CREATED Sep. 18, 2012 - UPDATED: Sep. 18, 2012
LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Some Lehigh Acres residents on edge tonight after their neighbor gets state approval to breed venomous snakes. They say deadly snakes don't belong in a residential area but snake breeders say it’s completely safe. Four in your Corners Mike Mason is here now with both sides of this one.
From Cobras to Copperheads.....venomous snakes are being bred in residential sections of Lee County....and even though it's completely legal....it's stirring up plenty of controversy.
Mike Mason: "This is an extremely venomous snake."
Jeremy Hargett: "Yes, it is."
Many folks don’t know it but there are dozens of exotic venomous snakes in Lehigh Acres. Jeremy Hargett breeds several varieties.
Jeremy Hargett: "Monaco Cobra, Egyptian Cobra, Indian Cobra, Mamba."
Hargett says these serpents are completely safe because he has the required permits and training to handle them.
Jeremy Hargett: "It's just like any other hobby or any other thing to be honest, there are way more people who die every year from a horse than you know, a snake."
On Tuesday, Hargett's friend, Phillip Robbins, also got the OK from the state to raise potentially deadly Cobras, Ratttlesnakes and Puff Adders.
Mike Mason: "What if one of the Cobras gets loose?
Phillip Robbins: "The room that we're in is sealed off so it he gets out of his cage he's not getting out of the room."
But Robbins' neighbors are not so keen about living next door to venomous snakes.
Mike Mason: "What are your concerns?"
Wendy Feliciano: "That my son or my daughter gets bit."
Wendy Feliciano says she fears for her family's safety.....on edge that these snakes could somehow slither outside.
Mike Mason: "He says they'll never get loose."
Wendy Feliciano: "That's impossible, everything is possible, everything is possible."
And officials with Lee County's Domestic Animal Services agree. The Director saying; "My concern is always human safety if these animals were to escape....there's usually a story in the news somewhere across the United States about a person being severely injured or even killed by venomous snakes."
But Hargett says people fear what they don't understand.....saying the business of breeding snakes is regulated very closely.
Jeremy Hargett: "There's nothing to worry about, the FWC comes in, they check everything. This is a completely escape proof area, every single cage is locked."
There are currently 9 licensed venomous reptile facilities in Lee County. In order to get a state permit for breeding snakes, owners must complete a thousand hours of training and pass numerous inspections.