INSIDE EDITION Investigates Selling Snakes
You've never seen anything like it. The Expo Center in Philadelphia was packed. But the spectators were not there for a car show or a boat show. They were there for snakes.
Snakes and reptiles of all kinds were on display and some are even out in the open for anyone to touch.
"Can I pet it?" asked a child.
One vendor handed INSIDE EDITION's Lisa Guerrero a giant snake.
"She's strong," Guerrero commented.
The biggest attraction is the venomous snakes. Shockingly, many of these deadly serpents are packaged in flimsy plastic containers sealed only with tape.
Guerrero found it hard to believe that some could come in and walk right out with a venomous snake. But in less than five minutes and for just over a $100, Guerrero was able to purchase a deadly cobra.
"If someone took that snake to New York and it got loose in an apartment building, a single bite would be deadly," said Tom Hudak.
Hudak is a wildlife educator and venomous snake expert. He says while many dealers are responsible, not enough is being done to keep snakes like these out of the wrong hands.
"To sell this [snake] off the street in five minutes seems irresponsible," said Guerrero.
"I think it's reckless," said Hudak.
While it's legal to sell deadly snakes in Pennsylvania, it's a crime to transport and possess them in New York and many other states without a permit. But that's exactly what some snake enthusiasts do and the results can be deadly.
One set of Florida parents were recently found guilty of manslaughter after their starving pet python got loose and strangled their little girl. They quickly called 911, but it was too late.
Caller: "Our snake, we have a Burmese python and she's about 12 feet long, she got out of the cage last night and got into the baby's crib and strangled her to death."
So INSIDE EDITION wanted to find out how easily we could get our hands on a deadly snake.
Hudak is licensed to possess venomous snakes in New York. He found a listing online for a 6-foot Green Mamba, one of the deadliest snakes in the world, for sale by a woman named Laura in North Carolina. Her asking price was $255 with shipping.
He ordered it and within days the creature was shipped to New York with no questions asked.
Hudak said, "They're not going to know who they're shipping to. It could be a kid, a guy who has no business with them. That's the guy that's going to hurt someone."
INSIDE EDITION went with Hudak to a Delta cargo hangar at New York's JFK Airport to pick it up.
"You got a snake on a plane for me?" asked Hudak.
You heard right, snake on a plane.
"How does it get here?" asked an INSIDE EDITION producer.
"Flies on a passenger plane," said a Delta representative at JFK Airport.
The mamba was flown in a cargo hold on a jet filled with passengers. It arrived in a wooden box marked "Venomous."
We followed Tom as he drove the snake from the airport to midtown Manhattan—not the usual habitat for the mamba.
"And this is just how easy it is to get our venomous snake right into New York City," said Guerrero.
Tom and expert snake handler Candace Luce brought the box to a secure facility, equipped with floor to ceiling glass.
Guerrero said, "This is one of the deadliest snakes in the world, which is why we're taking every safety precaution, including standing behind this side of protective glass while the experts open the box."
The snake came packed in newspapers and double bagged, but even the experts were tense.
"Now my heart is going a little bit," said Hudak.
In the bag the snake seemed lifeless. But once it saw daylight, it was lightning quick and extremely aggressive.
The experts struggle to maneuver the mamba into a net. When they finally managed to safely get it inside, Hudak pounced to seal it off.
"That was just incredible," said Guerrero.
When it was safely under lock and key, Guerrero went back into the secure room.
"That was one of the most intense experiences I've ever had," said Luce.
"Can you imagine a non-professional opening that up?" asked Guerrero.
"I think if someone is shipping an animal like this, they really need to find out who they're shipping it to, instead of just trying to make some money," said Hudak.
So who sold us the green mamba? Laura and Al Rivera. They run a company called Green Desert Reptiles in Waynesville, North Carolina.
Guerrero caught up with Laura Rivera at a gas station near her home.
"I'm Lisa Guererro with INSIDE EDITION," said Guerrero. "Don't you think that's dangerous to be sending a snake that's venemous to New York City?"
"Excuse me, I'm on my way to work," said Rivera.
But Laura Rivera didn't want to talk.
The mamba is now in Rochester, New York, in the care of Tom Hudak, who's training law enforcement in how to handle snakes, snakes that are way too often purchased by people who simply have no idea how dangerous they really are.
Laura Rivera told us that based on her discussion with our expert she believed she was sending the green mamba to a seasoned venomous handler. She also said she has rejected the sale of venomous snakes to some buyers in the past.