The 14 remaining snakes from the seizure of a LaFollette pastor in November were euthanized on Monday as their health continued deteriorating from multiple parasites and pathogens.
The TWRA, the Knoxville Zoo, and the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine have been cooperatively handling decisions on the snakes’ welfare and came to the unfortunate decision that the snakes should be euthanized.
According to Michael Ogle, Curator of Herpetology at the Knoxville Zoo, “The 14 remaining snakes are highly suspected of being infected with the same pathogens that have proven fatal for the other 39 snakes brought to us from Campbell County. This is due to the overcrowded conditions they were being kept in prior to their arrival at Knoxville Zoo. There is no successful treatment for these pathogens, which could be fatal for any other snakes, captive or wild, that might be exposed to them. Unfortunately, due to this risk, we cannot safely bring them into a captive conservation program or release them into a wild population. Additionally, the longer we house these snakes, the greater the risk we expose our collection to these pathogens, which could be catastrophic for our animals.”
Ambitions were to originally place the copperheads at the Kentucky Reptile Zoo.
Dr. Ed Ramsay, professor of zoological medicine at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, said, "Unfortunately, most of the snakes were emaciated and several had severe skin and respiratory infections. In addition, many of the snakes were very sick with a variety of parasites, and some of the parasites are untreatable."
Dr. Juergen Schumacher, a colleague of Dr. Ramsay at the UTCVM, had also examined the snakes and concurred that the snakes should be euthanized.
The TWRA, in conjunction with the Campbell County District Attorney’s Office, obtained a court order giving TWRA ownership of the snakes. With this document in hand and after an evaluation from two veterinarians, the TWRA gave the consent to allow the snakes to be euthanized.
“The snakes’ welfare has been the top priority since day one and we support the professional decisions of the veterinarians and the zoo’s experts,” said TWRA Sgt. Joe Durnin who handled the case for the agency.