CRUELTY INVESTIGATED IN PYTHON’S DEATH


The dead reptile was found in a vacant house in the River Plaza section of Middletown.

By WIL FULTON

A four-and-a-half-foot-long Burmese python found dead in a vacant Middletown house last Thursday appears to have been abandoned by its owner, who could face animal cruelty charges, authorities say.

Police, called by neighbors who noticed the front door of 33 George Street had been ajar for several days, found the reptile last Thursday morning. They, in turn, summoned the Monmouth County SPCA.

“What we found was a wooden crate, complete with heat lamps, but the electricity and heat had been turned off, so it’s our belief that the snake succumbed because of the cold,” SPCA enforcement Chief Buddy Amato told redbankgreen Friday.

Amato and MSPCA, who enforce animal cruelty laws for Middletown and other towns, are currently looking for two “persons of interest” who lived at the house and are believed to have owned the snake.

According to Amato, the surrounding neighbors all had their heat and electricity fully restored some weeks after Hurricane Sandy, so he doesn’t believe this can be used as a viable excuse for the abandonment of the exotic animal.

“If they (the suspects) really had to leave after the storm, they should have contacted us,” he said. “Even though it appears they didn’t have an exotic animal permit with Fish and Game – which is a finable offense –  we would have been able to take care of the snake, and their punishment would have been far less severe.”

According to Amato, the suspects face the possibility of up to six months in jail and a fine for the offense.

“It’s not likely that anyone will see real jail time, but we are taking this case very seriously,” Amato said. “Before we make our decision, we first have to hear their side of the case, to see if there’s any logical explanation for their actions. You have to hear their side of the story.”

Amato assured redbankgreen that over the course of his 12- year stint at the MSPCA, nothing surprises him anymore.

“I’ve seen a lot worse than this, trust me,” he said. “I’ve seen it all.”