A man was arrested on charges of animal cruelty after authorities found dozens of "very dangerous" reptiles, including alligators and venomous snakes, Thursday in his Southern California home.
The County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) and other agencies served search warrants at Todd Kates' property in Thousand Oaks and found 80 venomous snakes, between five and eight alligators, gila monsters, snapping turtles, birds and "other assorted animals" said DACC director Marcia Mayeda.
The investigation began eight weeks ago after Kates' neighbor ran over a caped cobra and reported it to officials, Mayeda said. That was when officials discovered that Kates, who had a California Department of Fish and Wildlife restricted permit, was violating the conditions to possess "very dangerous and highly regulated" animals at his Thousand Oaks home.
"The permit holder was housing deadly venomous snakes in an unauthorized, densely populated, residential neighborhood, and in such a manner that they posed a substantial risk to public safety," said DACC spokesman Don Barre.
Officials served search warrants in the 1300 block of Rancho Lane and in a rural property in the 800 block of Carlisle Road in an unincorporated area near Thousand Oaks, where Kates rented space to store more animals.
To be permitted by the state of California, people need to have proper housing or caging, said Lt. JC Healy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Kates exceeded the number of animals that the state allows, Healy said.
The animals were taken to the Los Angeles Zoo, where they will be handled by experts until they're taken to a new, permanent home.
Kates was booked on 16 felony counts of animal cruelty, jail records show. He is being held on $100,000 bail.
Ryan Hagen, Kates' stepson, told NBC4 on Thursday that his stepfather is an "animal lover" and thinks the animals were nurtured responsibly.
"He wouldn't want these animals hurt nor would he want them to hurt anyone else," he said.
Neighbors have been concerned for their safety for years. Three years prior, the DACC caught a white monocled cobra that was on the loose in the area. It was later transported it to the San Diego Zoo.
NBC4's Hetty Chang contributed to this report.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated. A previous version of this story misspelled Marcia Mayeda's last name.