Venomous snake bites owner, 6 snakes removed from home

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Tuesday, September 6, 2016

NEW YORK -- A snake owner was bitten on the hand by one of his venomous snakes at his New York home.

The man, who the SCPA identified as 32-year-old Richard Downing, was handling the Egyptian saw-scaled viper, which he owns, at the house on Salem Avenue Monday night 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:

"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.

This photo shows Downing getting loaded into a helicopter:

"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.