Court Erred In Tossing Exotic Animal Case

     (CN) – A circuit court erred when it dismissed the conviction of a Columbia, Missouri man for keeping a pair of alligators, a state appeals court ruled.
     Kenneth Henderson was charged with two counts of violating the city of Columbia’s exotic animals ordinance for keeping two alligators, which he named Babe and Snuggles.
     Henderson asked the court to dismiss the charges, arguing the ordinance was unconstitutionally vague. The court declined his motion, and Henderson had to pay a fine.
     He appealed, seeking a trial de nono, arguing that he kept the alligators for educational purposes. The court ruled in his favor and dismissed the case, stating that alligators did not fall under the ordinance’s definition of “exotic animals.”
     The city appealed, and the Missouri Court of Appeals overturned the decision, ruling that Henderson was not allowed to keep Babe and Snuggles in the city of Columbia.
     In his opinion, Judge Thomas Newton noted that alligators did not fall under the city’s definition of exotic animals, which included nonhuman primates, poisonous reptiles, endangered species, predatory birds and mammals that do not normally live near humans.
     However, he agreed with the city’s argument that elsewhere in that section of the law is a prohibition against “any deadly dangerous or venomous reptile.”
     “Consequently, the trial court erred in finding as a matter of law that section 5-29 did not apply to alligators and granting Mr. Henderson’s motion to dismiss. While alligators did not fall under section 5-1’s definition of exotic animal, section 5-29 also barred the keeping of ‘any deadly dangerous or venomous reptile,’ Newton wrote.”At trial, the city should be given the opportunity to prove as a factual matter whether alligators are a ‘deadly dangerous or venomous reptile,'” he added.

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