A West Babylon man was back home Tuesday after being treated for a bite from one of the six illegal venomous snakes he kept in the basement at his home on Salem Avenue, officials said.
“He’s lucky to be alive. These are all extremely venomous,” Chief Roy Gross of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said.
The man, Richard Downing, 31, agreed, telling News 12 Long Island: “How I’m alive, I don’t even know. That snake kills more people than any snake in the world.”
Downing said he “kind of got within striking range” of his Egyptian Saw-Scaled Viper and “she struck ... My own stupidity.”
Gross said Downing had the six snakes in the basement, each in its own cage with a label.
“If one of them had gotten out of the cage — this is a residential neighborhood,” Gross said, not completing the thought.
Downing said he would never endanger his neighbors, “and I’m the one that suffered the consequences.”
Gross said Downing lived in the house with his girlfriend. There were no children in the house, Gross said.
Suffolk County police said Downing was conscious and alert when officers responded to the home late Monday.
He was airlifted by Suffolk County police helicopter to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, which has the only Snakebite Treatment Center in the tristate region.
Gross went to the home Tuesday morning with agents from the state Department of Environmental Conservations and removed the Egyptian Saw-Scaled Viper.
“It only grows to about a foot long, but is one of the most deadly of snakes,” Gross said.
He said they also removed a Monocled Cobra, an African Puff Adder, a West African Gaboon Viper and two rattlesnakes — all venomous.
Downing had worked in a pet store for 15 years and thought he knew his way around reptiles, Gross said.
“This is a guy who thought he knew what he was doing,” Gross said. “This shows that if you play with fire, you will get burned. You drop your guard and you get bitten.”
He said it was illegal to have the snakes in the home, but the investigation by the SPCA, the DEC and police was continuing, and no summonses were immediately issued.
The snakes will be examined by a specialist before being shipped out of state to an animal sanctuary, Gross said.
Gross urged anyone with a venomous reptile to call DEC or the SPCA and arrange to turn it in — no questions asked.
The Jacobi Snakebite Center was established in the early 1980s in cooperation with herpetologists at the Bronx Zoo.
The hospital website said it treats five to 10 patients a year who have snakebite injuries serious enough to need anti-venom