Fair Lawn police say the 25-year-old bought the albino Monocled Cobra, an eastern diamondback rattlesnake and a copperhead snake in Pennsylvania on Monday.
"When he purchased the reptiles the day before, he was told the venom sacs had been removed, so it was supposed to be non-venomous," said Sgt. Richard Shultz, of the Fairlawn Police Department.
But they weren't.
Bortz, who works in a vets office, was in his home on River Road Monday around 6:30 p.m. when he was bitten on the hand, as he reached inside of the by the albino cobra's cage.
At first, he thought he'd be okay, but his wife called 911 three hours later.
"It wasn't until he started to have a reaction around the bite location and had breathing difficulty, and that's when he realized they had not been removed and called 911," Sgt. Shultz said.
"I thought I saw them come out and then ambulances pulled up and the paramedics went inside," said Bob Rico, a neighbor.
The snakes were initially seized by Fairlawn Animal Control, and were later confiscated by New Jersey Fish and Wildlife.
Neighbors say they are a sweet couple, newlyweds, but knew nothing of the snakes.
"I don't know at this point who's to blame, the person who bought the snake, or the person who told him the snake wasn't venomous," said Igor Perchuk, a neighbor.
"When it comes to exotic animals trust nobody," said Bobbi O'Mara, a neighbor.
"I think that's a dangerous thing, because it's not a pet," said Rina Goldhagen, a neighbor.
The man, whose name has not been released, was transferred to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y. The hospital says it has the only snakebite treatment center in the Tri-state area.