In the wider world, there are a lot of animal lovers who safely keep snakes as pets. Then there are the other folks. And those folks tend to end up in the news. One TikTok influencer, a 21-year-old with 468k followers on the platform, is now facing 40 charges and has had 75 snakes seized from his home. A week ago, a Raleigh neighborhood faced the threat of a highly venomous zebra cobra unleashed on their neighborhood after one person spotted it slithering across their back porch. The neighborhood had previously been mostly unaware that they had a 21-year-old TikTok influencer for a neighbor, or that Christopher Gifford’s home was full of snakes. Now, everyone is quite aware.
There are only a handful of states that allow people to keep venomous snakes as pets. Every one of those states has its own rules. In North Carolina, they have some specific rules that say if you are going to keep venomous pets, then you need to make sure they live in escape-proof cages, the cages are properly labeled with information like antidotes in case of bites and what kind of animal is in the cage, and–this one is particularly important–if your highly venomous and deadly snake escapes its cage, you notify the proper authorities. Among the charges Christopher Gifford is facing is a failure to do this.
One of the charges he is facing, which are all misdemeanors, states that the zebra cobra went missing in November and he did not report it to the proper authorities. That means this neighborhood had a highly venomous snake slithering around its neighborhood for months, and while fortunately no one was hurt, the danger was there.
Many of the other charges he is facing are for things like keeping venomous snakes in plastic containers. These containers did not have locks. They are supposed to be more escape-proof, with locks. Several of the animals were also mislabeled.
One of the most frightening aspects of the zebra cobra is that it doesn’t have to bite a person in order to kill them. While it will bite, one of its big moves is to spit venom. It does this at a distance of up to nine feet. It likes to aim for the eyes. The venom can cause tissue damage, blindness, a lot of pain, and death, as just a few of the results. The snake is especially deadly to pets and children.
Christopher Gifford, the TikTok Influencer, actually has a thousand more followers on TikTok since we reported on this last week. For the 21-year old’s online following, this incident may be positive, in that now there are a lot of people curious about what he will do next. A lot of his previous posts have been things like, “Look at this terrible bite I am suffering from a wild snake I approached in the woods”. Like many animals, these reptiles are most likely to attack when they feel threatened. However, he may not currently see this as a positive. His attorney has told the public that he is currently very stressed and that while the charges her is facing are minor, he is remorseful and unhappy about it. He has yet to post online or speak publicly himself.
Meanwhile, David Knight, a Raleigh city council member, is looking at what other cities have in place for laws surrounding venomous snakes and looking to make adjustments for Raleigh. He has said that he feels this was an example of what could happen, and that changes should be made to prevent future accidents. It sounds like Raleigh may have stricter laws around venomous snakes in the near future. As for Christopher Gifford, he faces the court on August 6, 2021.