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Humane Society shelters seize 200 parched reptiles from Vero pet store

THE FT (Vero, Florida) 01 January 04  - More than 200 parched snakes, scorpions and lizards were found in a pet store where rats roamed freely. (Grace Murphy)
     Vero Beach: More than 100 snakes in need of water were recovered from an Old Dixie Highway pet store Thursday during a state investigation into complaints about the shop.
     The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received a phone call about a strong stench coming from Vicki and Fred's Reptiles in the 600 block of Old Dixie Highway.
     They found at least a dozen dead snakes, lizards and scorpions in cages, as well as rats roaming freely throughout the store, said Fish and Wildlife investigator Steve Grigg.
     "There were definitely some serious sanitation problems," he said.
     The store was not properly licensed with the state, Grigg said, and the name of the owner was unavailable Friday.
     The agency is working with the State Attorney's Office on its investigation into conditions at the shop.
Workers at the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County spent much of Friday cataloging the different types of snakes and animals and assessing their health.
     The store's owner signed the animals over to Fish and Wildlife, who signed them over to the Humane Society, said Executive Director Joan Carlson.
     By Friday afternoon, the Humane Society had possession of 113 snakes, 77 lizards and geckos, two turtles, two frogs, several tarantulas and chameleons and one scorpion.
     Carlson said she thinks the animals in the store did not have adequate food or water.
     "Anything that is deprived of food and water suffers, and it's unnecessary. Animals don't deserve this, no matter what kind of animal it is," she said.
     Businesses adjacent to the pet shop were glad Friday the source of a troublesome odor was discovered. Beatrice Walker, owner of Bea's Salon, said she called every agency she could think of to complain about an odor that she smelled for two weeks.
Humane Society shelters seize 200 parched reptiles from Vero pet store