An elementary school teacher in southern California was arrested for animal cruelty Wednesday, when authorities discovered 300 to 400 snakes in his home. Animal services officials estimated 95 percent of the ball pythons are either dead or in various stages of decay.
Police were called to the Santa Ana home of William Fredrick Buchman, a teacher at Mariners Elementary School in Newport Beach, when neighbors complained of a "God-awful" stench, according to NBC 4 Southern California on Jan. 29.
Parents of children who are in this teacher's class or even school are likely mortified in learning of the filthy discovery this morning. Cops described conditions as "deplorable".
Snakes, even when healthy and alive, can transmit disease if not handled in a properly sanitary manner. Reptiles, including turtles, lizards and snakes, can carry germs that make people sick.
Of greatest concern is salmonella infection, according to the CDC. An estimated 70,000 people contract salmonellosis from contact with reptiles in the United States each year.
Not only were the slithering snakes found, but police said the house was also infested with mice and rats. It's unclear at this point whether those were being used to feed the pythons.
Santa Ana Police Department Watch Commander Bill Nimmo said most of the snakes were alive, but some were dead, along with the mice and rats. "I don't know if that's what they fed them," he said according to NBC News.
Neighbors first began complaining of the smell a year ago. However, when authorities investigated at that time the snakes were healthy, and animal services didn't have a violation that would allow them to seize the reptiles.
Four months ago after renewed complaints from neighbors of a "dead body smell", officers tried to search Buchman's home with his consent. When he refused, they had to go the legal route and get a search warrant.
That warrant was served Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. PT. The animal services officers had to don special suits and masks in order to bear the stench and enter the home, which was packed floor to ceiling with snake cages.
Authorities did not say whether there are any other people residing in the home.