Venomous snake bites owner on Long Island, 6 snakes removed from home

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Sandra Bookman has the latest details.

A snake owner was bitten by one of several venomous snakes he kept inside his West Babylon home Monday night.

Richard Downing, 32, was handling the Egyptian saw-scaled viper, which he owns, at the house on Salem Avenue when he was bitten on the middle finger of his right hand.

Downing was alert and conscious, but taken by helicopter to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx to get a venom antidote.

When he got there, however, it was determined that treatment was not necessary.

Six venomous snakes were confiscated from the self-described professional snake handler's home later Tuesday.

Watch video of the snakes being removed here:
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Watch as police remove snakes from a home in West Babylong after their owner was bitten.

"It was just one prick. It was my own stupidity," said Downing, who was feeding the viper a home when she bit him.

"I've been doing this for 15 years. I've rolled in snakes," he said. "It was just wrong timing. You play with fire, you get bit by fire. I'm extremely lucky to be alive and breathing."

Downing said he used to have a permit for the snakes but it expired. All six of his venomous snakes -- including the viper, a Monocled Cobra, an African Puff Adder, a Western African Viper and two rattlesnakes - were confiscated by the Suffolk County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The victim said he always kept the snakes in a locked tank in a locked room, and insisted they were never a threat to the public. He said he's being doing this for 15 years.

This photo shows Downing getting loaded into a helicopter:

Some neighbors admitted they knew about Downing's unusual pets.

"I knew he had snakes, I knew he had four snakes. But I never knew they were poisonous," said Delores, who lives nearby.

"He is very lucky to be alive," said a representative from the SCPA.

Prior to this particular event, the SPCA said it had already planned to hold an event October 15 where people can turn in their illegal reptiles with no questions asked.
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petssnakelong island newsWest Babylon
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