in line with the rest of the country in addressing the serious problem of unqualified people keeping dangerous wild and exotic animals as pets,” Haley said.

“These animals have costly and complex needs when kept in captivity. They can also cause death, inflict serious injury and spread deadly diseases.”

Several concerns were aired, including one on guinea pigs and whether their bites were on par with bites from other animals.

Allswang said that guinea pigs won’t declared vicious and confiscated after two bites. Under the new ordinance, animal control can declare an animal vicious if it bites someone twice in 18 months.

“We’re not going to be declaring guinea pigs vicious,” he said. “… We’re not going to waste anybody’s time by going after a guinea pig or a rabbit.”

It’s not all about snakes and slithery animals. Under the ordinance, cats without owners that are captured can be returned to their neighborhood and released. That happens once they’ve had checkups, received rabies shots and have been sterilized.

That practice has the goal of reducing the overall cat population over time and euthanizing fewer animals, county officials said.

The ordinance applies only to unincorporated areas of Clark County, not within the city limits of Las Vegas and other incorporated cities.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1

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