A 33-year-old man who kept up to 30 venomous snakes in his Elkhorn-area home pleaded no contest Wednesday to six animal-cruelty charges.
Douglas County Judge Sheryl Lohaus sentenced John B. Foss Jr. to one year of probation and ordered him to pay a $600 fine. The judge also told Foss that he may not keep any snakes for a year.
Foss' snakes were seized by the Nebraska Humane Society in June. They have since been housed at the Henry Doorly Zoo and now will be donated to other zoos, Foss said after his sentencing.
Foss described himself as a hobbyist and “snake aficionado” who has been handling serpents for 20 to 25 years. He said he provided “better” care for the reptiles than a zoo provides.
“I like snakes,” Foss said.
He blamed a “disgruntled former girlfriend” for calling authorities with a tip. When investigators went to his home near 188th and Blondo Streets, they found 16 rattlesnakes, five cobras, two vipers and other venomous snakes.
Authorities at the time said two children under 10 had a bedroom next to the second-floor room where the dangerous reptiles were.
Foss said Wednesday that he kept the snakes in secure enclosures in a locked room with a sign on the door warning of the dangerous reptiles.
Attorney Joe Howard said the animal-cruelty charges against his client were based on the snakes being housed in the enclosures without water. But as desert-dwelling reptiles, Foss said, his snakes didn't require water.
It also is illegal to keep venomous snakes within the Omaha city limits. Howard said Foss believed that his 160-acre acreage was outside city limits: “He just made a mistake by having snakes in the city limits.''
Foss calculated that he had $30,000 to $40,000 invested in the snakes and their enclosures.
Howard said his client “really paid the price in this deal.”
In an unrelated case, Foss on Tuesday pleaded no contest to a felony charge of making a terroristic threat. He was accused of threatening and then firing a warning shot at two people who came onto his property in late May. He has not been sentenced in that case.